U.S. Sen John Barrasso. (Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore)

It appears U.S. Sen. John Barrasso is perfectly willing to throw his Wyoming Republican colleague Rep. Liz Cheney under the bus, but isn’t interested in expending that much energy.

Instead, Barrasso is content to just passively watch from the curb as the bus runs her over.

Barrasso’s failure to defend Cheney against House Republicans who want to remove her as the party’s conference chairwoman is a profile in political cowardice.

The state’s senior senator doesn’t have to bind himself lockstep to Cheney, who had the courage to join nine GOP representatives in voting to impeach former President Donald Trump for allegedly inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Barrasso voted to acquit Trump in the Senate trial, so his position is clear.

But the controversy revolves around Trump’s claim that the election was stolen, which is patently false, as Cheney asserted and federal and state courts confirmed. 

Barrasso could show a modicum of support for Cheney and help heal the state and country after a bitter, divisive election by simply acknowledging the truth: Joe Biden won the election fairly. 

But he doesn’t dare take that small, honest step and risk enraging Trump, even though Barrasso won’t face voters again until 2024. 

“There are always [election] irregularities,” Barrasso said during an appearance on Fox News’ “America Reports.” “The Democrats in Congress right now are trying to make it even easier to cheat in elections. That’s why I’m fighting against what they’re doing. …”

“Was the 2020 election stolen, or was it fought fair?” Fox’s John Roberts asked.

“Joe Biden is in the White House, and there’s nothing we can do about that right now, other than to stop this administration and make him into a half-term president,” Barrasso replied. 

Barrasso voted to certify the election results, but he doesn’t want to be known for that in Trumpville. So he packed several messages into his sound bites, beginning by citing unspecified “irregularities,” which is a code word for the Dems’ supposedly rampant cheating.

Barrasso may think he deftly handled the interview, but avoiding questions about the fundamental fairness of our democratic process doesn’t make one clever. It’s not a game of political dodgeball, played out for the benefit of Citizen Trump. 

It was a gutless media performance, made all the more tragic because Barrasso and 434 other lawmakers were trapped on Jan. 6 by a right-wing mob intent on harm. They had to be escorted to safety by Capitol Police.

What politician on Earth has that short of a memory, or doesn’t care that rioters erected a gallows on the Capitol grounds?

The actions Trump set in motion when he told his followers to march to the Capitol and “stop the steal” are serious, as evidenced by the hundreds of criminal charges filed by federal prosecutors. Most Americans will long remember what happened, because it was one of the most shameful episodes in our nation’s history. But if they ever forget, Cheney can set them straight. 

After Trump sent out an email last week claiming once again that he didn’t lose, Cheney responded with an op-ed in the Washington Post.

“History is watching. Our children are watching,” Cheney wrote. “We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequence might be.”

The consequences may well be Cheney’s removal from her leadership post via a secret vote of the House Republican Conference on Wednesday that will surely be leaked to the media so Trump will know who his friends are. Politicians and pundits have been busy proclaiming Cheney’s demise for the past week, and questioning how she can possibly be re-elected in a state where 70% of the electorate voted for Trump.

Cheney already survived one vote to remove her as chairwoman in February, 145-61, after she told colleagues she would not apologize for her impeachment vote. It will take a two-thirds vote behind closed doors to fulfill Trump’s wish to dump Cheney in favor of his hand-picked successor, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-New York).

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I think it would be fitting if Cheney weathered this storm, too, though the deck is stacked against her. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) has also given Stefanik his blessing, even though her voting record is far less conservative than Cheney’s.

Cheney may not even want the job anymore. It’s a thankless one, and whoever holds it will be blamed if Republicans don’t retake the House in 2022.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois), who also voted to impeach Trump, released a statement questioning Cheney’s ability to continue performing her duties, given the state of the GOP.

“This is about whether the Republican Party is going to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and attempt to whitewash what happened on Jan. 6,” Kinzinger wrote. “Liz will not do that. That is the issue.”

A few lawmakers have publicly supported Cheney, but not many. And certainly not Barrasso, who dodged Fox’s Roberts when he asked if Cheney should be replaced. 

“I chair the conference in the Senate,” Barrasso said. “And we’re focused on the future and taking back the Senate in 2022. We need to be together as a team.”

Barrasso said the decision is up to House Republicans, which is true. But he and Cheney hold equivalent leadership positions, which gives Wyoming tremendous joint power for a state with so few residents. Isn’t that worth protecting?

Wyoming’s all-Republican delegation isn’t required to march in lockstep on all issues. But on important matters that affect the state — and there’s nothing more vital than protecting our democratic principles and the rule of law — they should at least have each others’ backs.

