On the landing of my grandmother’s house, two very tall matching mirrors faced each other across 10 feet of carpet. When I looked into one of them, I could see duplicates of myself endlessly receding into the glass. If I looked over my shoulder, I could see my backside doing likewise.
Each mirror reflected what the other saw, nothing more, nothing less. One saw the back of me. The other saw the front. I could only see the back of me if I looked over my shoulder.
Everybody with access to a platform, it seems, has an opinion about Liz Cheney. Reading and listening to those opinions has me thinking about those facing mirrors. In one mirror, she’s the star of the January 6 hearings, a profile in courage, and, since she rather spectacularly lost her primary in Wyoming, a political martyr. In the other, she’s the conservative Republican with the atrocious voting record and a father who was the arch-villain of the Bush II administration, and even if (as some grudgingly admit) she’s doing an OK job on the 1/6 committee, that doesn’t outweigh all the evil things she’s done.
The two mirrors react to each other. They even egg each other on: rhapsodic praise on one side elicits harsher condemnation on the other. I must admit, when it’s suggested that Cheney might have a place in a Democratic administration, I shake my head and wonder what these people are thinking, or maybe drinking. There’s a “prodigal son” aspect to the story: the renegade daughter gets celebrated for doing what the devoted siblings have been doing all along with no fanfare.
I’ve been following the 1/6 hearings pretty closely, and I have to say that Liz Cheney has been very impressive. You’d never guess from her performance that her voting record was substantially different from those of all the other committee members, with the exception, of course, of fellow Republican Adam Kinzinger’s.
Before the hearings started, all I knew about Cheney was that her younger sister, Mary, was a lesbian married to another woman and that for a long time they were estranged because of Liz’s opposition to same-sex marriage. Liz eventually came around and now regrets her earlier position. Without getting effusive about it, I can still commend her for examining her beliefs, finding them wanting, and going public about it.
And this gets me to why I’m impatient with all the Cheney commentary that’s bouncing back and forth between the two facing mirrors. What I’m most intensely curious about is the story that’s unfolding out of the public eye and can’t be told yet: how are these tumultuous experiences affecting the woman at the heart of them? Working hand in glove with Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), with whom she previously had little in common in either politics or life experience? Watching most of your longtime friends and colleagues turn against you, and reveal true colors that you never suspected? Learning more about the inner workings of your party that you maybe suspected but didn’t want to believe? Finding support in unexpected places?
Maybe she’ll come out of the cauldron just the way she went in, but I’ll be surprised (and disappointed) if that turns out to be case. This is potentially Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus stuff. When she writes an account of this time in her life — when, not if — it will go to the top of my reading list as soon as it comes out.
Cheney’s concession speech is well worth a listen. It’s about 13 minutes long.