Jeff Flake Shoots Blanks

One of the easiest ways to gain 15 minutes of fame as a Republican is to attack another Republican. The cameras will roll, the pundits will marvel, and we will soon be assured of a collapsing conservative movement. This week, Jeff Flake of Arizona garnered himself a full 17 minutes of fame with his defiant speech on the U.S. Senate floor. The traditionally mild-mannered and impeccably professional Mormon anchor of the globalist wing of the Republican Party had seen his abysmal poll numbers and deduced the most effective way to assert any enduring legacy was to fire his pistol into the air.

The New York Times and Washington Post simultaneously celebrated the moment with a verb that still seems hyperbole for the man of perfect coif: “excoriate” (literally, from the Latin, “to rip the skin off”).

The top of the Times boasted of an “extraordinary speech on the Senate floor that excoriated [emphasis added] the president,” while the Post delighted in how their new favorite Arizonan “excoriated the president without using his name, delivering . . . a distress call to the nation.” CNN’s headline was more concise in its glorification: “Jeff Flake Just Flew a Kamikaze Mission Against Donald Trump.” It was more like seppuku.

From the beginning of the speech, Flake frames himself as a valiant adherent to higher principles, a man whose selflessness impels him to put said principles before his own advancement: “Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office and there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles.”

Lofty sentiments indeed, even if perhaps they are negated by the fact that the practical point of his speech was a concession that his future political prospects are already threatened to the point of hopelessness. There’s less “risk” to take when a sober analysis of the polling data and voter dynamics in his home state shows that he has already lost. So, why not go out with a bang? After all, most individual senators are not household names, so at least he could make his last stand as a rabble-trashing rebel.

Flake’s display of gentility is occasionally comic in its ostentatious circumambulation. He takes repeated pains to avoid naming Trump (“some in our executive branch”), displaying how a noble statesman should conduct himself in the political sphere, while also faulting Trump for his personal conduct in attacking his colleagues (*cough* Bob Corker *cough*). Then he name-checks a former president, “a Republican president named Roosevelt,” because Teddy had earned his respect through his active solicitation of criticism. This, mind you, is the same Teddy Roosevelt who once remarked, “When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer ‘Present’ or ‘Not Guilty.’”

Flake also appeals to Article I of the Constitution, lauding Madison’s emphasis on the value of separation of powers and the counterbalancing effects of the different branches of government. He urges his fellow congressmen to criticize the president when warranted, while also in turn lambasting the president for his criticisms of his fellow congressmen. Then, bewilderingly, he intones, “Leadership knows that most often a good place to start in assigning blame is to look somewhat closer to home.” Again, Flake intends to cast a spotlight on the White House, while turning a blind eye to all the ways in which his own branch of government has become so unmoored from its constitutionally mandated duty of representing the interests of the people who voted for them.

He gets even more sanctimonious. Flake refers to his version of pluralism and globalism as “articles of civic faith” and assures us that “to behave as if they don’t matter is simply not who we are.” The “who we are” phrase has been abused violently in the last two years of political discourse, and it seemed to be a favorite of President Obama as he asserted the values he preferred in his people. Flake’s effort to appeal to U.S. history and to instruct his fellow citizens on their own moral essence is all the more confounding (to say nothing of condescending) because his conception is so antithetical both to the nation’s early history (try telling the Founding Fathers that this country is a “nation of immigrants”) and to the values that motivate so much of the modern American populace.

The question remains, “Who are we?” To the well-read conservative, these three words should be a reminder of one of the most eloquent expressions of the philosophical underpinnings of American greatness, Harvard professor Samuel Huntington’s eerily prophetic 2004 tome Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity. With dazzling ability to see past the political infatuations of his own time, he illustrates how far afield elected representatives such as Flake had become from their constituents on issues of national identity and civic values.

Huntington foretold of an elite internationalist consensus that then was floating in the air, untethered to the people who inhabited the nation. Or, in Huntington’s simplest formulation: “A creed alone does not a nation make.” As ever, immigration is the centerpiece, and Flake’s recent infantilization of American workers in a New York Times op-ed arguing for more low-skilled immigration, while effectively bragging about using illegal labor, is about as condescending as a U.S. Senator can be before, well . . . before finding himself out of office.

