Flake: 'I Could Not Win in a Republican Primary'

By Susan Jones | October 25, 2017 | 9:02am EDT
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) announces his retirement and blames President Trump in part. (Photo: Screen grab/C-SPAN)

(CNSNews.com) - "The reason Flake and Corker dropped out of the Senate race is very simple, they had zero chance of being elected. Now act so hurt & wounded!" President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.

Appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Sen.  Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) agreed that he couldn't win the Republican primary in Arizona unless he cozies up to the president:



The bottom is, if I were to run a campaign that I could be proud of, and where I didn't have to cozy up to the president in his positions or his behavior, I could not win in a Republican primary. That's the bottom line.

It's not that you have to just be with the president on policy; you can't question his behavior and still be a Republican in good standing, apparently, in a Republican primary. And so, you know, in poll after poll, you'll see that a majority of Republican primary voters -- that's kind of a subset of a subset -- are firmly behind the president's policies, but not just that. If you ask them as a whole, what their most important policy item is, it's 'are you standing with the president.'

And they take any criticism of the president as somehow something that's not conservative. And that's what's got to change, it really does. And I hope to be able to in the next 14 months speak out continually, I hope my colleagues do as well. Because we're entering a time where we're normalizing behavior we should not normalize, and it's just not going to be good for the country.

Flake on Tuesday won the admiration of Trump haters everywhere, especially those in the media, when he gave a speech on the Senate floor, announcing his retirement and blaming the president's behavior as the reason.

"I rise today with no small measure of regret," Flake said. "Regret because of the state of our disunion, regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics. Regret because of the indecency of our discourse. Regret because of the coarseness of our leadership. Regret for the compromise of our moral authority, and ...all of our complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs. It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end."

Flake said he is putting principle over his career. He rejected what he called the "new normal," or "the tone set at the top."

"We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country. The personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions, and the flagrant disregard for truth and decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been elected to serve."

Flake accused the president of "reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior," which is "dangerous to a democracy."

"It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, why didn't you do something? Why didn't you speak up? What are we going to say? Mr. President, I rise today to say, enough. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes the normal."

Flake criticized Republicans who "remain silent and fail to act...because of political considerations."


Flake said he has an "obligation" to criticize the president who is undermining the "norms and values that keep America strong" and who is betraying the obligations of international leadership.

He said he owes it to his children and grandchildren to leave a job that would cause him to "compromise far too many principles."

"It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative, who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican Party, the party that has so long defined itself by its belief in those things."

President Trump won the presidency by opposing the free trade and open borders policies advocated by the previous Obama administration -- policies that Flake considers conservative.

In a tweet following Flake's various TV interviews Wednesday morning, Trump wrote: "Jeff Flake, with an 18% approval rating in Arizona, said 'a lot of my colleagues have spoken out.' Really, they just gave me a standing O!"

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