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Today in Mavericky Arizona Frauds

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Jeff Flake is a complete fraud, claiming to be anti-Trump, but doing absolutely nothing to stop him the entire time. When has Flake ever cast a vote that defied the president he claims to dislike? Where was he on the ACA? Where was he on the nominations, even of completely incompetent people such as Ben Carson, Betsy Devos, and Rex Tillerson? Voting with Trump and his colleagues every time. He has voted Trump’s position a mere 95.5% of the time, with the opposition coming on issues like Russia sanction, when everyone voted with him. He claims that the Republicans’ policy of fireeating toward Obama was maybe wrong. When did he defy McConnell? Never. Let him say what he wants to about Trump. I want to see what he will do. And the answer will be nothing.

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  • Ahuitzotl

    Depends. If this is the start of taking action and voting against the Trumpetina, then great. If it’s just posing, then … I’m not sure what he gets out of it.

    When I read it, I was wondering if he was thinking about switching affiliations

    • If he had any history of voting against his party, such as Susan Collins has, maybe I would think this was possible. Right now, he’s shown me nothing.

    • It seems highly unlikely to be the start of action much less any systematic opposition.

      It’s better than the sycophanty bullshit that say Ryan wrote for Time magazine. But it remains at that level.

      It’s not clear that it even opens up any conceptual space. The never Trumper ground has be occupied and ceded a bunch of times.

      Sessions and Russia are the loci of any real congressional engagement against Trump and with Sessions it’s all been grumping and with Russia…perhaps unwise. (Though it’s really hard to craft deft foreign policy from congress partially against the president.)

      • tsam100

        Yeah–I always wonder if guys like McCain and Flake know that we can actually see their voting records. But then if the media doesn’t pay attention to them, I suppose a whole bunch of voters don’t either.

        • TJ

          Voters paying attention to voting records? Ha! That’s a good one!

          • They do but only in highly constrained ways. Most votes are under everyone’s radar. Some get picked up in aggregators like NRA or NOW scores. Some are super high salience (Clinton’s Iraq vote; lib Dems on uni fees).

          • Unree

            Mostly correct with one big exception–HRC on the Iraq war authorization. Nobody else was harmed by his AUMF vote in Congress: the Hillary Clinton rules are unique. The NRA aggregator that Bijan notes might have a small impact. NOW, no.

            • mattmcirvin

              By the end of the 2016 campaign it seemed as if Hillary Clinton had been President from 2001-2009.

            • Drew

              If we’re comparing Kerry vs Clinton on the AUMF then I have to object. 04 and 08 (and 16) were very different elections.

        • mausium

          “But then if the media doesn’t pay attention to them, I suppose a whole bunch of voters don’t either.”

          Exactly. They’re great examples that saying > doing.

      • Deborah Bender

        I haven’t read any analysis of the sanctions law. How is it different from status quo ante?

    • I’m not sure what he gets out of it.

      yesterday, he got five minutes on NPR to sell his book.

      • Xer

        He was on Charlie Rose last night. Flake might be the first Republican Senator to sell most of his books to liberals.

        • Erik Loomis

          It’s the JD Vance model of conservative writing.

        • The rational mind craves symmetry. When we can’t find any we will use any available information as a mirror to create it, kind of like a phantom limb.

          Psychologically its fascinating, and business-wise I can see it becoming profitable niche.

    • djw

      I’m not sure what he gets out of it.

      Previewing a re-election strategy for a (possible) anti-Trump wave election. Assuming he survives the primary (and the potential for a second Senate seat to attract R candidates could help here) it could be his best bet. “Don’t take out your anti-Trump anger on me, I’ve been speaking out against him for years.”

      • Aaron Morrow

        Could a new Senator be primaried? Given that Arizona law requires the new Senator to be of the same party as the Senator being replaced, I’m not sure.

        • humanoidpanda

          He can be primaried if and when he runs to permanently fill that seat. (so if McCain dies in November 2017, X is appointed immediately, but there will be an election in November 2018 in which he could be primaried).

      • mausium

        “Previewing a re-election strategy for a (possible) anti-Trump wave election”

        Hawking one’s personal brand is the simplest, most accurate, and consistent reasoning.

