Tempe, AZ – Yesterday afternoon, Liz Cheney spoke and answered questions at a McCain Institute event entitled “Courage in American Leadership” held at Arizona State University as part of the Institute’s “Defending American Democracy Series.” Video of the full conversation is available here and please watch some of the individual highlights below:
CONGRESSWOMAN LIZ CHENEY: Thank you, Sofia. Thank you for having me today. Thank you for your service to our country. And thank you to the McCain Institute. It’s really a special pleasure and honor and privilege to be here to honor the legacy of Senator McCain and what he did for so many years for the issue of democracy. And it’s a special privilege and honor to be here to talk about our obligation as citizens in a Republic, and our obligations as citizens in a democratic system. I’ve had the opportunity over the last year and a half to spend a lot of time with young people, and young people really give me hope when I look at the future of our country. And I see this beginning with the young members of the staff in the Capitol on January 6th, and watching how, in so many instances, where the member who they may have been working for was unwilling to, for example, speak clearly about what had happened, was unwilling to stand up to what had happened, the young people really have. And I see that with my children, with their friends, and I see that all around the country, and that really just gives me tremendous hope. And I think one of the biggest lessons for me, and, you know, this may seem obvious. I grew up certainly around politics. I grew up in a family that was involved in public service. But the lesson of January 6th and of what we’ve seen since then, is one of the most important lessons, undoubtedly, is that in this nation, our institutions don’t defend themselves. And it takes individuals. If you look at what we’ve seen, there have been far too many examples of cowardice. There have been far too many examples of, sort of, craven political ambition in the last year and a half, but there have also been stunning examples of bravery and courage. And the people of Arizona are blessed to have so many of those examples here. People like Rusty Bowers, who testified in front of our Committee. And I will tell you, you know, sitting there on the dais and listening to Rusty talk about his faith and talk about his duty to the Constitution and his oath and what it meant to him was incredibly moving for me and for my colleagues. And so, Arizona and our nation owes Rusty a tremendous debt of gratitude. Also, individuals like Stephen Richer, who I believe is here with us today. And Bill Gates, both of whom have been tremendously strong and courageous. And we’ve seen that it was courageous Republicans who withstood pressure from the former president at all levels and who have been willing to come forward and tell the truth about what happened. And so, if anybody says to you, “January 6th wasn’t all that bad, the institution’s held,” please tell them they only held because of people, and because of Americans who stepped forward. And they held because of political elected officials. They also held because of the Capitol Police Officers, the Metropolitan Police Officers, men and women who fought what was really a medieval battle, hand-to-hand combat that day, for hours and hours. And just remember, and I know we’re going to have the chance to do questions here, but think to yourself what it means that for 187 minutes, while there was a massive battle and assault underway at the Capitol, and police officers were being gravely injured, were killed. While this battle was going on, thousands of people armed, who had been provoked by President Trump to attack the Capitol. While this was happening, Donald Trump was watching it on television, and he refused to take action. He was the one person who could have stopped it, who ultimately did when he told people to go home, but he wouldn’t tell them to leave for 187 minutes. And no matter what else you think about what happened that day, no matter what else you think about our politics in this nation, no nation can afford to have a leader who’s so derelict in his duty. And I think that’s one of the things that we all need to remember from that day.
CONGRESSWOMAN LIZ CHENEY: I spend a lot of time thinking about Arizona. And if you think about elections that are happening now. In Arizona today, you have a candidate for governor in Kari Lake, you have a candidate for secretary of state in Mark Fincham, both of whom have said – this isn’t a surprise, it’s not a secret – they both said that they will only honor the results of an election if they agree with it. Both of them have looked at 2020, they’ve looked at the fact that the election here in Arizona was carried out according to state law, that there were counts, that there were recounts, that there were audits, that there were multiple court cases and rulings, all of which went against the former president. The election itself was certified, and the Arizona electors were correctly certified for Biden. They’ve looked at all of that: the law, the facts, and the rulings of the courts, and they’ve said it doesn’t matter to them. And if you care about democracy, and you care about the survival of our Republic, then you need to understand, we all have to understand, that we cannot give people power who have told us that they will not honor elections. Elections are the foundation of our Republic. And peaceful transfers of power are the foundation of our Republic. And we must have elected officials in both parties who understand and honor that duty and that responsibility. So, what happens here in Arizona is not just important for Arizona, but it’s important for the nation and for the future functioning of our constitutional Republic.
