Liz Cheney (Almost) States the Obvious
In her opening statement at the January 6th hearings in the U.S. Congress, Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick “Deep State” Cheney, spelled out an interpretation of that day’s Capitol riot that, if it had crossed all the Ts and stated its unstated premises, would essentially have supported the interpretation I have offered here in Limbo all along.
Put simply, all or most of the individuals who committed federal crimes at the United States Capitol on January 6th, including the many who chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” sincerely believed that they were engaged in a desperate, last-chance effort to save their country from the fraudulent usurpation of presidential power by a vast left-wing conspiracy of communists and corporatists, and they believed this for one simple reason: Donald Trump, the leader they trusted and loved more than any other human being on this Earth (or anywhere else, for that matter), told them this was what had happened. He told them so repeatedly, forcefully, without any reservations or hints of doubt. He told them on a daily basis that everyone knew what he was saying was true, that the truth was clear and certain, and that he had overwhelming proof of the whole scheme. He told them these things over the heads of all the prominent individuals, including members of his own inner circle, his own cabinet, and his own family, who directly contradicted his claims, who told him to his face that there was no such overwhelming evidence, and who resigned in order to dissociate themselves from his statements and their influence. He told his cultish followers themselves, including the most emotionally and intellectually dependent among them, those most susceptible to espousing elaborate but self-contradictory conspiracy theories to explain away all of life’s disappointments and failures as something “They” did to “Us,” that the only way to save their country (indistinguishable from their leader) was to stop the “fraudulent” electoral college votes from being counted on January 6th, and that the one man who had the ability to do this was the vice president, Mike Pence. He told them, even as he riled them up to the feverish terror of losing everything if those electoral votes were accepted, that he needed Mike Pence to “do the right thing,” and that anyone who would not do so in this situation was “a coward.”
In sum, the rioters are not innocent, for they were all grown men acting under their own will. More importantly, they were all nominally rational adults who should have been able to see, in the weeks after the election, what any semi-rational person could see, namely that Trump was blowing smoke, had no evidence of anything, was lying through his teeth, and was doing so entirely because he was too vainglorious, childish, and cowardly to accept his electoral defeat like a man. But the rioters, like the millions who supported them in spirit and continue to do so today, have at least the mitigating circumstance that a leader they trusted, a man who had won the presidency by promising to make their country great again, was continually and unhesitatingly assuring them that their cause was just, their opposition treasonous, and their situation dire.
In other words, this whole sad farce in American history rests on Donald Trump’s head. He is guilty, completely guilty, and the motive of his crimes was, if I may say it so plainly, his lifetime of megalomaniacal self-delusion, which burst through whatever rational limits were left in his deeply corrupted soul when he found that he could even become President of the United States simply by saying he wanted to be so. Being so wholly ill-equipped, by personal experience or moral character, to face the reality of public defeat without crumbling in shame, Trump did what every spoiled, childish bully does when confronted with humiliation: He refused to accept it, he accused the other side of cheating, he insisted that “everyone knew” he had really won, but that they were “stealing” his rightful victory from him because they were losers. And then, as with many a terrified animal facing the destruction of its world — in this case the most elaborate fantasy world any American has ever known — he fell to pleading with his friends, his crowd, to save him from this defeat.
During Liz Cheney’s statement, she showed a short clip of Ivanka Trump’s testimony to the January 6th committee. Ms. Trump was obviously petrified, her voice shaky, as she admitted to having accepted the election results upon hearing attorney general William Barr’s statement that there was no evidence of widespread fraud. I thought, as I watched this frightened little rich girl, in over her head almost as far as her daddy was, that her fear probably had less to do with testifying before the committee than with the knowledge of what her statement, when it became public, would mean for her relationship with her father, who had hitherto presented her to the world as his princess, and almost his queen. True to form, the day after this clip was revealed, Trump took to social media to belittle his own daughter as uninformed and unqualified to speak about the issue at all. The saddest and most sickening part of all of this may be here. Today, millions of Trump’s cult members are undoubtedly shaking their heads, thinking what they have thought about a hundred other individuals they had once admired on Trump’s orders, namely, “Turns out even Ivanka was part of the deep state after all! Hang the b****.” Saying the truth into that camera, expressing her preference for a knowledgeable and experienced man’s opinion over that of her famously dishonest and self-serving pitchman father, was probably the first, or at least the most important, personal growth moment — a real coming of age experience — in Ivanka Trump’s privileged and protected little life. She publicly stood up to her unhinged and aggressive father for the first time, knowing that she would incur his displeasure and receive a public rebuke from him. It is too bad that she did not have the independence and maturity to stand up to him about so many things prior to this, but better late than never. And for this statement, her coming out party as an adult, she will be hated by millions who had previously admired her because Trump told them to admire her.
“Why do you insist on calling his supporters a cult?” some former readers used to demand.