    • mausium

      “If this is the start of taking action and voting against the Trumpetina, then great.”

      SPOILER WARNING: No.

      “If it’s just posing, then … I’m not sure what he gets out of it.”

      Attention.

      • busker type

        You are correct. He is unlikely to take any action against Trump, and he is just looking for attention/doing this as a campaign strategy. But it’s still good news. It will infuriate Trump (he fucks up when he’s angry), further divide the republicans, and potentially provide cover for more GOPers to speak out against the Fifth Avenue Franco.

        • mausium

          “and potentially provide cover for more GOPers to speak out against the Fifth Avenue Franco.”

          At this point what does it matter? I feel like “speaking out” is a public venting that changes nothing in the back-end.

          The media never holds these bog-standard republicans to doing anything about Trump. They just loathe his specific rhetoric, not his hate.

          Fuck words, give us action. The media just wants a quip and a soundbite.

          • busker type

            I would prefer action too, but words matter.

            • mausium

              Not ever when acts counter the intent and truth of ones words.

      • eclare

        And self-satisfaction.

    • mds

      When I read it, I was wondering if he was thinking about switching affiliations

      You know that other discussion about the pitfalls of endorsing anti-choice Democrats? Try fitting an anti-choice anti-tax reactionary who wants to destroy most of the federal government into the tent.

      But yes, he did manage to make it read like that, didn’t he? “Except on virtually all the issues, my party left me.”

    • brucej

      Never. Jeff Flake is a dyed-in-the-wool Arizona Lunatic Republican.

      He’s just desperate to make himself look more presentable for next year’s elections, like Martha “Lets get this fucking thing done!” McSally’s sudden conversion to pious moderate devoted to bipartisan action to fix the ACA.

    • efgoldman

      Somebody has to take Suzy Q Collins’ place as the voice of “concern” who votes with the leadership.

      Yes, I know damned well she went way out on a limb on the Trumpcare vote. She certainly gets credit for that – but history counts, too.

  • tsam100

    Is this preparing for primary challenge to Trump? When I saw these comments I laughed and really wanted to shout FAKE NEWS, because Flake has been a model senator for AZ, a right wing asshole.

    • busker type

      It would be a political suicide mission (unless Trump’s approval gets a LOT worse in the next two years) but he’d be a legend.

      A legend without a JOB, but still!

  • i disagree with the notion of “Trump’s position”.

    if Trump has a position on an issue, during the moment we’re observing him, it’s only because he thinks it helps his brand.

    • TJ

      Kind of like the Heisenberg principle huh?

      • We cannot simultaneously measure his position and momentum on any issue?

        • correct. but mostly because his motion is chaotic and unpredictable.

    • mausium

      “if Trump has a position on an issue, during the moment we’re observing him, it’s only because he thinks it helps his brand.”

      Or Flake, or McCain, etc.

  • Murc

    As near as I can tell, the primary objection many if not prominent Republicans have to Trump is stylistic rather than substantive.

    That is, they don’t disagree with his policy goals, they just hate that he’s an incompetent, declasse thug. Thugs have their place in the Republican Party, but not running it. Oh dear me no, harrumph harrumph.

    This is the charitable interpretation. The uncharitable one is that they’re afraid to directly confront the monster they spent forty years lovingly crafting after they’ve finally folded a bolt of lightning into him and he’s begun to lurch down the mountain towards the village.

    To a certain extent I sympathize; these guys are caught between an ideology they find repugnant and an ideologically congenial president who they find appalling. I’d confine myself merely to stylistic critiques in that circumstance as well. But given that I find their ideology appalling, my sympathy has a very, very low ceiling.

    • TJ

      Didn’t you say the other day that you’d accept an authoritarian type as long as he promoted your ideology? Did I misunderstand you?

      • Murc

        Didn’t you say the other day that you’d accept an authoritarian type as long as he promoted your ideology?

        I said I’d accept someone openly, nakedly corrupt if they supported my ideology and the alternatives weren’t any better. And also that I would find a nakedly corrupt pol who was willing to sign anything a liberal Congress put in front of him to almost certainly be substantively superior to a Republican who adhered to the baseline forms of non-corruption while pursuing the Republican agenda of ethnic cleansing, the war on women, being pro-climate change, etc.

