Jeff Flake’s Speech Targeted Republicans and Trump


It is unusual for a sitting United States senator to publicize their intent speak about a member of their own party in a less than flattering manner, but these are unusual times with an unusually despicable malcontent in the Oval Office. What is not unusual for the Republican Party is to stand unified behind a despicable malcontent in the White House no matter the danger that cretin poses to the nation; Republicans’ party loyalty supersedes any regard for the nation. No matter what Arizona Senator Jeff Flake said about his party’s standard-bearer in his speech to the Senate, Donald Trump personifies the Republican Party and he enjoys telling the entire world how much of a true Republican he really is.

The only issue Republicans as a political party will ever have with Donald Trump is his big mouth and it is high time “the resistance” gets the message that one Republican senator’s criticism of Trump is the extent of the GOP’s opposition to anything Trump has done or will do. If that were not the case, Republicans would have impeached Trump and threw him out of office months ago because Mike Pence would do their bidding with much less controversy than Trump.

Is is interesting that Jeff Flake has been criticized for speaking out against Trump by Americans on the left and the right. One understands why dyed-in-the-wool Republicans condemn Flake, but it is an honest-to-dog mystery why anyone on the left calls him a hypocrite, or claims he is insincere for not “taking action” to thwart Trump’s agenda. Flake has never been a fan of Donald Trump, but he has voted faithfully with his fellow Republicans and that seems to be an issue with some people as if Flake is supposed to vote like a strong progressive just because Trump is in the White House.

In his Senate speech on Wednesday, and since Trump’s poorly attended inauguration, Flake never criticized Trump’s policy positions because they are by and large Republican policy positions. However, he has condemned Trump for the damage Flake thinks Trump is wreaking on the Republican brand with his lying big mouth.  It is almost certain that Flake’s condemnation of Trump is founded on preventing what he says is “Trumpism making Republicans unelectable” and little else. Flake is a Republican and it is naïveté to believe his criticism of Trump is driven by some altruistic regard for the state of the nation. If that were the case he would not vote with the Republican Party to dismantle the government.

Ed O’Keefe over at the Washington Post said Mr. Flake’s remarks were scheduled to coincide with Trump’s “Oval Office awards show” when he announces the federal government’s official “fake news prizes.” And although most of Flake’s comments went straight to the only issue Republicans have with their hero in the Oval Office, his speech should be seen as a damning indictment of the Republican Party.

Republicans have spent the past year sitting idly by and tolerating Trump saying out loud what the majority of Republicans believe as strong conservatives, but it was not why Flake attempted to humiliate Republicans. Apparently Flake is concerned about Trump’s shameful and repulsive statements about the news media as “enemies of the people” that few Republicans have had the nerve to criticize. Flake said:

It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies.

This alone should be a source of great shame for us in this body, especially for those of us in the president’s Trump’s party. For they are shameful, repulsive statements.

It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader.

Of course, the president Trump has it precisely backward — despotism is the enemy of the people. The free press is the despot’s enemy, which makes the free press the guardian of democracy. When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him “fake news,” it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press.”

There have been commentaries criticizing Flake for comparing Trump to Stalin and they are only valid to a point. Of course Trump has not embarked on the murderous rampages Stalin is noted for,  but he has praised vicious 21st Century murderous tyrants and it should raise red flags among more than just one sitting Republican senator. Nevertheless, Mr. Flake is right that Trump has incorporated many of the “memes” tyrannical dictators like Stalin and Hitler used to great effect.

What is noteworthy is that Flake has never criticized Trump for promoting typical Republican policies or issuing executive orders rescinding Obama-era measures Republicans have vehemently opposed since their inception. It is why he is not a hypocrite for criticizing Trump while voting for Republican legislation that Trump pledges to sign into law. When Jeff Flake, or any Republican in Congress, votes for Republican (read Heritage Foundation) measures, they are not voting either “with Trump” or “for Trump.” Flake would vote with his party no matter if a Democrat or Republican is in the White House. If anything, Flake should be given some credit for at least a semblance of respectability to criticize what are clearly the words of a despot.

Flake’s condemnation of Trump was not necessarily meant for Trump’s ears or he would not have addressed his colleagues in the Senate.  Although it is likely that Flake was happy to unleash a little criticism in Trump’s direction, his speech was for Republicans in hopes they will distance themselves from an honest-to-dog maniac, however unlikely that seems. It is curious that Republicans are still standing united behind Trump and it cannot possibly be, as many pundits claim, because they need Trump to sign any legislation they pass. If Trump is gone then every piece of legislation passed by Republicans would be immediately signed into law by any other Republican along the chain of succession. It is likely that Republicans as a party really do not have many issues with Trump and it is not solely because they fear repercussions from the base.

Republicans really only have one issue with Trump and it is not his racism, pathological lying, devotion to foreign leaders, or using his position to enrich himself and his family; those are all uniquely Republican traits. The GOP’s only problem with Trump is that he is not timid about vocalizing his uniquely Republican traits. Just because Republicans are not openly calling  the news media “enemies of the people” for debunking Republicans’ lies and misinformation campaigns, they likely have harsh words for the press behind closed doors.

It is unclear exactly what Jeff Flake expected to accomplish criticizing his own party for tolerating a “shameful and repulsive despot.” He may be legitimately concerned that “Republicans are as damned if they stick with Trump” as Flake is “repulsed” by Trump calling the media “enemies of the people.”  The only thing that is crystal clear is that Republicans as a political party are not going to abandon Trump; because although he is shameful and repulsive, he is a dependably staunch Republican.

As Amber Phillips at WaPo noted, Flake’s speech should be “categorized as one more example of the no-win situation Trump is putting the Republican Party in.” It is a situation that Flake said “Republicans have to stop excusing or ignoring or we are lost.”

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