In a totally unexpected announcement this afternoon, Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona said that he will not seek a second term for the Senate in 2018. Flake has been a long-time critic of Donald Trump, and has faced a challenge in the Republican primary as well as a Democrat opponent for his seat.
In a blazing and devastating speech delivered to a stunned Senate, Flake laid out his reasons for his decision and, in doing so, called out Donald Trump for his behavior, the coarseness of his language and his outrageous and undignified behavior.
Some of his remarks that he delivered included the following:
There are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles. This is one of those times. It is time for our complicity of the unacceptable to end.
Flake went on to say
None of these current appalling features of our leadership should ever be considered normal. Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior in the executive branch has been excused as just telling it like it is when it is just reckless and undignified behavior.
His other comments included the following:
Mr. President, I rise today to say enough. We have fooled ourselves long enough. By now we all know better than that. Leadership knows where to look when assigning blame. Humility helps. Character counts.
It should be noted that his comment to Mr. President referred to the President of the Senate, although they could equally apply to Donald Trump.
His powerful rebuke to his colleagues
Politics can make us silent when we should speak, and silence equals complicity. Mr. President, I will not be complicit or silent. We have given up on our core principles in favor of anger and resentment.
Then he took on Trump’s tweets directly, particularly after Trump’s attacks on his fellow Senator Bob Corker this morning.
The impulse to scapegoat and belittle threaten to turn us into a fearful and backward looking people.
And in a comment that was directed at the President
We didn’t become great by calling true things fake.
In response to Senator Flake’s speech, an obviously emotional Mitch McConnell responded “We have just witnessed a speech by a very fine man. I thank the Senator from Arizona for his service and for the opportunity to listen to his remarks today.”
His fellow Senator from Arizona John McCain called Flake “a man of integrity, and honor, and decency, and commitment to the people of the United States.”
Following is a link to the full statement made by Senator Flake just minutes ago. Every American who believes in the values of our great nation must, repeat must listen to these words:
Sen. Flake: "There are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles. Now is such a time." https://t.co/iibt7ViG7y
— Monica Alba (@albamonica) October 24, 2017
Flake now joins Senator Corker as another member of the Republican Party who no longer can justify their association with the party of Donald Trump. It should be noted that while Senator Flake has criticized Trump often, he has nearly always supported the Republican legislative proposals. He has taken his stand on what he believes are the core principles of conservatism and he refuses to renounce those to support a man he believes represents none of them.
Senator Flake’s speech may rank as one of the most historic in the history of the United States Senate. It equals, if not surpasses, the denunciation of Senator Joe McCarthy during his hearings on the United States Army “At long last, sir, have you no decency.” In fact, there has never been such a powerful denunciation of a sitting president by a member of his own party within modern political times.
Already Steve Bannon is claiming credit for Flake’s withdrawal from the race. He says he “has claimed another scalp.” No Mr. Bannon, the only credit you deserve is for helping to elect and then support a man whose views are so toxic and alien to our core American values that even members of his own party can no longer associate themselves with him.
Do Flake and Corker represent what other Republican members of the Senate believe but have been afraid to speak out for fear of reprisal? In a White House Press briefing immediately following this speak, Press Secretary said that Trump was in no way to blame for the problems facing the Republican party, but that Corker and Flake decided not to run because they knew they couldn’t win. While Flake did face a difficult election, this is an outright lie about Senator Corker. She also referred to the “petty comments” of both Senators.
The political fallout from Jeff Flake’s decision will continue to be seen in the upcoming weeks and months as Trump tries to get any part of his legislative agenda passed. This also opens up another opportunity for the Democrats, who will now no have to run against an incumbent, to possibly pick up another seat in 2018.