While never mentioning Donald Trump by name, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) delivered a fiery denunciation of the current president and his disastrous impact on America in a speech today to the graduating class at the Harvard Law School.
“Our presidency,” said Flake, “has been debased by a figure who has a seemingly bottomless appetite for destruction and division and only a passing familiarity with how the Constitution works.”
Flake has lambasted Trump several times since he announced last year that he would not run for re-election after his term ends later this year but in this speech he had little of the kind of optimism that is typical for graduation addresses.
“All is not well,” said Flake, according to The Daily Beast, which got an advance copy of his remarks.
“We have a sickness of the spirit,” said Flake, adding: “This is it, if you have been wondering what the bottom looks like,”
“This is what it looks like when you stress-test all of the institutions that undergird our constitutional democracy, at the same time,” warned Flake.
“You could say that we are witnesses to history,” he continued, “and if it were possible to divorce ourselves from the obvious tragedy of this debacle, I suppose that might even be interesting, from an academic perspective. The way some rare diseases are interesting to medical researchers.”
Flake made it clear to the law grads who he was talking about.
“Opposing this president and much of what he stands for is not an act of apostasy – it is, rather, an act of fidelity,” said Flake.
Apostasy here refers to his defection from the other zombie-like Republicans who follow and obey Trump no matter how twisted a trail he blazes with his lies and efforts to undo generations of American leadership and the social safety network that protects Americans most in need.
FLAKE to Harvard Law School grads: "And our Article I branch of government, the Congress (that’s me), is utterly supine in the face of the moral vandalism that flows from the White House daily."
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) May 23, 2018
Flake was unsparing in his criticism of how his fellow members of Congress have let Trump lead them like so many sheep, saying they have failed the test of leadership.
“I hope that more of my colleagues would speak up. Sometimes we are starting to look more and more like the cabinet meeting. That’s concerning. This is an independent branch of government. We have to more jealously guard our prerogatives,” Flake told The Daily Beast.
Flake was alluding to the fact that Trump’s cabinet meetings have a reputation for being little more than pathetic excuses for his appointees to heap praise upon him.
Flake, who has voted with Trump on many issues, and against him on some, said in his speech that he blames the president for creating divisions not just among parties but even within the same party.
“We need each other,” said Flake, “and it is a scoundrel who would prosper politically by turning us against each other.”
Turning to the grads he spoke words that might as well have been aimed at his fellow Senators.
“There are times when circumstances may call on you to risk your career in favor of your principles. But you, and your country, will be better for it. You can go elsewhere for a job, but you cannot go elsewhere for a soul,” he said.
One person Flake did mention by name is his fellow Republican Arizona Senator John McCain, who has had his own share of battles with Trump and is now battling brain cancer.
Flake praised McCain by flipping the ugly remark Trump made about the senior Senator from Arizona in 2015 as he was ramping up his campaign when he said he liked soldiers who did not get captured.
“To revise and extend a remark the president himself may recognize: You might say that I like people whose minds weren’t captured,” Flake said. “That one was for you, Sen. McCain. We’re all pulling for you.”
Referring to his own decision to step down from the Senate, Flake said that the terrible things going on in Washington, D.C. these days that are regularly tolerated, “has sent some of us wandering into the political wilderness.”
As someone who has vacationed alone on deserted islands, reports the Arizona Republic, Flake said: “that is fine with him.”
For Democrats, there is still much to dislike about Flake’s record, but he does deserve praise for the things he has said since he decided last fall not to run again. Some think he may be planning to run for president, possibly against Trump, but he denies he has made any such decision – at least not yet.
What he clearly has decided, however, is that he wants to be the rare Republican who is willing to say, to use a metaphor, this emperor in the White House has no clothes – or at least no ethics.