Imagine that you’re a hawk in the mold of Peter King and Commentary magazine. You watch as Rand Paul takes to the Senate floor to filibuster over the Obama administration’s refusal to place limits on its domestic use of drones, a concern that you immediately dismiss as paranoid and baseless. But Paul keeps going and he’s soon won the support of most conservative activists and many liberal thinkers too. At the end, the most powerful Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, comes down to voice his support. The next day, Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham voice what will be the only real response on the Senate floor. They come off as nasty and sneering—an optics disaster [bold mine-DL].
At that point, you’re probably thinking: “Holy God, we need to regain some momentum here.”
That momentum won’t come from King, whose presidential candidacy is unlikely to get off the ground. But Liz Cheney—young and articulate with name recognition and some support from the conservative base—could be the hawks’ great new hope.
Purple could be right that this is what neoconservatives and hard-liners in the GOP are thinking when they are encouraging Cheney in her primary challenge. (Jim Antle discusses the politics of the primary fight on the main page here.) If so, Cheney’s boosters are failing to see that she isn’t a particularly appealing standard-bearer for their cause. Compared to Rubio or Ayotte, Cheney comes across as the sort of hard-liner that is much easier to ridicule and dismiss, and her attacks on Obama are often so overwrought and absurd that they are immediately rejected by everyone outside of a fairly small ideological bubble. It’s true that a Sen. Cheney wouldn’t have joined Paul’s filibuster earlier this year, and she would have spoken loudly in opposition to it, but is there any doubt that her denunciation of him would be anything less than “nasty and sneering”?
This would hardly be the first time that neoconservatives and hard-liners have made a bad political bet for the sake of promoting an aggressive foreign policy message, but it is strange that they would want to pick a fight against another reliably hawkish Republican that they are also likely to lose. There is no significance if Cheney wins the race, she seems to give them nothing in the Senate they don’t already have, and defeat would be a very visible setback.