Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) sat down with Face The Nation and dropped a bomb that no one was really expecting him to. Flake was there to discuss his new book Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle. He talked about his book but also took the fight against Trump to the next level.
The Arizona Senator said he wrote the book because he felt that his party has lost its way. “We’ve given in to nativism, and protectionism, and I think that if we’re going to be a governing party in the future — a majority party — we’ve got to go back to traditional conservatism: limited government, economic freedom, individual responsibility, respect for free trade. Those are the principles that made us who we are.”
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Senator Flake blamed the GOP for the current lack of bipartisanship, saying, “We’ve just seen the limits of what one party can do. Even if you change the rules of the Senate — which we should not do — there are limits to what one party can do.” He added that accomplishing the big goals will require “…both parties sitting together and sharing the risk… and it’s hard to imagine that can happen when we’re ascribing the worst motives to our opponents.”
Host John Dickerson read an excerpt of the Senator’s book in which he writes, “But Donald Trump is not the source code for our obsession with the politics of personal destruction. Our crisis has many fathers. Among them is Newt Gingrich, the modern progenitor of that school of politics.”
Senator Flake talked about the strength of character needed in order to legislate in these times, but said that having such character might make one seem “boring.”
Probably the most sobering excerpt Dickerson read from Flake’s book reads, “We cannot claim to place the highest premium on character, then abruptly suspend the importance of character in the most vital civic decision that we make. When we excuse on our side what we attack on the other, then we are hypocrites. If we do that as a practice, then we are corrupt. If we continually accept this conduct as elected officials, then perhaps we shouldn’t be elected officials.”
The host then asked, “Are Republican leaders complicit in this, if they don’t call our their president?”
Senator Flake said, “I do think so. I think that, you know, obviously the last thing you want to do is wake up every morning and see a tweet, and think, “I just–” you know, it’s tough not to just say, ‘I’m not going to respond.’ And we can’t respond to everything. But there are times when you have to stand up and say, ‘I’m sorry. This is wrong. There are truths that are self-evident.’ And– and you’ve got to stand up and call — whether it’s the White House or other elected officials — to task when they’re– they’re not doing what they should. And I do think that we bear the responsibility, if we’re elected officials, to do that.
One wonders how President Trump will carve out a cognitive path in which he is victimized by this real talk. I’m certain he will find a way, but Flake is widely-respected within his party and goes way back with Vice President Pence. As Trump may or (more likely) may not be aware, he can’t petulantly fire the Vice President.