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House GOP Moves Ahead With Plans To Remove Cheney From Leadership Post

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, sent a letter to colleagues this week. We are a big tent party, he writes. But McCarthy says House leadership must serve its members. They want to be united for the 2022 election. And so McCarthy makes clear there is only room in Republican leadership for lawmakers willing to fuel lies about the 2020 election. McCarthy plans a vote to recall Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a GOP leader who told the truth about President Trump's attempt to overturn that election. So let's discuss this with Jonah Goldberg, columnist and editor-in-chief of The Dispatch. Jonah, welcome back.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Always great to be here.

INSKEEP: I just want to be frank. I mean, fine - I mean, Republicans have decided to go all in on 2020 lies. But wouldn't it be helpful to the party as a big tent party to have one leader who tells the truth?

GOLDBERG: It probably would be helpful. I do want to - I want to correct something. I don't think the party has gone all in on 2020 lies.

INSKEEP: OK.

GOLDBERG: What the party has gone all - it's a bit of a carom shot, but what the party has gone all in on is blind, sycophantic loyalty to Donald Trump, who's gone all in on 2020 lies. I think if you gave truth serum to the Republican conference, the super majority of them would agree with you that the election wasn't stolen. The super majority would also agree that Donald Trump is a huge pain in the nether regions. But the problem is that you're not allowed to say it out loud. And Donald Trump sees as a test of loyalty not getting in the way of his claims that the election was stolen by the subterranean mole people or whatever he's claiming this week.

INSKEEP: You know, reading McCarthy's letter, I almost get that same sense. And he doesn't say this. I'm reading into the letter here, but he says when he ran a small business, you know, you had to serve the people that you work with. And he's taking the same approach as a leader. He almost seems to be saying, I know that most of my members are in a particular stance with Trump. So that's where I need to be. And that's where Liz Cheney needed to be.

GOLDBERG: Yeah. And look. There's a certain superficial, pragmatic logic to this - is that they're very close to taking back the House. They want all oars to be pushing in the right direction. They don't want dissent in the ranks. And if Liz Cheney were off the reservation on an issue like abortion or pulling out of Afghanistan or any of these kinds of things, she'd still be in leadership next week. But the issue is, again - it's not January 6, and it's not the stolen election. That's just the sort of manifestation of it. The real issue is loyalty to Trump.

And she - you know, and this is the thing that's so frustrating - is Kevin McCarthy's argument, the argument from all the people who want to oust her is why she can't move on. She won't move on. The reality is that Donald Trump won't move on. He keeps coming out saying the election was stolen. She says, no, it wasn't. And everyone gets mad at her for replying rather than mad at Trump for refusing to move on. And it's not just Trump. Big swaths of the party - you know, in Arizona, they're searching for, you know, evidence that the ballots were made out of, you know...

INSKEEP: Bamboo.

GOLDBERG: ...Chinese Communist bamboo or something.

INSKEEP: Yeah, yeah, it's remarkable. In the minute we have left, though, let me ask you this. Amid all of this, are you getting any clarity as to what, in a policy sense, the current Republican Party stands for? I mean, Joe Biden is putting all these policies on the table. Is there a coherent Republican response?

GOLDBERG: The coherent Republican response is they love Donald Trump's musk. I mean, beyond that, I don't know. Liz Cheney is more conservative than Elise Stefanik, the woman who's supposed to - who's reported to be replacing her. She voted with Trump more than Elise Stefanik did. She was not a Never Trumper by any conventional definition. What she's trying to do is use the aberration of January 6 and the lies that led up to it as a clean breaking point with Donald Trump and the party saying, no, we can't do that because we're either addicted to his voters in terms of primaries and whatnot. We're addicted to his media audience. And we're addicted to the money that that part of the party generates. And so the only single litmus test is loyalty.

INSKEEP: This could work, right? I mean, Republicans really could win the House in 2022.

GOLDBERG: They could. And that could be - I mean, that's one of the reasons it's a problem - is that they could, in the short term, feel like the strategy was rewarded, even though, long term, Donald Trump remains radioactive and problematic for the GOP.

INSKEEP: Jonah Goldberg, conservative columnist and editor-in-chief of The Dispatch. He joined us via Skype. Jonah, thanks as always.

GOLDBERG: Always great to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.