        That said, I would also accept an authoritarian type if the alternatives were worse, although at that point we’re getting into “when is it justified to put down your ballot and pick up a gun” territory.

        • Marlowe

          Ahh, but Second Amendment solutions are only available to white Rethuglican right wing nut jobs. They are unlawful and treasonous if used or discussed by liberals and/or “those people.” Don’t you have a dog eared pocket copy of the Constitution?

    • NonyNony

      They don’t disagree with his policy goals because Trump has no real policy goals outside of “winning” – whatever that means. He wants to look good to the sycophantic crowds that cheer him on and that’s pretty much his entire policy agenda. That and making as much money for himself while in office as possible and keeping himself and his family out of jail.

      Outside of voting on nominees to executive positions, everything that the Congress has voted on has been bog-standard Republican agenda items. And all of that is on the Congressional leadership axis, not Trump. In fact from the excerpt linked to here this looks mostly like Flake complaining about McConnell and Boehner and their leadership during the Obama years than anything about Trump.

      And that’s who I’d actually blame for the rise of Trump – Mitch McConnell. He could have chosen any political path to unseat Obama but he chose unprecedented obstruction which failed to make Obama a single term president but absolutely set the groundwork for Trump to be the party’s nominee. McConnell didn’t invite the trolls into the modern Republican party, but he basically all but begged them to take over through his tactics.

    • Joe Paulson

      It’s possible for people like Flake to now and then disagree, while still overall supporting Trump’s policies. A few Republicans managed to vote “no” on Cabinet seats, which didn’t matter much in the end but at least was a symbolic action. If he is going to be so critical about how extreme his party is getting, a few votes here could be useful.

      The stylistic critiques to me are of some minimal value since it helps the public and institutional pressure on the targets. If Democratic senators continuously badmouthed basic Democratic positions, e.g., even if they voted for them, it would do some harm.

      But, Democrats also manage to now and then dissent vote-wise over the years. Republican mavericks like Flake seem to do that less often.

    • I waver on this, but I’m leaning more towards believing that we vastly overestimate the ideological component in their decision process, at least individually. It’s a Veep world. They vote the way they do and support the policies they do because that’s the teat the milk comes from and the wagon they’ve hitched their horse to. Trump’s “go with whatever the most recent person you talked to said” is the rule, not an exception–it’s just that most pols have a more coherent and organized inner circle of advisers.

      So the hypothetical upshot is they don’t disagree or agree with his policy goals, they don’t really care that he’s a tacky moron, they just don’t like that he makes their lives harder instead of easier and there isn’t an obvious tool in the repertoire to stop that. Jeff Flake knows he’s in trouble, and he’s desperately trying to reposition himself to survive. My guess, looking at how the VA R governors primary worked out is that he’s toast if he gets Trumped in the primary and he likely signed his own electoral death warrant for no pay-off.

      • busker type

        “Jeff Flake knows he’s in trouble, and he’s desperately trying to reposition himself to survive.”

        Yep.

    • humanoidpanda

      “That is, they don’t disagree with his policy goals, they just hate that he’s an incompetent, declasse thug. Thugs have their place in the Republican Party, but not running it. Oh dear me no, harrumph harrumph.

      I think there really are points where guys like Flake have actual policy disagreements with Trump, most notably free trade and immigration levels. But.. the odds of Trump actually accomplishing anything on that front are rather slim, so life is good.

  • One of the great things about being a senator is the enormous amount of power it gives you to … write op-eds.

  • TJ

    Where was he on the nominations, even of completely incompetent people such as Ben Carson, Betsy Devos, and Rex Tillerson?

    It’s not obvious that Carson is any worse than Cuomo. Having grown up in public housing I’m curious to see if he does anything good in the position.

    • Do you have your contrarianism in the morning fried, scrambled, or overeasy?

    • Joe Paulson

      Cuomo: “He founded Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged (HELP) in 1986 and left his law firm to run HELP full-time in 1988. From 1990 to 1993, during the administration of New York City mayor, David Dinkins, Cuomo was chair of the New York City Homeless Commission, which was charged with developing policies to address the homeless issue in the city and developing more housing options.”

