Jeff Flake, the Jr. senator from Arizona, took to the floor of the Senate to tell his fellow Republicans they can no longer silently wait for the current administration to pivot from the harmful practices of labeling truth as lies and offering lies as truth without being complicit in the normalizing of these and other dangerous political processes.
Citing Madison and the US Constitution’s separation of powers under Article 1 and more fully outlined in Federalist 51, Flake asks his GOP colleagues if they would accept the same actions from a Democratic executive administration.
Of course, we wouldn’t, and we would be wrong if we did. When we remain silent and fail to act, when we know that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseam, when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of our institutions and our liberty, we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.Jeff Flake
Quoting President Theodore Roosevelt at length, Flake clearly outlined not only the freedom of criticizing a sitting president, but it being a patriotic duty to call out failures of the office holder, especially when those failings are against the interest of the nation.
The president is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able and disinterested service to the nation as a whole.
Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be — that there should be a full liberty to tell the truth about his acts and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the president or that we are to stand by a president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.Theodore Roosevelt
Flake went on to highlight the US’s leadership since World War II in rebuilding shattered economies and creating stabilizing international institutions which have greatly contributed to peace and prosperity for more than 70 years. Institutions which it seems the US is all too eager to abandon and Flake claims, “The implications of this abandonment are profound and the beneficiaries of this rather radical departure in the American approach to the world are the ideological enemies of our values.” Then in calling on Senators to speak up about this, he says this is too important to remain silent due to the requirement of politics.
Flake is retiring from the Senate after his term ends in January of 2019. He was not likely to win the GOP nomination. He is a conservative Republican and votes with the administration over 95% of the time, yet his opponent received the executive branch endorsement. It seems having the same policy goals is not good enough anymore. And the request for not only policy support, but for support for dialog that opposes the 1st Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, the repulsive language about our Mexican neighbors to the south, and the dangerous, childish namecalling of leaders and opponents were more than Jeff Flake was willing to provide. “Enough!” Senator Flake exclaimed. Before this becomes normal, we must stand and say, “Enough!”
Also published on Medium.