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Cheney slips further down the rabbit hole

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The point of Liz Cheney's Wall Street Journal op-ed today is fairly predictable and not altogether uncommon among far-right activists -- she wants the Republican Party to resist the urge to become more mainstream, and instead "fight" harder against the GOP's real and imagined enemies. But in execution, Cheney's piece is a rather extraordinary work of delusion.

Jon Chait highlights some of the more glaring problems with the op-ed -- he uses it to argue, persuasively, that Cheney is "obviously stark raving mad" -- which reads like a bizarre rant from a partisan so filled with rage towards President Obama that reason was thrown out the window when the writer made a right-hand turn into Crazy Town. Cheney is certain, for reasons that remain mysterious, that Obama has "launched a war on Americans' Second Amendment rights," is deliberately sabotaging capitalism, and wants to destroy the nation's global standing on purpose.

It's a truly ridiculous tirade with all the sophistication and accuracy of a Breitbart comments section. But there's also an unintentionally amusing part -- Cheney's unhinged rant includes this Ronald Reagan quote from 1961:

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it and then hand it to them with the well-taught lessons of how they in their lifetime must do the same. And if you and I don't do this, then you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America when men were free."

This is, to be sure, a popular quote on the right, and if it seems familiar to long-time readers, it's because I've written about it several times before.

In this case, however, Cheney forgot to look up the context in which Reagan made these comments before relying on it. Indeed, note that at one point in the quote, Reagan said, "And if you and I don't do this," although in Cheney's piece, there's no frame of reference to tell the reader what "this" is.

And what was Reagan referring to at the time? I'm glad you asked.

"This" was referring to preventing the creation of Medicare. Reagan warned Americans in 1961 that Medicare, if approved, would turn the United States into a dystopian nightmare. In the same recording Cheney quoted, Reagan argued that if Medicare became law, we'd see federal officials empowered to dictate where physicians could practice medicine, and open the door to government control over where Americans were allowed to live. In fact, he warned that if Medicare passed, there was a real possibility that the federal government would control where Americans go and what we do for a living.

And so, freedom-loving Americans had to stop Medicare or we "may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America when men were free."

We now know, with the benefit of hindsight, that Reagan's paranoid rant was wrong, and hysterically so. His predictions didn't come true, and Medicare did not destroy American freedom. Those who are actually in their sunset years are delighted with Medicare, and are not sitting around, longing wistfully for an America where seniors seeking medical care were forced into poverty.

Cheney, either out of confusion, negligence, or ignorance, thinks Reagan's warnings from a half-century ago "still ring true." They do? How? What is Cheney talking about?

As Chait added, far-right paranoia seems to be bequeathed from one generation of deranged conservatives to the next. Social Security was going to destroy America, they said. When that didn't happen, it was Medicare that would crush our way of life, they said. When that didn't happen either, it was the Affordable Care Act -- the dreaded "Obamcare" -- that threatened everything Americans hold dear.

The delusions, like Cheney's op-ed, are laughable.