Freshman Sen. Cynthia Lummis, who served three terms in the House, has been silent on Cheney’s fate. All of Barrasso’s public statements since the Trump-Cheney feud boiled over last week have been in praise of an ex-president he said “brings incredible energy” to voters and the GOP.

“I welcome that energy and see that in Wyoming every day,” a beaming Barrasso said on Fox. 

What I see is a dysfunctional party whose leaders want to toss out the one woman in power willing to call out Trump for his outrageous conduct. Meanwhile, far-right embarrassments like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado are hailed as the party’s new bright stars.

Cheney surely realizes she has no support from her own delegation. In public, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them appear to be one happy Republican family.

But in private? I’d love to be a fly on the wall in that room.

This opinion column has been corrected to reflect that Marjorie Taylor Greene represents Georgia, not Florida. – Ed.

Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. I would agree with Barrasso that Trump brings incredible energy to voters and the GOP in places like Wyoming but apparently there wasn’t enough to carry the Presidency, the Senate, or the House in this past election. The GOP lost 3 of 3. It looks like the Republicans have only one choice and it’s a looser
    . Tied themselves to the mast of a sinking ship they have.

  2. “Barrasso’s failure to defend Cheney against House Republicans who want to remove her as the party’s conference chairwoman is a profile in political cowardice.”

    Excellent sentence well put.

    1. “pofile in political cowardice”

      I have no doubt that liberals feel that way. Perhaps John doesn’t think she deserves defending as it relates to the vote to strip her of the #3 House leadership position.

      Cheney became a distraction and was harming the message and brand. Cheney was repeating democratic talking points instead of bashing democrats and talking about the future under republicans. That is politics. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Very little about politics has anything to do with bravery or cowardice. It is all about optics to win elections and pass policy.

      1. So saying things that are true are now “democratic talking points?”

        The truth is the truth, and most republicans evidently can’t handle the truth

        1. “So saying things that are true are now “democratic talking points?””

          You miss the point. Pepsi doesn’t say Coke is great even if it is. Pepsi doesn’t say Pepsi lies about how great Pepsi is. Pepsi promotes Pepsi. Trump is gone. Move forward.

          Saying things which support the opposition party (and distract from the republican party’s agenda), while leading your party, is just cause for Barrasso not to support her as it relates to this vote. Doesn’t matter if the things she says are are true, or false. Better to say nothing at all. Cheney doesn’t get to lead her party from a #3 position in the House while pushing the democrat’s talking points. She needs to focus on the future of the party with or without Trump.

          Cheney made it very clear that she found Trump unfit for office, and that he lies about almost anything. The first vote to keep Cheney in her position went well for her. The party understood she was free to vote to impeach Trump and speak her truth. If the second vote was about her ability to lead the party going forward, and Barrasso may find her lacking. If anything, not attacking or supporting Cheney was the best option under the circumstances.

          I don’t defend the lies put forth by either party, and both lie, mislead, misdirect, and misrepresent issues to support their agenda. It’s politics. If you expect Barrasso to tell the House how to vote in regards to Liz, or to proclaim support for Liz’s ability to lead the party going forward when she is clearly faltering, you are far removed from any political reality that both parties engage in.

          1. If anybody is missing the point here it’s you. Telling the truth is not supporting the opposition party. The danger of which Cheney speaks is real and partisans like you dismiss it because “oh well that’s politics”.
            That attitude is what enables today’s politicians to lie unequivocally and face no consequence.

  3. The Senator Fred Van Ackerman wannabe once again shows his true colors. You can bet that the Wyoming buckaroos will keep returning him to office…with landslide majorities of the vote.

  4. A large percentage of state Republicans have chosen to drop support for Cheney, not just the extreme right. Very poor reporting to slant your reporting to reveal your left-wing bias. Also there is substantial evidence of voter fraud in the last Presidential election. This evidence has not been presented in court…yet. Go watch the U.S. Senate hearing tape C-Span broadcast and listen to the testimony given and you will see massive evidence of fraud but the left-wing media will not report it. Shame on this kind of “journalism”!

    1. Shades of Joe McCarthy. “I have evidence!” Six months since the election and still nothing.

      1. Just wait. The “evidence” coming right along, just like their “health care plan” to replace the ACA, aka Obamacare. Just you wait! And wait. And wait.

    2. There is essentially zero evidence of election fraud. The election has been called one of if not the most secure election in history. Something like 60 judges deemed the election fair.

