Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Marcus Huff
Staff Writer 

A candid conversation with a candidate: Liz Cheney's Wyoming bid for Congress


February 19, 2016

WORLAND - Cheney. It's a name that evokes emotion in the post-9/11 generation, on both sides of the aisle. It's a name that has cemented itself in American politics since the Nixon administration, having a placeholder in every major policy point since. It's a name that's been referenced many times. It's also a name that is heavily embedded in modern Wyoming history.

For 49-year-old Elizabeth "Liz" Cheney Perry, the eldest daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney and First Lady Lynn, it's a name that is ready to again represent the people of the Cowboy State in the upcoming election to replace the lone congressional seat left vacant by Representative Cynthia Lummis. Cheney is one of several Republicans vying for that party's nomination.

Cheney, a Casper native and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs under the Bush Administration, announced her candidacy early this month. Her previous attempt to run for Senate in Wyoming in 2014 ended abruptly, with the candidate citing "family health problems" before dropping out of the race.

After rallying her Washakie County volunteers with a private luncheon on Wednesday, Cheney arrived at the offices of the Daily News in Worland. With a Wyoming bucking bronco lapel pin on her light winter jacket, rested and ready for the fight ahead, Cheney sat down to discuss the future of Wyoming, foreign policy, and the toll of current politics on the mind of the voter.

How's everything going so far?

It's going great, out on the road. It's great to be traveling around talking to people. I'm in the race because I'm worried about what's become of our state. I'm worried about what eight years of this presidency has done to the energy industry, that ag industry ... everyone has been hurt in some way. I believe strongly when there are moments when you have to stand up and fight for our freedoms, and I believe these are one of those moments.

Why the Congress for Wyoming?

You know, obviously we only have one seat in Congress, and when you look at what we are going to be faced with, in January 2017, the need to roll back agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, the need to significantly roll back the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), the need to significantly reduce what the federal government is doing across the board, it's going to require some heavy lifting. I really believe we are going to need somebody in that seat to make Wyoming's case on a national stage. We need to be able to bring others to our cause. Wyoming has the resources to make this nation energy independent, and if you look at the access to those resources without federal intervention, we would have the ability to go back to work, and weather the economic downturn. Instead, we've got policies that make it worse, and it is going to require fighting back against those. I know I can do it. I have experience standing on the national stage, fighting against those, and I know I have the courage and conviction to do that. I know it can be done. I feel strongly that this is a moment where if we don't begin to "right the ship", whether you're talking about government regulations, or you're talking about the Constitution, if we don't begin to fight that fight now, it may be impossible to win if we wait any longer.

What recommendations would you have to build a new economic base in Wyoming?

I'm not willing to secede that fight. I think that we have tremendous resources here, and an opportunity for diversification. I think it's important for us to do everything we can to attract business to the state, but we have to be willing to fight. If we get the right person in the Oval Office it will be easier. But we cannot walk away, fundamentally, from the energy resources we have, or from the things that are so important to our way of life, the agriculture community for example. There are fundamental rights at stake. When you have a federal government imposing $37,000-a-day fines through the EPA on our ranchers, because they decide, arbitrarily, that someone's moved an irrigation ditch, that's un-American, and it's wrong.

You are certainly qualified to speak on Middle East affairs. How do you see us going forward in Syria?

First of all, I would say we've got to stop the inflow of Syrian refugees into the United States. We should be offering assistance and support where we can, but we should be doing it in the Middle East. Right now, you've got a situation where the government is telling us these people are vetted, and that's just a lie. There is no way for the federal government to vet any Syrian refugee. Refugees are being settled in states without the governor's knowledge, without law enforcement knowledge, and it's dangerous and putting our security at risk. Secondly, across the Middle East, and certainly in Syria, you're seeing what happens when the president retreats and abandons our allies. People like the Iranians and ISIS fill that vacuum and the world is much more dangerous than when Barack Obama took office. It's going to require that we end the caliphate. As long as ISIS controls territory and has established a caliphate, they will be able to attract new recruits every single day.

What would be your recommendation, should you arrive in Congress on behalf of Wyoming?