Indeed, when Flake examines the “discord and… dysfunction” in the American political sphere and deems it “devastating” to see “[w]hen a leader correctly identifies real hurt and insecurity in our country, and instead of addressing it, goes to look for someone to blame,” he seems oblivious to the mirror image of his own formulation. Trump is an easy foil and an unavoidable scapegoat, but Flake cannot grasp his own role in the creation of the dysfunction in the first place. Samuel Huntington’s words again cut to the heart of the problem:

Politically America remains a democracy because key public officials are selected through free and fair elections. In many respects, however, it has become an unrepresentative democracy because on crucial issues, especially involving national identity, its leaders pass laws and implement policies contrary to the views of the American people. Concomitantly, the American people have become increasingly alienated from politics and government.

This deep-seated discord has indeed become volcanic, but the eruptions of an emotional president are more a symptom of the underlying exasperation than they are a cause of it.

Perhaps one section of Flake’s speech rang true: a denunciation of “the compromise of our moral authority, and by our, I mean our complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs.” No, not in the way Flake intended these words to position his internationalist ideals against a crass populist movement that increasingly repudiated him. Quite the opposite—as a reminder of just how alarming, dangerous, and morally compromised the neoconservative-dominated party of Bush and McCain have become.

These are not merely figures of a recent past, but are amply represented by prominent and well-connected actors who have tried to interpolate themselves and their ideology at every turn of this administration—in foreign policy gestures and interventionist military actions, in matters of trade and economic policy, and certainly in trying to thwart the immigration policies that had given Trump’s candidacy such propulsion.

In Flake’s fall, one may hope for a return to some core principles and policies that long predated the past couple decades’ neoconservative swerve, and a course correction from the elected representatives who view their constituents’ values and dreams as a secondary consideration in their duties.


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22 responses to “Jeff Flake Shoots Blanks”

  1. When one considers that Trump’s approval rating among his base is higher than that of the GOP in Congress, one has to wonder who Flake was trying to appeal to. Democrats?

    • Yes. And media. Like his Arizona stablemate McCain, they cannot resist the butter; and it flows most freely when attacking other Republicans, and especially when directed at Trump.

    • Nah. I figure he has a bright future with the One World Government folks, his 17-min. hissy fit was just his clarion call to the Insiders!

  2. Like Muslims, most in the GOP and the author feel that the greatest apostasy is to reject one’s faithful. Flake seems to be a man of principle, no matter how misguided or subversive his fellow GOPers view him. He’ll go home with his dignity than play the hate game of Bannonites and Trumpians. To me, reading his speech and his book, he is still a conservative and no longer a Republican. The GOP wants a culture, winner take all, war with their fellow Americans. As the moderate GOPer leave, they may just get it.

    • Flake was never a conservative and neither are any of the other anti-Trump GOPe. Those backstabbers think that they can betray us without any consequences. They have contempt for the repub base as they do for Trump. I find it hard to believe anyone would support their betrayal. They promised to oppose obama if we gave them the House. They promised to “repeal and replace” if we gave them the Senate. But when we nominated Trump, they showed their true colors. The GOPe were repudiated in the primaries. They only got 30% of the votes and 25% of the delegates. When they lost they doubled down on their opposition to the repub base and conservative values. W and Flake came out for the globalist agenda of open borders, cheap labor, bad trade deals, and disastrous foreign policies. The anti-Trump GOPe are running dog lackeys of the global plutocracy. They attack Trump worse than they ever did obama. The anti-Trump GOPe collude with the dems, administrative state, and their media poodles.

      You think Flake is a conservative, that the anti-Trump GOPe are conservative? Explain why they never do anything.

      Explain why they never pass any bills. They put a “repeal and replace” bill on obama’s desk in January 2016 that they knew he would veto. So why did they do it? Only to scam the voters for the 2016 elections. If it had been a real bill, why didn’t they put it on Trump’s desk in his first week? The truth is the anti-Trump GOPe support hillary over Trump. They knew they could continue their “repeal and replace” scam with hillary as president. They wanted hillary to continue obama’s globalist agenda that they support. They’ve now revealed that an anti-Trump donor started the Fusion GPS scandal. The donor, globalist Paul Singer supports open borders and has bought Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, both globalists.

