- Samantha Sais/Reuters
- Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection in 2018. In a lengthy speech on the Senate floor, Flake delivered a searing indictment of Trump and called on his colleagues to join his protest. Flake has been an outspoken critic of the president, who has endorsed another GOP candidate competing for Flake’s Senate seat.
Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican and outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, will not seek reelection in 2018, he announced Tuesday.
Flake delivered a searing 17-minute indictment of the president, who he called “reckless, outrageous, and undignified,” and his fellow Republicans who remain loyal to the administration, on the Senate floor on Tuesday.
“When the next generation asks us, ‘Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up?’ What are we going to say?” Flake asked. “Mr. President, I rise today to say enough.”
The senator went on to warn his colleagues, and the country, that failing to stand up to Trump could spell disaster for the GOP and the nation.
Here are the highlights:
- “It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.” “We must never regard as ‘normal’ the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. 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.” “With respect and humility, I must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that.” “The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters – the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.” “Now, it seems that we, the architects of this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom and prosperity, are the ones most eager to abandon it.” “There is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal – but mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people.”
Independent Journal Review reporter Haley Byrd tweeted that Flake received standing ovations from both Democratic and Republican senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican Sens. Bob Corker, John Barrasso, Todd Young, and Democratic Sens. Chris Coons, Tim Kaine, Maggie Hassan, and Jeff Merkley.
McConnell and Flake’s fellow Arizona senator, John McCain, both praised the senator’s integrity and service to the country following his speech.
“I have seen Jeff Flake stand up for what he believes in knowing full well that there would be a political price to pay,” McCain said.
Flake told The Arizona Republic on Tuesday that his brand of libertarian-leaning Republican politics does not square with some of Trump’s policy positions, including on immigration and trade, and that he could not condone the president’s behavior.
“There may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican Party,” Flake said, adding, “This spell will pass, but not by next year.”
“Here’s the bottom line: The path that I would have to travel to get the Republican nomination is a path I’m not willing to take, and that I can’t in good conscience take,” he said. “It would require me to believe in positions I don’t hold on such issues as trade and immigration and it would require me to condone behavior that I cannot condone.”
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon predicted that Flake, whose dismal approval rating among Arizonans has hovered around 20% for the past few months, would give up his seat, telling The New York Times last month that if Flake “doesn’t get a better poll in the next 30 days, you’re going to see him step down or the establishment is going to make him.”
Bannon has endorsed Kelli Ward, a former state senator who unsuccessfullly challenged McCain in 2016 and has won praise from Trump. Ward pledged to paint Flake as “an obstructionist to the America First agenda that Donald Trump touted on the campaign trail, and that the American people want to see enacted.”
Ward may now be challenged by several other candidates in the GOP primary, including Arizona State Treasurer Jeff DeWit, former Arizona Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham, and Arizona Board of Regents member Jay Heiler.
Flake has long been critical of the president, refusing to endorse him in 2016, and published a book earlier this year, “Conscience of a Conservative,” in which he excoriated Trump’s “destructive politics.”