      He wasn’t appointed secretary at the start either:

      “Andrew Cuomo was appointed to the Department of Housing and Urban Development as Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development in 1993, a member of President Bill Clinton’s administration.”

      He was only promoted to head in 1997. It is fairly obvious to me on “competence” that Carson is “any” worse than Cuomo. As to merits, one might not like Cuomo, but would be fairly hard for Carson to do worse. If “anything good” is your test, well, aim low.

    • mausium

      ‘Having grown up in public housing I’m curious to see if he does anything good in the position.”

      Seeing as Trump put him in this role, it’d be a stretch to think that he’s qualified on any level, even accidentally.

      • Aaron Morrow

        Having spent a lot of time growing up in the Appalachians doesn’t qualify me to be Secretary of the Interior. It’s insulting if Carson didn’t get a shot at HHS, or if he has the Regular Corps experience, Surgeon General.

  • John F

    Trump’s disapproval polling has hit 61% in Rasmussen…

    • That’s the failure of Obamacare repeal. I have little doubt Rasmussen reweighs their “likely voter” (3 years +out from election!) model per poll to influence aggregators/policy. They always Lean R and respond negative to R ‘s not accomplishing conservative goals. And regress suspiciously to the mean right in time for the last poll before the election.

      • xq

        It’s consistent with other polls. Look at 538 tracker. No clear drop in “all adults”, but it looks like there’s sufficient evidence for a quite substantial drop among likely voters since mid-July.

        • There’s a history there though. I remember following them in the ’12 election and noticing it. It’s weighed to give a lean of basically the margin of error to R’s which always evaporates in the last poll before the elections, and it’s very sensitive to events that up disproportionately effect R responses (like the Scalise shooting, Obamacare repeal failure).

          They play it well to prevent being seen as complete hackery, but they knowingly put their finger on the scales when it suits them to the degree they think they can get away with.

        • humanoidpanda

          The problem is that Ramussen is one of handful of outfits doing polls of likely voters and registered voters. So, it’s about half of the aggregation right there.

          • Aaron Morrow

            Even the tattered remains of Pollster is capturing more than five tracking polls for Trump’s job approval.

            • humanoidpanda

              There are plenty of outfits that are doing polling, but most of them are polling adults. Rasmussen is the only one who is polling likely voters, and only a small number are polling registered voters. So aggregation of likely/registered voters is going to give a large weight to Rasmussen.

              • Aaron Morrow

                I apologize for using the all adults numbers when we were talking about likely/registered voters.

                Like I said, there are more than five tracking polls capturing likely/registered voters in Pollster: Rasmussen, Politico/Morning Consult, Harris/Harvard, FOX, PPP and Zogby. Not that I recommend looking at likely/registered voters this far out, but even so, Rasmussen is weighted about 17% of the tracking total.

                • humanoidpanda

                  Fair enough! I obviously overstated my case.

          • 3+ years out from the election too. Using “likely voters” screens you can get the results you want, or make a better estimate, it depends on how sincere you are.

            A recent “Likely Voter” poll in VA had 47% of the sample with a history of only voting in R primaries, 36% only Dem, and the rest either no primary or equal split. Not a reasonable representation of the VA electorate at all. That gave them an even split in the Gov race, and I’m sure helped with fundraising for Gillespie (R). It should have been mentioned in the press release. The head pollster was testy when I emailed him to point this out.

          • xq

            But 538 recognizes its low quality and weighs it accordingly. Look at the weights at the bottom. It doesn’t look like it’s half of the aggregation.

            • humanoidpanda

              Fair enough! I stand corrected. (Also, I looked at their aggregation and found tha Morning Consult, the other polslter that was unusually friendly to Trump, but has no partisan bias, is now down to 43-53. Which I think served to confirm the Rasmussen findings: even right leaning voters are starting to get testy with Trump.

