Jeff Flake is a former Republican senator from Arizona who “retired” in 2018 when it became clear that nobody liked him and he wasn’t going to win re-election. (It is almost needless to say that he works for television now.) Now and again, Flake would say something about Trump that sounded vaguely negative, but as Jake Weindling wrote last September, and wrote again last October, there was never anything behind it. The highlight of his reign was the few minutes he pretended to be troubled by Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, and then gave up any bit of leverage he had on the judiciary committee and let the last portion of his spine disintegrate just before his term was up. Weindling nailed it:
This whole FBI “investigation” into Kavanaugh (without interviewing Kavanaugh) is specifically designed to create cover in the media for “moderates” like Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse and Susan Collins to vote their conscience. The truth of the matter is that through the Gingrichization of Republican politics, they have created an alternate reality that these people can spend an entire lifetime in. It’s not just the conservative media apparatus, either—there exists an entire professional livelihood of lobbying, speaking and consulting inside the extremist Republican bubble. That’s why retiring senators with all the incentive in the world to buck Trump and become the most powerful person in a Congress decided by two votes will not do it. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker (votes with Trump 83.8% of the time) have millions of dollars ready to flow into their pockets so long as they shut up, confirm Trump’s judges, and help remake the country in Trump’s—I mean the Republican Party’s—image. Democracy be damned.
So it is quite rich to see this story from WaPo with the headline “Jeff Flake: Fellow Republicans, there’s still time to save your souls.” It’s an op-ed by Flake himself, and here are some choice bits:
At home, I was convinced that his repeated disparagement of the judiciary, antagonism toward Congress and casual disregard for the truth were damaging our democratic institutions, and his persistent crudeness to his political opponents and cruelty toward vanquished foes were degrading our political culture. I knew that to have a chance of winning reelection, I would need to support policies I could not support and condone behavior I could not condone.
Except, as we saw with Kavanaugh and his near-perfect voting record, he did condone them, and he never spoke out like he should have. Now he’s telling other Republicans—those still in office—that to support Trump is to lose your soul, and that at minimum they shouldn’t support his election after the Ukraine debacle.
And of course, he’s right. But Flake lost his own soul long ago, by supporting Trump with deeds, if not with words, right up until the end of his term. This bit of lecturing is nothing more than hypocrisy, and we shouldn’t let Flake put the varnish on his own record by pretending to be something he never was. Like many of his ilk, the so-called “moderate” Republican, Flake is carrying the banner of reasonable politics, and trying to pretend that the problems we face today are all because of Trump, and not decades of conservative ideology chipping away at our institutions and the very foundations of our democracy.