Column: A Flake-oclypse now
Senator Jeff Flake and Senator John McCain speaking to supporters at a rally in Goodyear, Arizona.
Back in September, I wrote about the relative bravery of Sen. Jeff Flake’s defiance of Donald Trump; at the time it seemed like a smart move. The now-president-elect seemed like he was going to lose, and everybody loves a moral stand.
Needless to say, things have changed for Sen. Flake. Like elephants and therapists, PEOTUS never forgets, and it is unlikely that he will forget our junior senator’s apostasy come reelection time next year. Sen. Flake must also find a moral middle ground between his outright contempt for Trump and his role as a member of the Senate Committee on foreign relations.
In other words, Flake’s life would probably be a lot easier if it was Hillary Clinton who was awaiting inauguration.
Now, he is awkwardly tap dancing at the edge of a Trump-shaped volcano. When asked to comment in November about the choice of former Breitbart executive chair Steve Bannon as a White House strategist, he merely asked the American people to give Trump some “deference”, emphasizing the difficulty of managing a transition.
Clearly, his years in Washington have taught him the art of the non-statement.
He may have a point though. If forced to make a rushed White House transition, what American wouldn’t deal with the stress of it all by appointing a discount Mephistopheles as one of their top strategists?
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In any event, many Arizonan eyes have been on Sen. Flake as he navigates the Southern accent buffets that are the Senate confirmation hearings for Sen. Jeff Sessions and Rex Tillerson. Respectively, they are Trump’s picks for Attorney General and Secretary of State.
Both will inevitably be confirmed, and the biggest waves have been made by some of Sen. Flake’s colleagues. On Thursday, DemocraticNew Jersey Sen. Cory Booker made history during the Sessions hearing by becoming the first senator to testify against a colleague in such a context.
In an exchange with New Jersey Republican Sen. Bob Corker, Mr. Tillerson appeared to perjure himself as he claimed that neither he nor ExxonMobil lobbied against sanctions levied against Russia. Many reports have noted that there is abundant proof to the contrary.
In a semi-related piece of trivia, Rex Tillerson was awarded the Order of Friendship by Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2013.
It is this environment in which our junior senator finds himself. With both Sessions and Tillerson, Sen. Flake has proven himself a non-entity.
After waiting more than three hours to question Sen. Sessions, Sen. Flake briefly paid lip service to Arizona issues.
He asked the Alabaman a question which essentially just touted the success of Operation Streamline, which famously offers “zero tolerance” for illegal immigrants. Sen. Sessions had a forgettable non-answer lined up, although not before Sen. Flake managed to name-drop Yuma Sheriff Leon Wilmot.
He also mentioned the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which Sen. Sessions co-sponsored with then-senator Ted Kennedy. Again, there was no real question here, just praise for the man in liberal crosshairs.
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If Trump’s racist comments are objectionable, why aren’t Sen. Sessions’? In fact, why aren’t his racist actions objectionable? This is not even mentioning the fact that Jefferson Beauregard Sessions —that is his full name, because, of course, it is— denies that climate change even exists, opposes the allocation of sex education funds, ardently opposes the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community and believes that the NAACP is a communist plot.
That last one is remarkable not for its factual inaccuracy and implicit racism but for its almost unparalleled stupidity; accusing things you don’t like of being communistic was old hat before Joe McCarthy drank himself six feet under.
Sen. Flake was also effusive in his praise for Rex Tillerson, saying, “I believe Mr. Tillerson has a keen ability to recognize America’s strategic interests and the skills to advance those interests as Secretary of State.”
If you were hoping for Sen. Flake to hold campaign cycle stance into the new year, don’t hold your breath.
Follow Raad Zaghloul on Twitter.