Historian: Ronald Reagan Would Disapprove of Cheney Treatment

Historian: Ronald Reagan Would Disapprove of Cheney Treatment liz cheney stands contrite in front of an american flag Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. (Bill Clark/AP)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Saturday, 08 May 2021 01:41 PM

The treatment of Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., by her fellow House Republican leaders and colleagues "simply for having a contrary opinion" on former President Donald Trump is appalling, and late President Ronald Reagan would never have approved, presidential historian Craig Shirley wrote in a new opinion piece.

"Cheney's only crime of course is her belief that the GOP needs to wash its hands of Donald Trump," Shirley, a biographer for late President Ronald Reagan, wrote for Townhall. "Otherwise, she's a tried and true conservative. And our movement is big enough to accommodate personal opinions."

Several House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., are calling for Cheney, R-Wyo., to lose her seat as the House Republican Conference chair, the party's No. 3 spot in the chamber, after her continued opposition to former President Donald Trump.

But Reagan would never have approved of the party's push to oust Cheney, according to Shirley, and he would not have approved of Trump's "cult of personality" that is dominating conservative politics.

"Conservative values are not whatever Donald Trump feels when he wakes up in the morning," Shirley said.

Shirley writes he loves the American conservative movement, and has since he was 8 years old and handing out literature door-to-door for Barry Goldwater in 1964, and knows he and Cheney would not see eye-to-eye on everything, "but such trivial things are no reason to excommunicate someone from party leadership."

He added, Cheney's detractors say her opposition to Trump is a distraction from fighting against President Joe Biden's agenda, but "in devoting this much time to ousting her instead of stopping Sleepy Joe, McCarthy, Steve Scalise, and the rest are making exactly the same mistake."

Shirley said he agrees the party's focus should be on fighting Biden and taking back control of Congress. But, he warned, by making an example of Cheney and other dissidents, that will leave a "bad taste in the mouths" of the same independents and women voters who voted for Biden while voting for Republicans on the rest of their ballots in 2020.

"You don't build a party by throwing out good and principled people like Cheney," Shirley said.

He also accused the conservative base of having an "addiction to Trump," which is not surprising, considering his many victories for the party, but added GOP leaders became too afraid of angering Trump.

"Being a conservative is not about him," he wrote. "Party unity is important, particularly when your party is in the opposition, but conforming out of fear of the party leader is not unity."

Republicans are "supposed to be a movement of ideas and optimism," but instead, with the fight against Cheney, the party is "adopting the very cancel culture" that liberals employ, Shirley continued.

"Ronald Reagan certainly never used intimidation to keep his fellow Republicans in line, and he certainly didn't surround himself with sycophants," said Shirley, adding Reagan would never have chosen the "experienced but more liberal" George H.W. Bush as his running mate or Jim Baker for a chief of staff.

Such actions were not always popular, but they helped Reagan's presidency and showed the GOP could be a party with "many different brands of conservatism" that work toward the same goals.

Ousting Cheney will also add to the "liberal media stereotype" that conservatives are anti-woman, even with setting up Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., to replace Cheney.

"You'd think Republicans would want to capitalize on the record number of women they elected in 2020, but apparently keeping Trump happy is more important," Shirley said. "Purging Liz Cheney for having an opinion is madness, and it's high time conservatives washed their hands clean of this madness."