The quintessential Godfather series stands out for its brilliance in portraying, among other things, the complexities of family loyalty, power, and honor as the Corleone family struggles to maintain its status as the alpha crime family in New York's notorious mafia underworld. I'm no film critic, and my pithy summary does the acclaimed series no justice in terms of its wonderfully dramatic story-telling and overall intensity.
One of the most memorable scenes and exchanges in the entire series involves the two brothers, Michael and Fredo, where the latter was sent to Las Vegas to learn the highly profitable casino-hotel business under Moe Green, a Corleone family ally whose casino-hotel was financed by the Corleones. Michael travels to Vegas to buyout Moe Greene's stake, and when the three meet, Michael's surprising offer offends Green resulting in a testy exchange and refusal. Fredo, caught between upholding family loyalty versus defending his friendship with Green and his newfound significance in the casino industry, reacts against his brother and what he sees as an affront to one of Vegas' premier powerbrokers. Michael's response is epic, timeless, and illustrative of the dangers of negotiating between competing loyalties.
Fredo (Emphatic) "Mike, you don't come to Las Vegas and talk to a man like Moe Green like that!"
Michael (Calm and composed): "Fredo, you're my older brother, and I love you, but don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again...ever."
Fredo drew his line in the sand and paid for it with his life. Moe Green, likewise, sealed his fate when Michael unleashed targeted hits against the five families as part of his reign of terror and rise to power. Ultimately, this scene captures the essence of loyalties and the influence of organizational power. All that said, I in no way am making a comparison between the Corleone's, the Godfather, and Republicans. Equally, I absolutely do not endorse the use of threats and violence to intimidate and destroy opposition. Just as Michael spoke to his brother Fredo reminding him of his first duty to the family, his words, without threat for my purposes, are applicable to Liz Cheney in that she, in her leadership role, has a duty to her Congressional colleagues to which I will now explore.
Today, GOP politics is all the buzz, and the aftermath of the Trump presidency with newly introduced Articles of Impeachment against the departed President have caught the world by storm. With impeachment talk hanging over Trump even before he was elected, impeachment redux was expected due to the catastrophic events that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol building on January 6th and given the Democrats' propensity to disgrace Trump by any means necessary(1).
Enter Congresswoman Liz Cheney. The two-term Republican representative from Wyoming is daughter to the notable Dick Cheney, whose career in GOP politics and government spans approximately four decades and covers stints as a member of Congress (1978-1988), Secretary of Defense (1989-1993), and, most notably, Vice President of the United States (2001-2009). Clearly, Liz Cheney is no stranger to GOP politics, but now she finds herself fighting for her political career due to her decision to support the most recent impeachment efforts by the Democrats.
Currently, Liz is the House Republican Conference Chairwoman, which makes her the third highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives. This leadership position gives her unprecedented influence and visibility and thus makes her decision to support Democratic impeachment against the former President highly controversial and problematic. Subsequent to her announcement, she now has a primary challenger and has been censured by the Wyoming Carbon County Republican Party. She also is facing the prospects of being removed from her leadership position as the House Republican Conference Chairwoman.
Everything mentioned thus far is prologue for the remaining analysis, which poses the question, as House GOP Conference Chairwoman, was Liz Cheney wrong for supporting the Democrats impeachment effort? Cheney's impeachment statement reads as follows:
On January 6, 2021 a violent mob attacked the United States Capitol to obstruct the process of our democracy and stop the counting of presidential electoral votes. This insurrection caused injury, death and destruction in the most sacred space in our Republic. Much more will become clear in coming days and weeks, but what we know now is enough. The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.
I will vote to impeach the President."
Again, let me highlight the following from above, "...but what we know now is enough. The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.
There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.
Cheney's statement essentially holds then President Trump responsible for organizing and inspiring a "mob" to attack the U.S. Capitol. She concludes that upon doing so, he betrayed his oath of office.
Prior to the rally on December 19, 2020, Trump tweeted, "Be there, will be wild!". In a subsequent and related Facebook posting, the following are captured by the New York Times(2).
If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism,” a member of the Red-State Secession group on Facebook posted on Tuesday, the eve of the appointed day, Jan. 6.
Beneath it, dozens of people posted comments that included photographs of the weaponry — including assault rifles — that they said they planned to bring to the rally. There were also comments referring to “occupying” the Capitol and forcing Congress to overturn the November election that Joseph R. Biden Jr. had won — and Mr. Trump had lost.
At the rally, which was held on the rotunda just below the U.S. Capitol, he at one point stated, "We will never give up,”. We will never concede. It will never happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore."
Cheney and the Democrats use these combined statements, both oral and digital, to assert Trump's culpability for the turbulent events at the U.S. Capitol. However, Cheney and her Democratic allies seem to be on shaky ground because the Constitution's language regarding impeachment in Article II Section IV explicitly refers to the "current" President, not former. To use the impeachment clause retroactively appears to be a gross violation on its face, without legal merit or precedent, and hazardous to future impeachment cases writ large. Not to mention, the impeachment process lacks due process and procedural protocol, which are held sacrosanct for the United States as the standard bearer for democratic ideals and Constitutional governance globally.
If Cheney felt so strongly about impeachment, then she should have first stepped down from her Republican leadership position. Her personal moral convictions were in direct conflict with her role as Conference Chair for the House Republican Party. The House GOP website summarizes her position as follows:
...the House Republican Conference is responsible for electing the House Republican leadership, approving GOP Member committee assignments, managing leadership-driven floor debates, and executing a communications strategy that is executed within the party and is conveyed to constituents through the media.
Externally, the House Republican Conference coordinates media availability...and generally communicates the House Republican message to the public.
Given her announced disposition regarding impeachment, it stands to reason that she would've had reservations about executing all internal and external functions that were in opposition to impeachment. As such, her resignation would have been reasonable, appropriate, and in the interest of House Republicans, who voted overwhelmingly against the Democrats' Articles of Impeachment (201 Nay 10 Yea). I strongly believe that this was her prima facie moral duty as Conference Chair, but by remaining onboard in leadership, it was morally irresponsible and harmful to her Congressional colleagues as dissenters collectively. Cheney "took sides against the party", and this was leadership failure, morally, politically, and Constitutionally.
Washington Post, January 7, 2017. The frontpage headline reads, "The campaign to impeach President Trump has begun". Underneath, the first sentence states, "The effort to impeach President Donald John Trump is already underway."
New York Times, January 6, 2021. ‘Be There. Will Be Wild!’: Trump All but Circled the Date. Barry, Dan and Frenkel, Sheera.