    3. Perhaps you overlooked the little logo just to the left of the date at the beginning of Mr. Drake’s column: Opinion. That means, Mr. Mower, that what you are reading is Mr. Drake’s opinion, not journalism. He has a right to his opinion, just as you have a right to yours — which, by the way, is NOT BASED on any fact ever uncovered in over 60 court challenges to voting results in the 2020 election. You somehow have become convinced that “evidence” has never been presented in court. Well, as Mr. Drake’s opinion piece reveals his “left-wing bias” (to you), your comment reveals a conspiracy-theory follower (to those who don’t live in an alternate reality), promulgated by the infamous “Q” and followers. Personally, I’d love to see both Cheney and Barrasso gone from my beloved former state of residence, but at least Rep. Cheney believes in the Constitution and the foundation of a Constitutional Republic (which, as Ben Franklin said, it is “if you can keep it.” )

    4. Nonsense, there is no evidence of substantial voter fraud in the 2020 election. Your argument doesn’t pass the smell test and the accusations of left wing bias are the standard playbook for any right winger when the facts don’t suite their false narrative. In most of the court cases Trumps lawyers weren’t even alleging that fraud occurred, only that it could have occurred. Two of the sources cited below are Forbes and the Wall Street Journal so you can spare us the squawking about liberal bias.

      https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-courts-election/fact-check-courts-have-dismissed-multiple-lawsuits-of-alleged-electoral-fraud-presented-by-trump-campaign-idUSKBN2AF1G1

      https://apnews.com/article/election-2020-donald-trump-pennsylvania-elections-talk-radio-433b6efe72720d8648221f405c2111f9

      https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-cries-election-fraud-in-court-his-lawyers-dont-11605271267

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/alisondurkee/2020/12/04/trump-campaign-has-no-credible-or-reliable-evidence-proving-voter-fraud-nevada-court-rules/?sh=41dc8bc112c4

    5. You are being dishonest and naive.

      There was no fraud.
      The election wasn’t “stolen”.
      Chrump lost.

      Please live in reality.

    6. But the evidence was presented in court — 60 times — and thrown out — 59 times.

      Barrasso said he wants to concentrate on making Biden a “half term president”. Did he just tip a Republican plan to impeach Biden in 2022?

  5. What has always amazed me, having been ” Vicki from New York ” for more than 20 years in Wyoming is how this rural state, which seems to despise outsiders from large cities — what outsider can ever forget the bumper stickers that say, “Welcome to Wyoming ,xwe don’t give a ( here fill in your own nasty word) how you do it back home,” could possibly, ever, in a billion years, be fans of a guy with dyed orange hair who was having sex with sex workers while his wife was home nursing their baby and ,as his parting shot, invited a nasty and dangerous break- in at the Capitol because he didn’t win the election. and his attempts to get Ukraine to smear his rival didn’t pay off .Are these the new Wyoming values? Most Wyomingites don’t have a single item in their wardrobes that they could wear to Mar Al Lago! And along comes Liz Cheney, who does epitomize Republican values, and you’re ready to dump her because she voted to impeach a President who didn’t even care that his mob would have hung the insipid vice president for not saying he won? What the heck is wrong with y’all?

    1. “Most Wyomingites don’t have a single item in their wardrobes that they could wear to Mar Al Lago! “

      So? Why should I give closet space to clothes “suitable” (in the opinion of Vicki from New York – and Denver, apparently) to wear to someplace I have absolutely no desire to visit? Exactly what does that have to do with the conversation other than to display your snobbery?

  6. Has anyone ever seen McConnell’s poodle without his finger in the air testing the political winds? Barrasso epitomizes a politician without principles.

  7. I just heard from Senator Lummis via email. She expressed no interest in commenting on the Liz Cheney “distraction.” So, no better than our senior senator.

  8. I love this article! Where was our Dr Barrasso during the pandemic? Should we wear masks hello? Hello? Dr. Barrasso? Help? He comes across so ungenuine. He’ll go to the highest bidder

    1. Didn’t he take an oath as a doctor to always help medically? But he didn’t even acknowledge the pandemic since T rump didn’t. That’s very low to me and costs lives. We didn’t take it seriously until t rump tons is to take it seriously. I didn’t hear a peep from Barrasso until 9 months into it.

  9. Politics, even Wyoming politics have become very messy. It is hard to believe that Wyomingites do not stand with Chaney for upholding her principles and the Constitution and equally hard to imaging that many support trump and his delusions.

    As for Barrasso, it is not surprising that the self-serving wantabe would sell anyone out. He has zero principles and ethic is just a word. Sad times for the GOP and Wyoming republicans in particular.

    1. Sad that principles no longer matter in WY. Where is your loyalty to your elected representative?

      As for the senator what’s he afraid of? The oath as a physician to “do no harm” has vanished from his voice by his failure to stand with medical experts publicly as observed during the pandemic.

      1. For what reason would anyone have “loyalty” to an elected representative? They are not elected to rule. They are elected to represent; not to lead, but to follow the direction of the people. They should have loyalty to us, not vice-versa. And, the scum who have been elected over the past few decades, all around the country, at all levels of government, from “either” party, for the most part, don’t seem to me deserving of any respect whatsoever. They have existed only to serve WEALTH.