  • Domino

    (To me) it’s interesting the human condition Flake and a couple others exhibit – they’re aware Trump is trashing political norms, and that may have disasterous consequences for the country in the long-term. So he doesn’t want to be seen as someone who enabled Trump. But he also doesn’t want to lose a primary to a Trump-bot. So he’s decided that he’s going to vote to trash all political norms, but he’s going to let everyone know he’s not happy about it. And hopefully people will just read interviews he’s given, and not look at his actual voting record.
    Fascinating.

    • Steve LaBonne

      And very sadly, probably an effective strategy.

      • mausium

        No probably. The media is happy to give him his time in the spotlight .

      • In VA’s Republican governor’s primary we had an absolutely unqualified idiot from Minnesota who didn’t even have open support from Trump, but had connections to his campaign, very nearly take down (<5000 vote margin) an establishment candidate who had cruised to nominations before and avoided criticizing Trump. That's in a state that hates Trump more than Arizona.

        If Flake gets primaried I don't see how he survives.

    • mds

      So he doesn’t want to be seen as someone who enabled Trump. But he also doesn’t want to lose a primary to a Trump-bot wants to enable Trump.

      Jeff “Schmibertarian Shitsmear” Flake would take most of Trump’s agenda, such as it is, in a heartbeat. Wrecking the Department of Education and the EPA? Repealing the ACA? Cutting taxes on rich people? Sign him up, but only if the guy at the top isn’t openly damaging the brand in real time.

  • sanjait

    Ben Sasse is similarly a concern peacock.

    • busker type

      The first time I heard Sasse speak I thought “hmm… this guy sounds alright” but then I started noticing his voting record. What a clown.

    • Joe Paulson

      He has that smart boy cred and was in that goofy photo with Schumer.

      But, on substance, same deal. Big thing for me was how he made a big deal of not being able to support Trump or Hillary Clinton. Yay. You in effect made them the same thing.

      Making an irksome racehorse the same as a mule does the mule much more favors.

      • busker type

        the Racehorse/Mule analogy is good!

        Trump is pretty darn fast for a mule!

      • ForkyMcSpoon

        I mean, it is notable for a Republican to say that their own candidate is no better than the Democrat. It would’ve been more dishonest to say that Trump was better than Clinton, which is what most of the Republicans were saying.

        I judge him less harshly for that than I do, say, Romney and the Bushes, who no longer have electoral considerations and were still unwilling to endorse Clinton. Particularly the Bushes, who ought to have known that Trump was woefully unprepared and unsuited for the presidency.

        • Joe Paulson

          It’s “notable” but it doesn’t do me that much good particularly since it sort of gives Trump cred — this mavericky smart guy puts him on the same level as Hillary Clinton. It in the end benefits Trump really along the margins.

          This is different from not endorsing Clinton because of your party loyalty — he made it clear that he found Clinton simply unpalatable. It is actually apparently the case that the senior Bush may have even voted for Hillary Clinton.

    • Aaron Morrow

      I wish more solidly Republican seats were wasted in such a way.

  • So, I’m visiting family. This family gets the New York Times. I, being stupid, glance at the op ed section and get a heaping eyeful of David Brooks on the virtues and vices of manliness.

    And now I want to die.

    • sanjait

      I’m honestly curious who is the sincere, non-hate reading audience for a David Brooks.

      • eclare

        Well-educated middle of the road people over 65 like my parents.

        • The only one I know is a 75 year old Methodist lawyer. So this seems accurate.

        • busker type

          “…you know, morons!”

      • Heavy overlap with the sincere “Dowd is witty” set.

        A surprising number of these are intelligent, good people. Some of my relations are wonderful, smart, kind, well read, good writers, educated, etc and yet will talk about Dowd’s wit as if it were a thing. They are lifelong NYT and New Yorker readers and thus conditions you in a number of ways.

        It’s partly the wine label phenomenon: put expensive labels on cheap wine and people prefer it.

        The same people who can clearly see and correct ham fisted use of metaphor in a student paper are happy with Dowd in part because they never engage that critical apparatus.

        • These are literally the people Krugman’s “ACA is Heritage plan; Repubs criticize own plan!” shtick is directed to that Scott hates so much. That’s why I give it a pass. It’s effective with these types.

