Maybe it’s because he has a new book out, as some are suggesting, or maybe he’s seen enough in six months that he feels compelled to speak out.
Either way, Jeff Flake is positioning himself to be a real thorn in the side of President Trump, and a voice that needs to be heard and taken seriously. He’s saying things the Republican party leadership need to heed, if they harbor any hopes of being a viable party beyond this current presidency.
Flake appeared with Fox News’ Bret Baier on Monday’s edition of “Special Report.”
The first and foremost call seemed to be for Republicans to be honest about what we’ve seen happening in the Trump administration since January.
“First, we shouldn’t hesitate to speak out if the president ‘plays to the base’ in ways that damage the Republican Party’s ability to grow and speak to a larger audience,” Flake wrote in an op-ed for Politico Magazine that quickly gained attention online.
Indeed, many speculated that op-ed would make Flake the subject of an early morning tweet-storm. It hasn’t happened – yet.
Who knows? Maybe the recent installation of John Kelly as White House chief of staff really can put a tighter rein on Trump’s habits, but given past behavior, no one shouldn’t be shocked if the relative calm of the morning does not hold.
“Second, Republicans need to take the long view when it comes to issues like free trade: Populist and protectionist policies might play well in the short term, put they handicap the country in the long term.”
“Third, Republicans need to stand up for institutions and prerogatives, like the Senate filibuster, that have served us well for more than two centuries,” Flake added.
And it’s ok to have a different opinion about filibusters, or any other method of operation within Washington. It only becomes a problem when someone undisciplined, untrained, and with no working knowledge of our government, beyond the most basic begins to threaten to upend all institutions, in order to get his way.
Possibly most notably, Flake, who is up for reelection in 2018 spoke out against the “whataboutism” that has taken hold in the Republican party, where every bad move made by this president is answered by pointing backwards at President Obama.
The idea that, as a party, Republicans could stay relevant by answering every bad decision with, “Obama did X, Y, or Z” is just insanity. The people want actual solutions. Trying to match every bad action by Democrats with an equally bad action just keeps the party on the same level, never rising or becoming the better option.
In pointing this out, Flake is absolutely right. And this isn’t just a failure of the current president. It has become a running theme with the GOP, to the point that there really is no difference between them, at this point.
“It was we conservatives who, upon Obama’s election, stated that our number-one priority was not advancing a conservative policy agenda but making Obama a one-term president—the corollary to this binary thinking being that his failure would be our success and the fortunes of the citizenry would presumably be sorted out in the meantime,” Flake continued.
In other words, why are citizens not being put first?
Flake had plenty to say about this administration, as well as the failure of Republicans to hold him to the same standards they place on Democrats.
“Even as our own government was documenting a concerted attack against our democratic processes by an enemy foreign power, our own White House was rejecting the authority of its own intelligence agencies, disclaiming their findings as a Democratic ruse and a hoax,” Flake said. “Conduct that would have had conservatives up in arms had it been exhibited by our political opponents now had us dumbstruck.”
Is he right?
If we’re being very honest, we know he’s absolutely correct. It is institutionalized hypocrisy, and many would rather walk away than stay caught up in a revolving door of principle.
“To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy required a determined suspension of critical faculties. And tremendous powers of denial,” Flake said.
Still, it hasn’t been all bad, and there’s room to do more.
“The White House has done some good things,” Flake told host Bret Baier, citing the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and regulatory reforms.
“We’ve got tax reform to go through,” he added. “That’s going to be a big lift. I don’t think its as difficult as healthcare reform, but it is difficult” and will require a “very disciplined administration and Congress” to get it done.
“I think we’ve about reached the limits of what we can do with one party,” on healthcare, he said. “I think we’re going to have to involve the other party.”
And I promise you, that is the part that will stick in the gut of Republicans (and Democrats) everywhere. This notion of working across the aisle to get things done to benefit the nation, as a whole seems too far afield to ever be reached in our lifetime.
There are certainly some issues I can’t imagine ever leading to common ground (like abortion). That doesn’t mean there’s no way to move forward, rather than to stay in perpetual gridlock, based on the letter behind someone’s name.
Now sit back and wait for the inevitable defaming of Senator Jeff Flake. Washington, and those who work the narrative for the party won’t stand for the rogue ideas of compromise and accountability to take root.