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Cheney, Paul, and a proxy fight for the GOP

Far-right media personality Liz Cheney formally kicked off her Republican U.S. Senate campaign in her home state of Virginia Wyoming yesterday, right around the
Cheney, Paul, and a proxy fight for the GOP
Cheney, Paul, and a proxy fight for the GOP

Far-right media personality Liz Cheney formally kicked off her Republican U.S. Senate campaign in her home state of Virginia Wyoming yesterday, right around the same time the website for her strange D.C. attack operation was scrubbed. At an announcement press conference, Cheney made relatively clear why she's running.

Liz Cheney struck a no-compromises tone Wednesday as she launched her campaign to unseat Wyoming's senior U.S. senator, Mike Enzi.The elder daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney addressed reporters in Casper and Cheyenne a day after announcing her bid to oust Enzi, a three-term incumbent and fellow Republican.Speaking in Cheyenne, Cheney said it's time for Republicans in Congress to stop "cutting deals" with Democrats.

I see. So Liz Cheney, after living inside the Beltway for nearly her entire life, has come to a firm conclusion about the U.S. Senate: there's just not enough obstructionism. Sure, voters elected a Democratic majority in each of the last three cycles, but what Republicans should be doing is refusing to work with the majority. When the parties reach agreement, that means the Senate is governing -- and that's what Cheney is against.

Keep in mind, incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi (R), who thought he was friends with Cheney, has not exactly earned a reputation as Mr. Compromise on Capitol Hill. He's one of the chamber's most far-right members, and when Democrats are looking to find bipartisan solutions with flexible GOP senators open to finding common ground, Enzi isn't at the top of anyone's list.

But for Liz Cheney, the fact that he's open to occasionally working with the majority on policy solutions is simply too much. She's running on an anti-compromise platform.

"Instead of cutting deals with the president's allies in Congress, we can be opposing them every step of the way," she said, adding, "In my view, obstructing President Obama's policies and his agenda isn't actually obstruction; it's patriotism."

Thanks for clearing that up.

In an interesting twist, one Republican senator seems especially eager to defend Enzi and help him win the primary fight. It's not his Wyoming colleague and it's not one of members who's served alongside Enzi for the last two decades -- it's Rand Paul.

There's a larger significance to this that's worth keeping in mind.

Immediately after Cheney made her intentions clear, the Kentucky Republican wasted no time in coming to Enzi's defense, mocking Cheney and embracing the incumbent. "I've told him I'll do anything I can to help him," Paul said of Enzi. "In fact, somebody asked me today if they could use my name, and I said I'd be happy to sign on and do a fundraiser for him."

Is there a deep affection between the two Republican colleagues? To date, Paul and Enzi haven't seemed especially close, though some of their committee assignments overlap. But as Dave Weigel explained in a smart piece last night, the GOP primary in Wyoming is becoming a proxy war for a larger intra-party dispute.

Reporters looking for a feud between the Cheneys and her new foe Sen. Mike Enzi have come up a little short.... The real "feud" is between the ascendant America-first Republicans represented by Paul, and the conservative hawks who've lost their leading role in the party.

Liz Cheney's ideology mirrors that of her father -- she wrote his memoir, for goodness sake -- and to put it mildly, she embraces a foreign policy vision that is deeply at odds with that of Paul and his libertarian-minded allies. Cheney is eager for more wars, more invasions, more use of military power abroad, and fewer limits on executive power when it comes to national security. Her fealty to neo-conservatism appears to be endless.

Paul, whatever his many other faults might be, has no use for neo-conservatism, and even less use for one of its notable champions joining him in the Senate.

And so, the Kentucky Republican will "do anything" he can to make sure Mike Enzi is re-elected. It'll be interesting enough to see the Republican establishment at odds with itself over this primary fight, but the foreign-policy subtext adds meaningful drama on the future of the party.