          • sanjait

            Well … ACA and Heritage Plan share the three legged stool design, which is a critical structural feature. And Republicans do criticize that aspect of ACA loudly, hyperbolically, and often hypocritically.

            So I think Krugman has an important point even though he’s remiss in not noting the major differences as well.

            Not that I want to dive back into that can of worms conversation again …

          • But…they are reliable democratic voters. They might have voted for an Arlan Spector back in the day, but they don’t need to be won over to “ACA good and reasonably bipartisan”.

            So, “effective” (in that they’ll believe it…I believed it too!) but pointless as there’s no consequential change of vote.

            The marginal effects (we speculate) are convincing exactly zero weak lean R to vote D and taking some fringe D and alienating them perhaps unto the point of staying home or voting Stein.

            Given that the line is pretty centrally false, I have “educated citizenry” grounds for opposing it. But also it weakens the “Republicans suck on health care and other social welfare programs…indeed, they want to destroy them” line, which is *also* true and seems far more likely to woo some squishy lean Rs.

            • There are voters for whom this plays well, and they are concentrated in the NYtimes reading set. They are centrist-maybe-left-leaning but not ideological and will tune out if you try to make about earnest policy and the evils of the Republican position as opposed to some level of ironic entertainment.

              If you don’t think they have a chance of voting against Dems that’s in large part because of the effectiveness of punditry tactics like Krugman’s. Hell, the Dem candidate for VA governor fits this set pretty well and voted twice for W Bush.

              • They are centrist-maybe-left-leaning but not ideological and will tune out if you try to make about earnest policy and the evils of the Republican position as opposed to some level of ironic entertainment.

                But…this isn’t true of them at all. I have no idea why you want to describe people I’m in personal contact with, but you are way off base.

                If you don’t think they have a chance of voting against Dems that’s in large part because of the effectiveness of punditry tactics like Krugman’s.

                That’s a pretty big assumption on your part and I know of no evidence in support of it. Recent work generally suggests that partisan identification shapes attitudes toward content, not the other way around.

                These are solid, life long Ds. They are not swing votes.

                • By “they” in my second sentence I was referring to the class identified in the first sentence–“There are voters for whom…”.

                  I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to say. I’m identifying a subgroup I’ve had anecdotal contact with and describing their behavior, I’m not making a categorical, quantitative claim about whatever group “them” you are referring to. The people I’m referring to are swing voters and not “solid lifelong Ds”.

                • By “they” in my second sentence I was referring to the class identified in the first sentence–“There are voters for whom…”.

                  Sorry, I didn’t realize you were shifting target cohorts (I see we’ve actually had several).

                  It would be interesting to know how many squishy D to squishy R are moved by this particular rhetoric. My feel is that it’s low, but who knows.

                • I feel its a low stakes issues overall. But Krugman a big reason why I got into politics– so I’m maybe (justifiably?) biased in my assessment of his punditry and rhetoric skills.

        • sanjait

          Hmm. That sounds right.

          Brooks and Dowd are non challenging reads that pose as something intelligent so readers don’t feel like they are slumming it.

          Like when my local gastropub has a gruyere-pork belly mac and cheese. It’s greasy comfort food but if you aren’t thinking critically it sounds fancy.

          • Cheap Wino

            Nicely put.

    • tsam100

      Don’t die, kill the paper.

    • Friends don’t let friends read David Brooks.

  • randomworker

    I looked it up for somebody recently. He’s voted with the president* 95.5% of the time.

  • xq

    I’m in favor of Republicans criticizing Trump even if no action comes out of it. More Republicans should criticize Trump. I do think it hurts him. Trumps’s remaining supporters are pretty much all solid Republicans, many of whom like their own senators and congresspeople better than the president. They won’t listen to Democrats or the media.

    • busker type

      this.

    • mds

      The thing is, though, if it hurts Trump without hurting enough Congressional Republicans, what difference does it make? Trump stays president until January 2021 regardless, and if the GOP retains control of both chambers, the disaster continues unabated. So maybe it’s good for a bunch of Flakes to damage Trump. But then they still need to pay a price for enabling him.