      • How much did Senator H1Visa get for increasing the number of cheap employees that can be imported to displace Americans?

    • hahaha I almost thought you were serious when you said Flake “seems to be a man of principle”. But that would be cray cray.

    • How wrong could you possibly be? The Republican Party is all that’s left! Perez (Lenin) & Stalin (Ellison) successfully seized the DNC via Coup, 25Feb17. Their subsequent & ongoing cleansing purge of it and the Democrat Party is Progressing well on schedule and is leading to 2018 bringing the Rs 18 seats in the Senate & 72 seats in the House.
      Mr. Flake is relegated to finding meaningful work, for a change.

  3. Excellent article, but I take a more pessimistic view. W and Flake were nailing their colors to the mast and setting up their justification for betraying our Country. Trump has a minority of support in both Houses. They have been Delaying, Obstructing, and Sabotaging Trump’s America first agenda. Ten GOPe Senators publicly opposed Trump in the general. With McConnell, a dozen more GOPe confederates colluding with the dems they can pass the globalists’ agenda. I expect to see a fatally flawed “repeal and replace” bill. A dodgy tax reform, and an amnesty bill. They have the numbers to put veto proof bills on Trump’ desk and they will do it before the 2018 elections.

  4. Flake (aka Mr. H1 Visa) is a bitter establishment swamp creature who has been shown the door. Cut off from his bribes and perks, he is lashing out. The liberal media is eating it up, the rest of us are wishing him good riddance, and hope he enjoys the obama care he did not repeal when his federal health care ends.

  5. The establishment still doesn’t get it. We don’t care what they think because they do not care what we want, they go to Washington and behave like dems. I hear Romney is thinking of running for the Senate. I used to like him, before I realized what a fool he is when it comes to understanding the country.

  6. Damn the swamp and it’s denizens, and methinks if I repeat it often enough, flake, mccain corker on ad nauseum should resign NOW, if they have any honor left, which I doubt :(

  7. The gun in the picture is as fake as they come, no wonder he’s shooting blanks.

  8. “The traditionally mild-mannered and impeccably professional Mormon anchor of the globalist wing of the Republican Party”

    Why is the fact that he is Mormon included in this article? Is it to imply that all Mormons are still the dreaded others” and a stereotype “cardboard cutout” and should act that way?

    John Wesley assured his methodist movement interested seekers that “the contempt with which he and his group were held
    to be a mark of a true Christian. As he put it in a letter to his father, “Till he be thus contemned, no man is in a state of salvation” (or grace?) as told in Wikipedia article.

  9. I predict Flake will be back with a D after his name. Folks with egos this big just won’t go away. Its very likely that if the 17th amendment were not passed we would have been able to show McCain and those like him the door years ago. Senators are supposed to be representing the States they are from not the private interests of the club/private corporation they belong to called The Republican Party.

  10. Why I believe Jeff Flake is Lying (about his not seeking reelection in 2018) …. AGAIN.
    So, Jeff Flake TWEETS that he has written a $100 check to Alabama’s DEMOCRATIC senate seat challenger …. a socialist liberal who is against everything Flake supposedly stood for, Mr. Conscientious Conservative. Right. Finally outing himself as the RINO he always was.
    Well, here’s another….and I’m calling him out to prove himself this time.
    It is my strong belief that Flake intends NOT to step down from his Senate position despite all his posturing. After all, he did it before… ala “What can I say; I LIED!” this with a smirk and shrug.
    What makes me believe this? Because we’ve seen and heard more from this toady since he announced he wouldn’t seek reelection than in the 12 years he’s been in D.C. Re: the recent spate of tv advertising to “…thank Jeff Flake for voting ‘yes’ to tax reform…” He is campaigning without campaigning. Then next words you’ll hear are: ‘Well, I’ve reconsidered… I CAN’T step down now. THE COUNTRY NEEDS ME…… ‘ blah, blah, blah. Liar.