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Liz Cheney on the New Speaker, Ukraine and Israel, and Much More

Dear Readers: Center for Politics Professor of Practice Liz Cheney sat down with Center for Politics Director Larry J. Sabato and other members of our team this week for an exclusive discussion on our “Politics is Everything” podcast about the challenges facing American politics and democracy. Below are excerpts from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity. You can listen to the full interview on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other major podcast platforms.

Cheney’s forthcoming book, Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning, is now available for pre-order and will be released on Dec. 5. Cheney, former chair of the House Republican Conference, joined the Center for Politics as Professor of Practice in March.

We will be back on Thursday with a preview of next week’s elections.

— The Editors

Cheney on new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R, LA-4)

“Mike [Johnson] is somebody that I knew well. We were elected together. Our offices were next to each other, and Mike is somebody who says that he’s committed to defending the Constitution. But that’s not what he did when we were all tested in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

“In my experience, and, I was very, deeply involved and engaged as the conference chair, when Mike was doing things like convincing members of the conference to sign on to the amicus brief. He was acting in ways that he knew to be wrong. And, I think that the country unfortunately will come to see the measure of his character.

“In my view, he was willing to set aside what he knew to be the rulings of the courts, the requirements of the Constitution, in order to placate Donald Trump, in order to gain praise from Donald Trump, for political expedience. So it’s a concerning moment to have him be elected Speaker of the House…

“One of the reasons why somebody like Mike Johnson is dangerous is because when you have elected Republicans who know better, elected Republicans who know the truth but yet will go along with the efforts to undermine our republic, the efforts, frankly, that Donald Trump undertook to overturn the election.”

On political violence

“When you had members of the House receiving threats of violence to their families and themselves, because they were voting against Jim Jordan for Speaker. And then when those members went and had a meeting with Jim Jordan, in which they said to him, we’re getting death threats because we’re voting against you. And Warren Davidson, who’s a Jim Jordan supporter from Ohio also, apparently responded, that’s not Jim Jordan’s fault you’re getting those threats, that’s your fault for voting against Jim Jordan.

“That kind of response to the threat of political violence is completely unacceptable. People may not want to hear that. They may not want to have to deal with it. They may be disgusted by our politics today, but the only way through this, the only way out of it, is for good people to refuse to turn away.

“Millions of people haven’t sacrificed everything they’ve sacrificed over the course of our nation’s history so that we could descend into some sort of authoritarian regime where political violence determines who rules.

“I do believe in the end we’ll come through this, that we’ll reject this cult of personality. Obviously I don’t have any illusions that it will be easy, but it’s fundamentally important if we want to make sure our kids grow up in freedom.”

On U.S. aid to Ukraine and Israel

“It’s a really important moment for the United States to be clear that we’re going to maintain our commitments.

“The idea that we would somehow walk away from Ukraine at this moment is wrong and misguided. We also need to be supporting Israel. When I’ve watched over the last several weeks, even months now, the decision by the Speaker of the House and by the House Republicans to separate Ukraine aid from Israel aid and only put forward Israel aid, I think that’s a mistake. We obviously need to be supporting Israel but there’s this rising isolationist tendency.

“But even more than that, among many in my party, it seems that there’s a willingness to support Putin. We’ve begun to hear Republicans talking about America’s role in the world and they sound more like Jane Fonda than Ronald Reagan. And this idea that somehow America is agnostic as between Ukraine and Russia is a fundamental misunderstanding of how the threat that freedom is under and how America’s adversaries and those who would threaten us, those who believe in authoritarian rule, are very much working together. Our adversaries are allied against us. And if we don’t maintain our commitment for the people of Ukraine, it’s going to have a domino effect. Countries will see our weakness and they will be tempted to take steps elsewhere. I think the Chinese will watch what happens and make determinations about whether or not they should move now on Taiwan…

“Certainly with respect to Israel, America’s commitment to Israel is and has to be unwavering and we ought to be moving immediately, not playing political games as it seems the Republicans are in the House. We ought to be moving immediately to get that aid to Israel and to do it in a bipartisan manner.”