First of all, I would say we've got to rebuild our military. When you talk about the resources we have in this state, there's no more important resource than the people who wear the uniform for the U.S. military. There, I would say if you look at what's happened with the VA, it's shameful. We've got to provide the care our service members were promised, and we owe them. I think the second piece of that is you've got to make sure that people have the resources they need when you deploy them. We are in a situation today where the military has such cuts, that it seems every week another Joints Chief comes out to say the Air Force has the oldest and smallest fleet, or the Army has got a limited number divisions that are combat-ready. You've got a president with a strategy that is insufficient. We've got to get into a position where we are rebuilding the military. There are two things that the federal government can do, that they are failing to do, and that is defend the nation and secure our borders. In both of those cases, the best you can say is that the president has abdicated his duty there. In terms of the Middle East, rebuilding our strength, rebuilding our relationships with our allies, sending a message that our word means something again, that you can count on American and we will defend our allies and defeat our enemies. It doesn't mean that you've got to deploy large numbers of troops, by any means. We've got to be willing to put more special operators on the ground and we've got to arm the Kurds, but we can't count solely on the Kurds. The Kurds have got to be able to defend their own territory, but a lot of the territory under ISIS control is Sunni territory. You have to ask yourself at every point, "Is this a threat to U.S. security?" and ISIS is definitely a threat to our security. You have to face those threats and be hardnosed. The president called ISIS the "JV team" which downplayed the threat they pose, and on his watch we've seen an increase in radical terrorism around the globe. We've got reports now that ISIS got access to chemical weapons, potentially, so it's going to require serious, significant action to say the U.S. military "look, we've got to defeat them...what is it going to take?", rather than just fly a few sorties a day and hope for the best.

What do you think of, on the surface, our cooperation with the Russian Federation?

I think that Putin is a KGB agent, and will always be. He cannot be trusted. We worked for a lot of years to reduce Soviet influence in the Middle East and under this president we've ushered them back in.

What do you think was our largest mistake in Iraq?

If you look at the shape Iraq was in when Barack Obama lifted his hand to take the Oath of Office on Jan. 20, 2009, the war was largely won. Not only had we defeated Al Qaeda in Iraq, we had defeated the Shiite militias. Certainly there were mistakes made during the period of 2003 through 2009, but the surge worked. The decision George Bush made to surge troops in 2007 was a courageous one, and it worked. The war had largely been won. So today, the total collapse of Iraq as a sovereign nation and the rise of ISIS and Al Qaeda again, the control that Iran now asserts over Iraq, is a direct result of Barack Obama walking away. We've walked away now, and it's going to require an unbelievable amount of work to do what it takes to begin to make the U.S. secure and make sure Iraq doesn't remain a foothold for groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

What do you think your greatest, personal accomplishment was during that timeframe?

One of the things I'm most proud of was my work with a group called Keep America Safe. Right after President Obama came into office he announced that he was going to be closing Guantanamo Bay and bringing terrorists onto U.S. soil. My group was instrumental, among others, in making sure that didn't happen by alerting the American people to the fact that the president wanted to bring the mastermind of 9/11 into the U.S. We stopped that from happening. That demonstrated very clearly that people can make a difference. The American people are fundamentally reasonable and rational, and when you lay out the facts, people want the truth.

I look at that example and I think about what has to happen to areas like the coal industry in Wyoming. Having a representative in Washington that's able to explain to people who aren't from Wyoming why the survival of coal matters, for example, is important. One important thing to remember is how much our national security relies on a dependable power base. We have enemies all over the place who would like nothing better than to interrupt our supply, attack our power grid, and at a moment when we have an administration that would like to rely on a less reliable system which would lead to a weaker power grid, it's unfathomable.

How does your family feel about the prospect of moving back to Washington, D.C.? (The Perrys reside in Wilson.)

I don't know that we will, first of all. I think there's a lot to be said for keeping our roots and kids here, but we've obviously talked about Mom getting into the race, and what that means. We have five kids, and we sat down with them to have this conversation, and four of them were totally gung-ho. The fifth, who is our middle daughter, was totally silent. Her name's Gracie and I said "Gracie, what's wrong?" and she said "This is going to really screw up my rodeo season." She's a barrel racer on the high school rodeo team in Jackson, so we are all over the state. I assured her that there could be some logistical challenges to the extent that my husband and I may not be able to get her to a rodeo, but my dad will. He's really become the rodeo grandpa. It's really great to see. He hauls Gracie and her horses around and they've got a very close relationship, with all the windshield time they've spent together.


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