On January 6, 2022 I have to admit I was moved and surprised to see former Vice President Dick Cheney standing alongside his daughter Liz at the United States Capitol, joining President Joe Biden and Jill Biden, Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others in a solemn vigil in remembrance of the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Standing together in defense of America.
I stand in awe.
I’ve never been a Dick Cheney fan, in part because of his role in America’s decision to invade Iraq based on false intelligence, in part because he’s an unreconstructed believer in waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation torture techniques.
I’ve never been a fan of his daughter, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, and her conservative political orientation, either. Indeed, she voted with Donald Trump 92.9% of the time; often supporting positions I found inimical to both America’s and my personal interests and beliefs.
Today, I stand in awe of their patriotism and commitment to the Constitution, of her steadfastness to principles of justice and fairness; in awe of her work on the Jan. 6 Committee investigating insurrection, sedition, and treason committed by Donald Trump and many of his associates, co-conspirators and donors.
Of her willingness to place loyalty to America above fealty to the GOP in spite of the disapprobation of former colleagues and friends.
On June 28, 2022, while watching televised proceedings of the January 6 Committee, I had a film flashback to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” Frank Capra’s 1939 movie about a newly-appointed U.S. senator (starring James Stewart) who challenges a corrupt political system.
Capra’s movie is a story for our time — a story about the decency of one common person, an outsider — surrounded by powerful people who are either corrupt or complicit with corruption through their silence — with the courage and strength to speak truth to power.
I never heard of young, 20-something Cassidy Hutchinson, a former assistant to former President Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, until she testified at the public hearing on June 28.
There she stood: Ms. Hutchinson Goes to Washington.
Hutchinson, a recent college graduate (Christopher Newport University, bachelor of arts in 2019) who had told friends that she had burst into tears of joy the day she was first admitted to the White House Fellows Program, had come to Washington to serve her country.
Hutchinson, careful in her testimony to distinguish between hearsay and her personal interactions and observations, riveted the nation with testimony confirming deceit, duplicity, and corruption in an administration determined to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and overthrow the government if not by fiat then by force.
“As an American, I was disgusted,” she testified about Jan. 6. “It was unpatriotic, it was un-American …”
Sadly, such reflection is lacking among many Granite State Republicans.
Witness another 20-something: Karoline Leavitt (Saint Anselm College, 2019) another Trump alumna, a former Trump White House assistant press secretary and former spokeswoman for Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who is running for the Republican nomination in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District.
I hadn’t been paying much attention to Leavitt’s candidacy until I learned she was hosting a campaign event featuring a viewing of “2000 Mules,” a thoroughly debunked movie produced by famed conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza, a film claiming to prove that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
Further, a just-released 72-page report, Lost, Not Stolen: The Conservative Case Trump Lost and Biden Won the 2020 Presidential Election, written by a group of conservatives, including prominent lawyers and retired federal judges, concludes: “After reviewing every claim of fraud and irregularities brought by Donald Trump and his supporters in all 64 cases challenging the 2020 election, a group of notable conservatives has reached the ‘unequivocal’ conclusion that Trump’s claims of election fraud are unsupported by evidence.”
I’m a great fan of Saint Anselm College. Family and friends are graduates; some international students I introduced to the college, some Muslim, remember the school fondly, as I am sure Leavitt does.
All became engaged in the Benedictine tradition of faith, reason, and community that is central to life at Saint Anselm, as I am sure Leavitt did.
All understood, as Saint Anselm College President Emeritus Father Jonathan DeFelice, O.S.B, has said, that “… inclusiveness is a way of being in the world, a state of heart and mind that knows that when we step into the unfamiliar, when we open ourselves to that what is new or different, we become more than we might have been.”
All understood we must open our hearts.
Karoline Leavitt: You are a well-educated young woman willing to joust in the public square, and I applaud you for that. Do it honestly, not by adopting the tropes and prejudices of those who expect you to serve them but by adopting the morals and values of Saint Benedict, of values with which you’ve been raised: faith, honor, service, truth, justice.
That’s what Americans do.
Karoline Leavitt: Take down the poster I saw of you shooting a long rifle on a firing range. Today, let us be attentive as we witness recently released film of the massacre in Uvalde, as parents mourn, as society tries to reconcile rights with responsibilities.
Karoline Leavitt: There is no benefit to allying yourself with the indefensible. There is a long and honorable conservative tradition in America that does not include allying with seditionists, lies and insurrection. Even if you win, you must remember that you chose this course and it will live with you forever.
Remember, as Liz Cheney said, “Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”
Robert Azzi, a photographer and writer who lives in Exeter, can be reached at email@example.com. His columns are archived at theotherazzi.wordpress.com.