Glory to the Martyrs

REVIEW: 'Oath and Honor' by Dick Cheney's daughter

December 17, 2023

Liz Cheney couldn't have picked a worse day to release her new anti-Trump memoir. Just hours after Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning hit bookshelves on Dec. 5, the presidents of three elite universities rife with anti-Semitic activism in recent months humiliated themselves on national television by bungling a simple question about whether it's acceptable to call for Jewish genocide on campus. One of the presidents, Liz Magill of Penn, resigned in disgrace. The fallout is ongoing.

It was poor timing for the author, who has become an icon of the anti-Trump #Resistance, beloved by journalists and liberal activists. (Pardon the redundancy.) In other words, the same people who instinctively defended these university presidents—less out of ideological conviction than a compulsion to oppose Republicans who "seized" on their remarks as evidence of moral rot in elite higher education. Whatever differences normal Americans might have with these radical eggheads and their apologists are insignificant, Cheney argues in Oath and Honor. They're right about Donald Trump, and that's all that matters right now. Defeating him in 2024, she writes, is "the cause of our time."

Cheney, a former congresswoman from Wyoming and the daughter of neocon heartthrob Dick Cheney, became a #Resistance icon for repeatedly attacking Trump and voting to impeach him (the second time) for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, rampage on Capitol Hill. The book recounts the events leading up to Jan. 6 and Cheney's efforts to "defend the republic" in her role as vice-chair of the House select committee investigating the attack, as well as her doomed campaign for reelection in 2022, when she lost to a Trump-backed opponent by nearly 40 percentage points.

It makes for a tedious read, riddled with block quotes from congressional statements, memoranda, and federal court rulings. Cheney strains to wring drama out of the bureaucratic mechanics of congressional committee work, describing her efforts to assemble the "factual predicate" to prove Trump was guilty of "attempting to obstruct an official proceeding." Chapter 56 begins as follows: "The January 6th Committee conducted a business meeting on October 13, 2022. The Committee had a number of options for structuring the meeting." Riveting stuff.

In addition to Beltway journalists, the target audience for Oath and Honor is comprised almost entirely of extremely online liberals still recovering from mental breakdowns they suffered between 2016 and 2020—the type of people who obsessed over the Jan. 6 committee hearings, just as they obsessed over the Robert Mueller investigation and the outrageous drama involving Gorpman and Bleemer, and so on. They already know the details. They've already read the strategically timed leaks, especially the one about the GOP congressman referring to Trump as "Orange Jesus."

Alas, Cheney's book does not lack for melodrama. "There was no margin for error," she writes. "We had to succeed in our work because the stakes for the country were so high." Cheney deserves credit, at least, for coming up with multiple ways to rewrite the same sentence about how Trump committed an "assault on the structural constitutional safeguards that keep us free," and "poses a risk that America cannot bear."

Ditto self-aggrandizement, which is definitely on brand when it comes to the #Resistance genre. Cheney quotes from Abraham Lincoln almost as often as she quotes herself, and compares the events of Jan. 6 to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on no less than three occasions. She describes "the statue of Clio, muse of history, that stands over the door in Statuary Hall ... as a reminder that what we do in the Capitol Building is written in the pages of history." She recalls walking "the hallowed grounds of Antietam, Gettysburg, and Bull Run with my dad, learning about the sacrifices so many had made for our freedom." It's all a bit much.

The same can be said of all the (mostly anonymous) quotes Cheney includes from individuals praising her heroism and noble sacrifice. The Republican who said she had "fulfilled the ancient charge from the Bible: ‘Be strong and have courage,’" and the GOP staffer who said she represented "the reason my parents left everything to come to this country," among others. Nancy Pelosi, who thanked her "many times" for her patriotism.

Like the other (seemingly countless) #Resistance memoirists, Cheney declines to consider that Trump and the support he continues to enjoy from millions of Americans is a symptom of some larger societal affliction, rather than the actual disease. At no point does she contemplate the implications of her deliberately alarmist rhetoric. For example: If America "cannot survive" another Trump presidency, as she and many others have warned, what sorts of actions might be justified to stop it from happening? Obstructing an official proceeding, at the very least, if it means saving the country? If not, then what?

If you are absolutely desperate to support the family of a #Resistance martyr, you could do worse than Renegade by former Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.), which also quotes excessively from Lincoln but at least has some interesting tidbits about the author's military career, and the time he committed stolen valor in seventh grade, when he lied so much about his older brother serving in Iraq the school put him in a support group for Blue Star Families.

Cheney is doing just fine. In its first week in circulation, her book sold more copies than Britney Spears's memoir did in its seventh week. So there's that. Of course, one can easily imagine a scenario in which the majority of purchased copies of Oath and Honor will end up in the trash on Christmas Day—sent as spite gifts from deranged liberals to the Trump-supporting relatives who annoyed them at Thanksgiving. One journalist implored her readers to do just that. "Buy it for the seditionist in your life," Melinda Henneberger wrote, "as a Christmas present to the country."

Oath and Honor retails for $22.74 on Amazon. Alternatively, you can get a 16-pound bag of Kingsford charcoal for less than half that.

Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning
by Liz Cheney
Little, Brown, 384 pp., $32.50