WASHINGTON — GOP Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) said he came out with an op-ed against President Trump on Monday because he’s “concerned that the type of policies going forward, protectionism, isolationism, are really not conservative values.”
“And I’m concerned about where the party goes if we embrace those kind of principles,” Flake said this morning on MSNBC. “But also being a conservative means something in terms of demeanor and comportment. A conservative is nothing if, particularly in foreign policy, he’s not measured and sober and predictable. Our allies need to know that, we need to embrace our allies and recognize our adversaries. And to do otherwise is not conservative.”
In the Politico op-ed “My Party Is in Denial About Donald Trump,” Flake asked, “Where does such capitulation take us?”
“If by 2017 the conservative bargain was to go along for the very bumpy ride because with congressional hegemony and the White House we had the numbers to achieve some long-held policy goals—even as we put at risk our institutions and our values—then it was a very real question whether any such policy victories wouldn’t be Pyrrhic ones. If this was our Faustian bargain, then it was not worth it. If ultimately our principles were so malleable as to no longer be principles, then what was the point of political victories in the first place?” he wrote in part.
“Meanwhile, the strange specter of an American president’s seeming affection for strongmen and authoritarians created such a cognitive dissonance among my generation of conservatives—who had come of age under existential threat from the Soviet Union—that it was almost impossible to believe. 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. Conduct that would have had conservatives up in arms had it been exhibited by our political opponents now had us dumbstruck.”
Flake explained today that the firing of FBI Director James Comey, “the reason given, that hey, the Russia investigation — that should have set off more alarm bells than it did” among Republicans.
“And I think going forward we ought to be careful. There is some concern that the AG may be fired. That would be a real concern and I’m glad that some conservatives are standing up and saying that certainly wouldn’t be tolerated by Capitol Hill,” he added.
“…And I’m very concerned about where the party is going and kind of the anti-immigration fervor. That’s not the place the Republican Party wants to be in the future if we’re going to be an inclusive party that speaks to a broader audience.”
Flake and Trump first crossed swords during the campaign. In a July 2016 closed-door meeting with senators on Capitol Hill, Flake introduced himself as “the other senator from Arizona — the one who didn’t get captured — and I want to talk to you about statements like that.” Trump reportedly threatened to start publicly attacking the senator, while Flake urged Trump to stop attacking Mexicans. When Trump declared that Flake would lose this year, the senator noted that he’s not up for re-election.
Flake has since launched a pro-NAFTA campaign, arguing Trump’s anti-NAFTA stance hurts border economies like his state. He also defended Deedra Abboud, an opponent running for the Democratic nomination to unseat him, after she was subjected to a torrent of online abuse for being Muslim. “Hang in there @deedra2018. Sorry you have to put up with this. Lots of wonderful people across AZ. You’ll find them,” Flake tweeted.
The senator emphasized this morning that a notion “that you have to be meaner” is “not a conservative value.”
“If we ascribe the worst motives to our opponents and demean them and call them clowns or losers, you just lose the ability to sit down and solve the big issues and actually enact conservative policy. That’s the paradox of all of this,” Flake said. “You know, somehow conservativism has become being mean or loud and you can’t enact conservative policy if you act that way.”