The freshman Senator from Arizona Jeff Flake took on Donald Trump again in an interview published by Politico this morning. In doing so, he goes against conventional wisdom, but also demonstrates incredible political courage. For a vulnerable Senator seeking re-election, it takes some cojones to go against the President of your own party.
This is not the first time Flake has spoken his own mind, in an atmosphere in Washington where toeing the political line takes precedence over following your conscience. Earlier this year, without his own staff even knowing about it, he published a book “The Conscience Of A Conservative” that created a stir amongst his go-along-to-get-along colleagues in Congress.
He stands out among other Republicans who have turned on Trump like John McCain and Bob Corker in that while they have nothing to lose (McCain has terminal brain cancer and Corker has announced he will not seek re-election) Flake could very well lose his Senate seat. He faces Kelly “Chemtrails” Ward in the Republican primary, and even if he wins that, he will be going head-to-head against a formidable Democrat opponent Arizona Representative Kyrsten Sinema in the General Election.
The headline of the Politico interview sums it up pretty well “Flake takes on Trump – and risks it all.” So what did Flake say about Trump that endangers his own candidacy. Here are just a few examples:
“….resentment is not a governing philosophy.”
Flake is absolutely correct and there are few people who would disagree with him. But Trump, who never won Flake’s support, made resentment a cornerstone of his campaign and then a key element of his administration. Resentment against immigrants, resentment against Mexicans, resentment against “the establishment”, resentment against other nations, in particular China and North Korea. As president Trump has vented his resentment against Congress (singling out Mitch McConnell and “disloyal” Republicans), resentment against any policy established by former President Obama, and the most unlikely of all, resentment against the National Football League.
Yes, his petty war against the NFL doesn’t have a damn thing to do about the flag or the national anthem. It dates back to the lawsuit he filed against the League, which he technically won, receiving an entire $3.00 in damages. In return, the NFL has nixed any effort by Trump to buy an NFL team.
Regarding the future of the GOP, Flake said:
“We’ve taken a banner that is not familiar to us as Republicans. And I don’t know how long that will last.”
In this, Flake is echoing the sentiments of many long-time Republicans who feel they no longer recognize the Party they grew up with. Political commentators like Bill Kristol, George Will, and even the redoubtable Peggy Noonan have raised similar concerns about the future of the GOP. The number of incumbent Republicans in Congress who have decided not to seek re-election continues to grow.
In addition to Senator Bob Corker from Tennessee the following members of Congress have announced they will not seek re-election. Representatives, for the most part, represent the moderate voices in Washington.
- Representative Charles Dent – Pennsylvania
- Representative Dave Trott – Michigan
- Representative Dave Reichert – Washington State
- Representative Ileana Ros-Lehiten – Florida
- Representative Tim Murphy – Pennsylvania (who resigns under a scandal)
The latest departure, reported by The New York Times, is the highly influential member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Representative Pat Tiberi of Ohio, who could leave Congress as early as this week.
Flake also expressed his agreement with Senator Bob Corker’s assessment that Trump is potentially leading America to WWIII with his erratic tweets and foreign policy pronouncements. Flake said:
“How are we ever going to have agreements with our adversaries or our allies if they think we are not a reliable partner? That’s what Bob expressed. And a lot of us share that concern.”
Trump has signaled he intends to back decertify the Iran nuclear deal. This is a multi-national agreement, not just one between the U.S. and Iran. Without any verified data that Iran has violated the agreement, and whether you agree with it or not, it sends a definite message to other countries like North Korea that you cannot depend on the United States to keep their word.
Trump also seems hell-bent on breaking up the NAFTA trade agreement, which everyone except for Donald Trump agrees has benefited the United States.
But as Trump pursues a policy of “America First” and pulls America out of agreements such as the Paris Climate Accord, or withdraws troops from the Middle East, and damages trade alliances, there is one person following closely behind him, taking up the slack. Vladimir Putin has increased Russia’s power and influence throughout the world at America’s expense.
Flake also expressed his concerns about Trump’s foreign policy.
“A conservative foreign policy is, in my view, measured and sober and predictable. And that’s not what we’ve got. And that concerns me.”
Flake is not the only conservative, or independent, or liberal in the country who is deeply concerned about Trump’s erratic and incomprehensible way of conducting foreign policy. He has come dangerously close to declaring war on North Korea – by Twitter. He consistently undercuts the efforts of his own Secretary of State. He says he likes to be “unpredictable” a philosophy that might work well in real estate, but not on the world stage.
Referring to his equally unstable counterpart in North Korea as “Rocket Man’ during his first address to the General Assembly of the United Nations was not only unpresidential, but a complete embarrassment to our country.
“….populism is not a governing philosophy.”
Flake is optimistic that the Trump phenomenon will not permanently affect the Republican Party. He goes on to say “I do believe the party will come back to more traditional limited government, economic freedom, free trade, pro-immigration, strong American leadership.”
Conservatives, and even moderates, throughout the country hope he is right. Trump has done more damage to our democratic system, our political norms, and our reputation throughout the world than any other president in history. But that will not happen until the members and leaders of the GOP reclaim the values of the Republican Party.
Many of them are afraid that coming out against Trump will hurt their re-election chances. The upcoming elections in Virginia and Alabama could prove to be bellwethers on the “Trump effect” for politicians. Already, Luther Strange has paid the price for receiving an endorsement from Donald Trump. If the Democrats prevail in these two elections, the Republicans might re-consider their support of Trump. Sadly, it may come down to that instead of following your conscience.
But if we are going to survive as a the country our forefathers envisioned, our country needs more, not fewer, Jeff Flakes in Washington, D.C.