In Hans Christian Andersen’s 19th-century telling of the famous fairy tale, the emperor leads the royal parade wearing not a stitch of clothing because swindlers have convinced the emperor, his courtiers and his entire empire that only the wise man/woman/child can see the fine, if otherwise invisible, wardrobe they’ve weaved for him.
And it’s all working just fine until a child in the crowd calls out as the emperor walks by, “Your Dudeness, you’re stark naked. Come on, man.”
And then, in an instant, everyone understands that they’ve been conned, that they should believe their own eyes, that the emperor, in fact, is wearing no clothes. Everyone, that is, except for the emperor himself, who keeps walking along as if the suddenly obvious truth were, dare I say it, fake news — or, as they say in Denmark, Andersen’s home country, falske nyheder.
Which brings us to 2021. Once again the emperor has gone full monty. Once again a child —- OK, she’s not a child, but she does have a famous father — is the truth-teller. Except this time, the con is so deep, the courtiers such boot lickers, the emperor a con artist himself, that millions continue to insist the clothes are not only real, but fabulous. And that the truth-teller should be exiled for daring to state the obvious.
As you’ve no doubt puzzled it out, Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick, third-ranking member of the GOP House leadership, a hard-core conservative, is the one who basically said that if Trump were any more naked, he could be an honorary Kardashian. And that you shouldn’t believe a word he and his sycophants are trying to sell you. For this, she will soon be relieved of her House leadership position because, well, what’s truth got to do with it?
Here’s a sampling of Cheney’s repeated warnings over the past few days:
Responding to Trump’s tweet that the Big Lie is really to claim the election wasn’t rigged, Cheney tweeted: “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”
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She isn’t simply referencing Trump, of course, but everyone who spouts the Big Lie. And later, speaking at a think-tank event hosted by former House Speaker Paul Ryan, Cheney said: “We can’t whitewash what happened on January 6 or perpetuate Trump’s big lie. It is a threat to democracy. What he did on January 6 is a line that cannot be crossed.”
As conservative columnist Michael Gerson, a never-Trumper, writes, “The GOP is increasingly defined not by its shared beliefs, but by its shared delusions. To be a loyal Republican, one must be either a sucker or a liar.”
What does that say about Colorado Republicans? According to a recent poll, 67% of registered Republicans say the election was stolen from Trump, with just 21% saying it wasn’t. I have a hard time processing those numbers, which can’t possibly be true. I don’t mean that the pollsters misrepresented what they were told. I mean, these numbers can’t be about the truth — there aren’t that many suckers in Colorado — so much as what is required of Republicans these days.
The fact is that the truth about the election is being told right here in Colorado, where Dominion Voting Systems is located. On Friday, the conservative news outlet Newsmax officially apologized for its bogus reporting that Dominion had played a role in rigging an election with its voting machines. And it apologized to Eric Coomer, director of Dominion product strategy and security, saying, “On behalf of Newsmax, we would like to apologize for any harm that our reporting of the allegations against Dr. Coomer may have caused Dr. Coomer and his family.”
Coomer and his family have gone through hell. The crazies have threatened his life, his family’s lives. He has been in hiding because politicians spew the Big Lie and, as we saw on Jan. 6th, the conspiracy theories can take hold in a dangerous way. This is demagoguery at its worst.
The statement was part of a settlement — let’s assume a large cash settlement — as Coomer dropped Newsmax from a lawsuit that also includes Rudy Giuliani and One America News Network. It had been alleged that Coomer was close to antifa and that he had guaranteed a Biden win. None of this happened, of course, as Newsmax was forced to concede.
You may remember all the bogus lawsuits that Trump’s allies filed — each rejected in turn. Now Dominion, Coomer and others are the ones suing, and they’re the ones who will be vindicated. That is not fake news. Guiliani saying Coomer, about whom he knows nothing, was a “vicious, vicious man” who was “close to antifa” is fake news. Eric Trump retweeting Coomer’s so-called guarantee of a Biden win is fake news.
And now Trump’s allies — those who face lawsuits anyway — are backpedaling as quickly as they can. My favorite backtrack came from bizarro lawyer Sidney Powell who claimed that anything she has ever said was obviously so absurd that no one could be expected to believe it.
I don’t agree with Liz Cheney on much, or maybe on anything other than the fact that Republicans are living a Trumpian lie. The wily Mitch McConnell — not nearly as brave as Liz Cheney, who, unlike McConnell, voted for impeachment — tried separating his party from Trump after the Senate impeachment trial, during which McConnell had caved. Still, McConnell said the insurrection was born of “wild myths” and “conspiracy theories orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters’ decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.”
And yet, when it was clear to McConnell that most Republicans weren’t interested in dumping Trump, he quickly said that if Trump ran in 2024, he’d vote for the nation’s all-time leading arsonist. Yes, he did. Mitt Romney, who did vote to convict Trump, was just booed the other day by Utah Republicans, who very nearly censured him.
Romney asked the booing crowd: “Aren’t you embarrassed?” I wonder what he expected them to say.
For one answer, we’ll take another turn at 19th-century literature, this from Mark Twain and Huck Finn, in which two con men, the King and the Duke, are weighing their chances of pulling off yet another swindle. The King says, “Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?”
It will certainly be a big enough supermajority of House Republicans to voice support for the Big Lie by voting Liz Cheney out of her leadership position. It’s not clear when the vote will come — Cheney has already survived one such vote — but only that it will come soon. And it’s clear that Republicans, this time, know they can no longer afford to have one of their own who insists on speaking out when she sees the naked truth.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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