AUDIENCE MEMBER ONE: Hi, my name is Nathan McCory. And I just, first of all, want to say thank you so much, Congresswoman Cheney, for standing for and fighting for things I hold very dear. And thank you for your true patriotism.
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Thank you, thank you very much.
AUDIENCE MEMBER ONE: My question is for Republicans who feel alienated by the Trump tilt of the Republican Party. What is the best avenue for them to pursue to effect good change? Is it to join a third party with moderate Democrats? Is it to stay within the party and work to effect change within? What do you see as the best avenue for those Republicans?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Yeah, I think that, you know, I’m not ready to say we’re going to allow Trump and those who are at war with democracy to hijack our party. I’m not ready to give that fight up. I think that the party is in a very bad state. It’s increasingly challenging, but I believe in a Republican Party that stands for the ideals that we’ve been talking about, and I think that individually, Republicans need to be engaged in battling for precinct, you know, chairman or chairwomen’s seats. I was talking to Rick Davis earlier, he was telling me that 70% of the offices here in Arizona go unchallenged in elections. And I think that, you know, if you look at what the anti-democratic forces in the Republican Party are doing, they have a very concerted effort underway to take control at a local level, at a state level, and to fundamentally turn the Republican Party into something that is anti-American. And I think that those of us who love the ideals and believe in the ideals the Party has stood for have to be engaged on the ground in that battle, to challenge them, to fill those seats, to make sure that at a state level, we don’t watch this slip away. And again, I go back to the choice that Arizona voters have this election cycle. And I say this is somebody who, you know, my first vote I ever cast, I was 18 years old and I voted for Ronald Reagan. So, for almost 40 years now I’ve been voting Republican. I don’t know that I have ever voted for a Democrat. But if I lived in Arizona now, I absolutely would – and for governor and for secretary of state. And I think, you know, we cannot be in a position where we elect people who will not fundamentally uphold the sanctity of elections. And I think that’s got to be more important than anything else. I also think it’s important for us as Republicans to demand from our Republican leaders that they not accept this unraveling of the democracy, to demand that people, you know, people should not come here – Glenn Youngkin should not come here and campaign for Kari Lake. Ted Cruz, who absolutely knows better, absolutely knows that what he’s advocating is unconstitutional, that what she’s saying is unconstitutional. They know it. And as Republicans, there have to be consequences. And we have to make sure that people understand that we’re going to vote for those that we can trust and depend on to do the right thing and to uphold their oath.
AUDIENCE MEMBER TWO: I was wondering if you could help us voters. Have you noticed patterns of specific character traits or behaviors that lead to more serious representatives? People who you think will put America first before their own party?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Yeah, it’s a really interesting question. I think that, you know, and this goes back before 2016. But I think certainly, you know, Trump has made it worse. There’s, sort of, a level of – we have come to accept from our elected officials things we would never accept from anybody else – from anybody in our family, from anybody who works with us, I mean, from a boss or an employee. And so, some of it is just basic, fundamental, when you are trying to decide who to vote for, number one, we need to make sure we have competent people running, but then you need to vote for the competent people. And, you know, if you demand excellence in other areas of your life – I think, you know, we all become exhausted by politics. We become exhausted by the yelling and the screaming and by the politicians you can’t trust. And think that as voters across the country on both sides of the aisle, we have to understand the country’s at the edge of an abyss. It, you know, that’s not overstating the danger we’re facing. And if we don’t decide that we’re going to pull back from that, that we’re going to vote for the serious people, that we’re going to hold our elected officials accountable, that we aren’t going to accept appeasement of anti-democratic forces. You know, then we’re going to go over the edge. And so, both in how we vote, how we conduct ourselves, what we demand, and also, you know, just run for office. I really, I can’t state that enough. We need people who care and who are responsible and competent to get into these races. And it’s going to be a battle, you know, this is not something I think, unfortunately, that we’re going to solve in one cycle. It’s going to be a battle for a long time, but those who are fighting to unravel our democracy need to know, absolutely with total clarity, that those of us who are fighting to maintain our freedom, to maintain our Constitutional Republic are stronger and more dedicated and have more determination than they do – and that we’re going to win.