As I write Liz Cheney is the most talked about woman leader in America. It’s not clear that her sudden fame will last. But there is no denying that her decision to launch a full-throated attack on Donald Trump has catapulted her into the national spotlight. In consequence of her relentless assault on the former president, she has been booted out of her leadership role in the House of Representatives. And she has decisively and possibly permanently split from nearly all her Republican colleagues.
Liz Cheney’s last name is, yes, Cheney. So, on one level it’s understandable that the congresswoman from Wyoming is invariably introduced as Dick Cheney’s daughter. Dick Cheney was, after all, vice president of the United States for eight years (2001-2009), and a leading Republican long before that. In fact, Dick Cheney was one of the most influential leaders in recent American history, including, by all accounts, in his post as Vice President during the two-term presidency of George W. Bush.
Still, it is not Dick Cheney who birthed Liz Cheney. Liz Cheney has a mother. Liz Cheney was delivered of Lynne Cheney who, it happens, has long been a highly accomplished and prominent figure in her own right.
Long before it was fashionable or even normal for women of a certain class to work outside the home, Lynne Cheney did. She had an extremely successful career – or, better, plural, as in careers. For example, she was chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1986 to 1993. She was a CNN television host from 1995 to 1998. And over the years she has served on a range of entities from corporate boards to the Readers Digest Association.
Moreover, when time came for Lynne and Dick Cheney to leave Washington to return to their home in Wyoming, her work did not stop. Remarkably, she became a successful and prominent writer, with a focus on early American history. Her most recent books are James Madison: A Life Reconsidered (2015), and The Virginia Dynasty: Four Presidents and the Creation of the American Nation (2020). Both were very well reviewed and received, and both have become a highly respected part of the vast literature on America’s Founders.
I admit it’s economical to describe Liz Cheney as Dick Cheney’s daughter. However, it’s both inaccurate and unfair. She is also Lynne Cheney’s daughter. And Lynne Cheney merits a place in the nation’s firmament every bit as much as does her husband.