In excerpts of a speech released Sunday night, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) compares Donald Trump to Joseph Stalin. Flake takes particular issue with Trump’s assault on the media, saying the language Trump uses to describe the press (“enemy of the people”) is that same language Stalin used to “‘annihilate such individuals’ who disagreed with their supreme leader.”
In the speech, which will be delivered on Wednesday, Flake goes on to describe Trump’s conduct as “shameful” and “repulsive,” adding that it should also be a “source of shame” for members of Congress.
— Ed O'Keefe (@edatpost) January 15, 2018
All of which begs the question: What is Flake doing about it?
As a United States senator, Flake is one of the most powerful people in the country. His primary power comes from his vote. But he isn’t wielding this power to oppose Trump.
Flake has voted to confirm every one of Trump’s nominees. Overall, he has supported Trump’s position in the Senate more than 90 percent of the time. (Two of the handful of votes where Flake departed from Trump’s position was when he voted against providing disaster relief to Puerto Rico and areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey.)
Most notably, Flake made noises about withholding his support for Trump’s tax bill unless the administration agreed to a fix for the DACA program, which provides legal protections for 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Trump abruptly rescinded the program last fall.
But Flake did not secure any fix for DACA in the tax bill — or even secure an agreement for a vote on the issue. Instead, he said he got a “firm commitment” from the administration to “work with me” on making legal protections for DACA permanent.
I will support #TaxReform bill after securing language to eliminate an $85 billion budget gimmick as well as commitment from the administration & #Senate leadership to advance growth-oriented legislative solution to enact fair & permanent protections for #DACA recipients pic.twitter.com/MGbWX7JrPq
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) December 1, 2017
This “firm commitment,” of course, meant nothing. Flake provided Trump with a critical vote on his tax bill. A few weeks later, Flake helped negotiate a bipartisan immigration compromise — which was promptly rejected by Trump with series of racist comments.
In late October, prior to capitulating to Trump on the tax bill for a meaningless promise, Flake gave a speech on the Senate floor blasting Trump.
Mr. President, I rise today to say: Enough. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes normal. With respect and humility, I must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that.
[…] Acting on conscience and principle is the manner in which we express our moral selves, and as such, loyalty to conscience and principle should supersede loyalty to any man or party. We can all be forgiven for failing in that measure from time to time. I certainly put myself at the top of the list of those who fall short in that regard. I am holier-than-none. But too often, we rush not to salvage principle but to forgive and excuse our failures so that we might accommodate them and go right on failing—until the accommodation itself becomes our principle.
Now, a few months later, Flake is preparing to deliver another stem-winder. Actions, however, speak louder than words.