Seattle Opera Barber of Seville

Liz Cheney on Jan. 6 and beyond

Speaking to a Hatfield Lecture Series audience about her book "Oath and Honor," the former congresswoman talks about Putin, China, Israel/Hamas, Trump's "Big Lie" and more.

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On Tuesday evening, March 5, former Congresswoman Liz Cheney led a discussion at Portland’s Schnitzer Concert Hall based on her new book Oath and Honor. It was the second event of the 2024 Hatfield Lecture Series presented by the Oregon Historical Society.

Cheney comes from a storied American political family. Her father, Dick Cheney, served as White House Chief of Staff during the Ford administration and was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Wyoming, where he served as House Minority Whip. Mr. Cheney was also the U.S. Secretary of Defense in the elder Bush administration, and the Vice President of the United States in the younger Bush administration. Liz Cheney’s mother, Lynn Cheney, served as chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Second Lady of the United States when her husband was Vice-President.

Liz Cheney has had a distinguished career in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2017-2023; House Republican Conference; House Committee on Rules; and Deputy Secretary of State for the Middle East. In 2022 she received the Profiles in Courage Award for her “consistent and courageous voice in defense of democracy.” Cheney currently teaches a course on politics and leadership at the University of Virginia.

In a far-ranging discussion, Cheney shared her thoughts on international politics today. 

She anticipates that Russian president Vladimir Putin will continue seizing countries in Europe (such as Moldova) if he perceives that the United States is not supporting its NATO allies. This could contribute to a loss of confidence among our European allies if they perceive the United States is not willing to defend NATO.

Regarding the Middle East, Cheney expressed dismay over the impasse between Israel and Hamas (e.g., Israel’s proposed cease-fire and release of hostages). She also said the United States needs to show its strength to Iran and the world by defending its bases and facilities that have been targeted, thereby demonstrating its ability to defend its interests in the region. Cheney also commented about China’s development of weapons systems that cannot be defended against, underscoring the importance of acknowledging this potential threat and defending against it. 

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Cheney turned to a discussion of the January 6 insurrection, receiving warm applause when she described the planning and attack on the U.S. Capitol and her determination to curtail Donald Trump’s power. She stated that Trump was involved with the January 6 insurrection from planning it to exhorting his followers to attack the capitol. Cheney maintains that Trump had many accomplices, including Texas Congressman Jim Jordan and former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.

Cheney said that very few Republicans  believed Trump’s lies about the election (“the Big Lie”). However, most were persuaded to enable and appease him. In contrast, she noted there were a few Republicans who showed true courage in thwarting Trump’s bid to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, including former Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, former Trump Deputy Press Secretary Sara Matthews, and former Trump White House aide Cassie Hutchinson.

Cheney told an amusing story about former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. After the 2020 presidential election, on the pretext of traveling to visit Donald Trump at his home in Florida to cheer him up (reportedly “he was not eating”), the truth of the matter was that major U.S. corporations had stopped making donations to the Republican Party following the election. Given that McCarthy’s power was tied to his ability to raise money, he went to Florida to gain access to Trump’s extensive list of small donors to raise much-needed funding. His trip, Cheney said, was motivated by self-interest rather than by concern for Trump’s physical and mental well-being.

During her tenure as vice-chair of the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6 insurrection, Cheney said, two of the most shocking things that came out of the investigation were the resistance of members of the House (e.g., Jim Jordan and Kevin McCarthy) to subpoenas, and that the Senate did not convict Trump when it had the chance to do so. Cheney was left to confront a harsh reality: that members of Congress embraced “the Big Lie,” and by doing so, were content to disregard the law and the U.S. Constitution.

Cheney noted that at the conclusion of the House Select Committee hearings, several people possessing important information about Trump’s efforts to prevent the 2020 election from being ratified and instigating the insurrection have testified to Special Counsel Jack Smith’s grand jury. She maintains that if this testimony becomes public it will severely damage Trump’s 2024 presidential election bid. According to Cheney, Trump is trying to delay the January 6 trial until after the 2024 election to ensure that the testimony will never be released to the public. In her opinion, this represents a serious threat to democracy.

Cheney shared her criticism of the media’s role in the 2020 presidential election. In their embrace of “the Big Lie,” Cheney said that media companies such as Fox News bear responsibility for propagating the lie, contributing to political dissent, and damaging the republic. Cheney also noted that the future of the Republican Party rests on its ability to purge itself and work toward a fresh start in 2028.  She emphasized that it will be up to both Democrats and Republicans to engage in discussions with each other. Cheney also mentioned that both parties need to attract quality candidates to run for elective office. 

Cheney closed her presentation by stating that the United States’s Semiquincentennial in 2026 will present an opportunity for our country to appreciate its incredible blessings and to thwart autocratic dictators like Donald Trump. Cheney exhorted the audience to get involved in the 2024 election, stating that the future of democracy and freedom depends on an engaged and well-informed citizenry.  She remains hopeful that our democratic institutions will hold ensuring the survival of our democracy and the Constitution. It was a message of hope that Cheney left with the audience.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

William C. Stack has been an educator for 37 years, teaching history during that time with a focus on U.S. history and world history. He also worked for the Pew Charitable Trust. Mr. Stack earned his undergraduate degree in history and a master’s degree from the University of Portland. He earned two fellowships to study American history at Oxford University and was a recipient of a Fulbright Teacher Exchange award. Mr. Stack has written several articles and a book about various aspects of American and Pacific Northwest history: Historical Photos of Oregon (2010), John Adams (2011), George Flavel (2012) and Glenn Jackson (2014).

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