On Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) announced his decision not to run for re-election in 2018. In doing so, he took a few enormous swings at President Donald Trump and members of the Republican Party who urged him to get in line behind the president. He refused to do this, in the name of America’s ideals and the principle of the separation of powers.
“We must never regard as ‘normal’ the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals,” Flake declared, taking aim at Trump’s character flaws more than his policies. “We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country — the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions; the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve.”
“None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal,” the senator said. “Without fear of the consequences, and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.”
Flake has attacked Trump in print, publishing “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle” in August. In response, Trump seemed to endorse Kelli Ward, Flake’s primary challenger.
In his speech Tuesday, Flake lamented that “reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is,’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.”
Rather than Trump’s “new normal,” the senator advocated a return to “our Article 1 ‘old normal’ — Mr. Madison’s doctrine of the separation of powers.”
Flake argued that Republicans in Congress should not feel the need to toe Trump’s line, because the founders intended Congress to check the presidency, and for the Supreme Court to check each of them, in turn.
While Flake is correct, divisions within the GOP have taxed Trump’s presidency so far, derailing the promised repeal of President Barack Obama’s signature health law, Obamacare.
CNN and other mainstream media outlets have started praising Flake for his criticisms of Trump, but they deserve an ear on the right as well. Trump has coarsened political dialogue, from attacking Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the most despicable way (“I prefer war heroes who weren’t captured”) to disgusting attacks on the family of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Trump is the president, but Flake is right to call him out on his moral failings and for pitting Americans against one another. Watch the full video of the senator’s comments below.