I’ll bet you can only name one of the two senators from Arizona. I’m not judging — it’s hard to keep your name in the news if the other senator from your state is Sir(?) John McCain. It’s doubly hard if you have a scoff-worthy last name like “Flake.” Nevertheless, Senator Jeff Flake is the guy from the headline, and maybe his interview on Sunday‘s Face The Nation with John Dickerson will place him a little more firmly in your memory.
Flake, you see, is sick of what’s been happening to the Republican Party. He’s been working on a book, a sort of update to Barry Goldwater’s seminal 1960 Republican “bible” that sparked the Reagan Revolution, The Conscience of a Conservative. He keeps the name and tacks on his own subtitle: “A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle.” It hits shelves on Tuesday, so he’s out to sell some copies. Free market, amirite?
In this article, which I am certain will eventually come back to bite me, I run a very real risk of partially agreeing with a Republican. That’s something I haven’t done since April 20, 2015, when I read a GOP-sponsored piece of legislation here in my home state of Washington that increased penalties for shitheads who just hang out in the left lane on the freeway.
Don’t get me wrong, though — the “Principle” in the title is, of course, limited government, free trade, absolute personal liberty (except for women and brown people), and super, super low taxes. Again, I said I’m partially agreeing with him. That part is the first half of the subtitle’s clause: “Destructive Politics.” I don’t think anyone reading this right now would disagree, in fact, that politics has become insanely different than it used to be. The closest we’ve seen to old-school politics lately was the other night, when Sir John of Arizona walked over to a bunch of Democrats on the Senate floor during the failed vote to repeal Obamacare and he didn’t accuse them of hating America.
Flake, incidentally, voted for the “Skinny Repeal.”
Anyway, back to Flake and Dickerson. The CBS host was quoting Flake sections of his book and looking for responses. Here was the best part of the broadcast:
Now, who does it sound like he might be talking about?
In case you don’t feel like guessing, he’s talking about Donald Trump. Much like evangelicals who voted for Trump have forever surrendered the mantle of moral authority, Republicans who don’t “call out” bad behavior on their own side, Flake says, will likewise surrender the right to put character and integrity on a pedestal:
We’ve seen, unfortunately, too many examples of members of Congress and other elected officials using language referring to your opponents in ways that you would’ve never done before. Ascribing the worst motives to your opponents, and assuming that other Americans are the enemy.”
Although Flake does not specifically name whose fault this new brand of politics is in this clip, I’m not exactly guessing, either. He refers to Newt Gingrich in the book as “the modern progenitor of that school of politics [of personal destruction].” And his references later in the interview to social media… Well, it doesn’t leave much to guess at:
The last thing you want to do is wake up every morning and see a tweet… You know, it’s tough not to just say, ‘I’m not going to respond.’ And we can’t respond to everything. But there are times when you have to stand up and say, ‘I’m sorry. This is wrong.’”
It is wrong. Perhaps Flake and McCain have been talking.
Watch the clip here:
Featured image via Alex Wong/Getty Images