One of the defining features of politicians is their willingness to abandon a cause or person when times get tough. They know how to cover their backsides at the expense of an embattled ally, especially when they are facing reelection. Sticking their fingers into a stiff breeze is the coin of their realm.
Such may well be the case with Sen. Jeff Flake, a backbench Republican from Arizona. With President Trump’s approval numbers sagging, Flake has apparently begun positioning himself for a tough reelection campaign next year by going public with a condemnation of the President of his own party. And some – even our own Dan Ingram here on LibertyNation.com — are buying what Flake is selling. Here at LN, you will find there is no group think so here we go.
While the chaos surrounding Trump is often confusing and disconcerting, it is hardly cause to turn, aim and fire on him. Flake sets up his attack on Trump by engaging in a bizarre mea culpa for the years his fellow conservatives beat up on President Barack Obama:
…we conservatives mocked Barack Obama’s failure to deliver on his pledge to change the tone in Washington even as we worked to assist with that failure… It was we conservatives who, upon Obama’s election, stated that our No. 1 priority was not advancing a conservative policy agenda but making Obama a one-term president—the corollary to this binary thinking being that his failure would be our success and the fortunes of the citizenry would presumably be sorted out in the meantime…It was we conservatives who were largely silent when the most egregious and sustained attacks on Obama’s legitimacy were leveled by marginal figures who would later be embraced and legitimized by far too many of us.
Self-flagellation is an ugly thing. And one wonders if Flake himself was part of the “we” who worked to assist in that “failure.” Never did hear any statement of apology from Sen. Flake when Obama was in the White House. And honestly, is Flake going to try and tell us that, 1) there was any hope of a conservative agenda being passed with Obama in the White House, and 2) in the hallways and cloakrooms of Congress, every politician from both parties is not hoping and working for the defeat of any president of the opposite party? Please. The age of PC is over, Sen. Flake. No need to continue with scrubbed, self-aggrandizing political speak. It’s no longer cool to signal your virtue by saying things in public you would never say in private. Have you not heard that the post-election trend is the opposite – to say in public what you would in private?
But then, Sen. Flake does a seeming political-style about-face, defending his party, and commencing with his assault on the President:
It was we conservatives who rightly and robustly asserted our constitutional prerogatives as a co-equal branch of government when a Democrat was in the White House but who, despite solemn vows to do the same in the event of a Trump presidency, have maintained an unnerving silence as instability has ensued. To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy required a determined suspension of critical faculties. And tremendous powers of denial.
And as if to prove his NeverTrump bona fides, Flake then quotes a “conservative” columnist, swamp dweller extraordinaire and Trump hater:
Michael Gerson, a conservative columnist and former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, wrote, four months into the new presidency, “The conservative mind, in some very visible cases, has become diseased,” and conservative institutions “with the blessings of a president … have abandoned the normal constraints of reason and compassion.”
So, now we witness the return of “compassionate conservatism,” which had seemingly worn out its welcome many years ago. Mr. Gerson, a regular and predictably anti-Trump panelist on the ultimate Washington insider program, Meet the Press, was apparently not cc’ed the memo. Making a fine living in The Swamp as part of the chattering class, he is either blissfully unaware or refuses to accept that it’s people just like him who were overwhelmingly rejected by Republican primary voters fed up with the GOP’s failures, weakness, and complicity in growing the size and power of the state.
But then, Flake pines for the good old days when compliant Republicans would accept their losses gracefully and engage in a wondrous spirit of unity:
There was a time when the leadership of the Congress from both parties felt an institutional loyalty that would frequently create bonds across party lines in defense of congressional prerogatives in a unified front against the White House, regardless of the president’s party. We do not have to go very far back to identify these exemplars—the Bob Doles and Howard Bakers and Richard Lugars of the Senate.
If by 2017 the conservative bargain was to go along for the very bumpy ride because with congressional hegemony and the White House we had the numbers to achieve some long-held policy goals—even as we put at risk our institutions and our values—then it was a very real question whether any such policy victories wouldn’t be Pyrrhic ones. If this was our Faustian bargain, then it was not worth it.
So, there you have it. Trump’s victory was “not worth it.”
While Flake rips into Trump as some self-appointed spokesman for conservatives, Flake himself does not even meet the minimum standard set by President Ronald Reagan, who said that if you agree with him 80% of the time, you are considered an ally. And while Flake is no leftist and is lauded on occasion in libertarian circles, he scored only 79% in the ratings of the American Conservative Union (ACU) in 2016 – lower than even GOP gadfly and fellow Arizona Senator John McCain. Just as notable is that Flake’s score was 97% six years ago. So, Sen. Flake has evidently become – how shall we put it – a bit flaky on matters of conservative policy even as he so boldly presumes to speak on behalf of conservatives in his diatribe against the president.
How quickly so many forget what Trump’s victory really meant, and the tension you could cut with a knife in the weeks and months leading up to the election. It was crystal clear how enormous the stakes were, and what the country would look like with President Hillary Clinton. Just the fact of Trump’s victory – halting Obama’s eight-year long fundamental transformation of America – stemmed the progressive tide of history. In fact, it accomplished what Mr. Conservative himself, William F. Buckley, described as the very mission of National Review Magazine, flagship of the conservative movement: to stand athwart history, and yell stop. Shall I quote a famous line and say: “I knew William F. Buckley (I did) and Senator – you are no William F. Buckley.” In fact, methinks you may be a very confused man.
Even if he never achieves a single major legislative victory, President Trump already completed much of his mission – and that of conservatives – on that single fateful day: November 8, 2016.
Precisely where would conservatives be without Trump? They would have lost the Supreme Court, the immigration issue and the healthcare issue for generations if not forever. They would have seen taxes rise, the regulatory state metastasize, and the rule of law diminish.
And they would have lost the culture – for good. In fact, LN’s Jeff Charles makes an excellent case that we may be winning that war at present.
And yet now, because Trump insists on being the same bombastic, free-wheeling, chaos-inducing person in the White House that he was in a campaign that resulted in an historic victory – and bailed them out – they want to complain? See the GOP seal next to the word “ingrate” at Dictionary.com. OK, it’s not actually there. But it should be.
The Republican party – and conservatives – should be eternally grateful to Trump, whether his administration is chaotic or not, and whether they like him personally or not. Even with virtually no support from congressional Republicans, Trump scored the biggest Republican presidential victory since 1988, turned the GOP from losers into winners, brought millions of new voters into the party, assembled the most conservative cabinet in American history (yes, more conservative than Reagan) and handed his new party full control of the DC Swamp for the first time in a decade.
Little did we know (or maybe we did) that once they gained power, the Republicans would look a gift horse straight in the mouth and fail to deliver even the one thing they had promised the voters for seven long years: repeal and replacement of Obamacare. So, are they liars or weaklings? And which would be worse?
Sen. Flake and his fellow travelers in the GOP/conservative establishment wing of the Republican Party complain about the chaos surrounding Trump at the same time they generate their own mayhem by failing to put even a single win on the legislative board in their first six plus months of control. Both the hypocrisy and irony are apparently lost on the junior Senator from Arizona.
The GOP’s window of opportunity is closing. They must place their eyes back on the prize and realize afresh that their opponent is not their own President. It is the left, plain and simple. And if they continue their inability and/or unwillingness to accomplish anything with the power they have been granted, rest assured the voters will punish them in next year’s midterm elections.