How is Liz Cheney going to run for president?
Joe Hagan’s feature in this week’s New York magazine takes a look not simply at Dick Cheney, but the successors to the genetic political disorder that characterized his years in positions of political power. Hagan makes it clear that Cheney’s daughter Liz is going to be the Kim Jong-Il to father Dick’s Kim Il-Sung, and also how she makes for a much more politically appealing figure than former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
The question is whether or not Cheney the younger will be able to get herself elected to a credible political post in order to run for office like president.
The issue for Liz Cheney is that her career so far has not been distinguished from that of her father’s positions of power. She was placed in the Bush State Department in positions that would allow her to spy on career diplomats who might pursue agendas counter to the Bush White House, and also to implement the insincere neo-conservative vision of ‘democracy promotion’ in the Middle East. But she has never had a political position where she needs to prove her mettle as a decision-maker capable of governing a nation.
In contrast, Cheney the pater familias spent years toiling in the salt mines of Republican Party machinery before making himself the most powerful man in the Bush administration. He established himself early in his political career as chief of staff to Gerald Ford. Cheney went on to serve for more than a decade as a leading Republican Member of Congress, becoming Minority Whip prior to his appointment as George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense. So when Cheney contemplated a run for president in 1996, and was elected Vice President in 2000, he was not merely some dark horse. He could be called a credible political figure with executive and legislative experience relevant to the national vision required of American presidents.
How Liz Cheney will establish these pre-requisites remains unclear. Hagan suggests that she might challenge Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia in 2012 if Republicans are in ascendancy. But that’s a dicey proposition, even excepting for the unlikely possibility that Obama could be the Democratic Party’s next Jimmy Carter. Webb, a Marine with deep ties to national Republicans (he served in Reagan’s Defense Department) has been carefully cultivating a posture on national security issues that is to the right of the Democratic mainstream. In many ways, Webb’s positions on terrorism issues will be difficult for Liz Cheney to campaign against in the cartoonishly McCarthyist manner that her group ‘Keep America Safe’ (note, not ‘Keep America Strong’) has become known for. A 2014 run against Mark Warner would be bad timing for a 2016 presidential bid presuming Obama holds onto the White House, and I have my doubts that Cheney will have a great interest in the varied Congressional districts of Virginia.
The other possibility might be to make a play to join Wyoming’s Congressional delegation. While it’s possible that the Equality State’s Republicans will cotton to a carpet-bagging Cheney clan member dropping in to accept the party’s nomination for office before flying back to DC and never coming back, the actual political mechanics of getting elected to a statewide office are more complicated. Republican Senator John Barrasso, who was elected to complete the term of Craig Thomas in 2008, will presumably want to seek a full term in office in 2012. The other possibility could be a retirement for Wyoming’s other Senator, Mike Enzi, which would solve the problem of Cheney actually needing to get elected. Alternatively, the state’s at-large Congresswoman, Cynthia Lummis, could decide she’s done all the time in Congress she needs by the time 2012 rolls around. But don’t bet on it – Lummis is a career pol who has basically been representing Wyomingites in one form or another since 1979.
So the path is hardly clear for Liz Cheney. While she’s been gifted with her family’s scalpel-like political skills, she’s also been the beneficiary of quite a bit of nepotism that has placed her on a higher plane than she’s ever needed to work for. Performing strongly in positions you didn’t need to fight your way into (consigliere for your all-powerful father) isn’t evidence enough of the complicated political decision-making that a person needs when they run for office, and later run our country.
Maybe Cheney needs to pull a Hillary Clinton and buy a house in Westchester County, New York? If it got Clinton closer to being the Democratic nominee for president than any other woman has ever come, it would work for Cheney.