      • xq

        There’s a strong correlation between presidential approval and how well their party does in midterms. Sure, the particular candidates who are most vocally anti-Trump may have some protection from that (and Flake’s opponent in AZ should definitely point out how weak his opposition has been), but it’s bad for the party as a whole.

    • Plus it drives him in unforced but generally low consequence errors (thus far).

    • ForkyMcSpoon

      It could also cause Trump to attack Flake. The result of which could be that Flake backs down and looks weak. Or it could cause him to lose his primary or depress R turnout for him. Meanwhile, his Democratic opponent won’t hesitate to point out that Flake voted to take healthcare away from millions and has taken no consequential action to constrain Trump.

  • humanoidpanda

    As for myself, I don’t hold a grudge against Flake for, say, his ACA vote of confirming Pruitt. He ran on a platform of gutting the welfare state and abusing science, never hid where he stands of that stuff, and the good people of Arizona chose to vote for him regardless, so there are no contradictions or brooken promises there. One can’t blame him for voting for Trump’s policies, when Trump is implementing the horrid nonsense Flake ran on.. What gets to me is his preening against nativism and racism while voting to confirm Sessions and doing nothing to haul him over the coals, when Flake is a member of the goddamn judiciary committee.

    • eclare

      Absolutely this. Flake’s ideology is what it is. I hate it, but there’s no hypocrisy in him voting for the policies he ran on. The hypocrisy is in trying to present himself as someone who is taking a stand against Trump and the GOP’s dismantling of all political norms when he a) has benefited from said dismantling and b) shows no inclination to do anything about it.

      • Yeah, when he starts talking serious congressional investigations (which really is de minimus) we can revisit.

  • mds

    Getting back to that bit from the McCain thread about a politician’s “motives” vs. their voting record, I think Flake is a useful case.

    On the one hand, one could say “Look at Flake’s voting record. That tells you all you need to know.” And there’s certainly something to that when it comes to predicting what he’s going to do.

    On the other hand, though, prior to the whole ACA repeal imbroglio, I see only three votes on which Lisa Murkowski voted the opposite of Trump’s supposed preference. Meanwhile, Jeff Flake went against Trump’s position twice. So based purely on that track record, we might plausibly expect them to vote the same way on the ACA. Medicaid has a strong impact in both their states, so that’s a wash. Yet I could have told you (No, really!) that Murkowski was a gettable “No” and Flake wasn’t, based on their personalities and ideological inclinations. Same way with Capito, whom I declared in comments here as extremely likely to fall in line. Now, it might be hard to make a generally useful quantitative model out of what is a very squishy, intuitive judgement. But I think it does suggest that motives, and the intensity of same, can be of some use, especially in edge cases.

    • humanoidpanda

      Well, one problem with the whole thing is that a fair bit of “voted with Trump” numbers are rather meaningless. So far, most Senate votes were on nominations, where, with few exceptions (DeVos, Sessions) Trump nominated terrible people but not very different from run of the mill republicans, and regulatory rollbacks that even relatively decent Republicans like Murkowski** (who comes from a resource-extraction state , after all) are going to vote aye on.

      • Craigo

        That’s a fair point in general, but it doesn’t work here, since Flake voted for both Sessions and DeVos. Moreover he sits on Judiciary, where he could do a lot of pushijng back – on Russia, on conflicts and emoluments, on nepotism. Instead he’s done nothing but shake his head and loudly sigh, while backing Trump to the hilt.*

        *Yes, he voted for the Russia sanctions bill, along with 99% of his party. Maverick!

        • humanoidpanda

          Yeah, as I said above, Sessions is really the test, and Flake failed that. But I just think that those Trump scores are a terrible way of figuring out where people stand.

          • Craigo

            I don’t. The lowest Republicans are in the 80s, and they average about 95%. If you want to point out that Flake is an average Republican hack, it’s nice to have a number clearly demonstrating he is, in fact, an average Republican hack.

        • Flake likes Sessions, respects him, thinks he can do a good job as AG, etc.. and, he thinks Trump firing Sessions would be a colossal mistake – he’s definitely not backing Trump on that.

  • Alworth

    I agree with your point (also made regularly by Scott, especially when talking about the other AZ sen), BUT.

    Rhetoric has its own power. In his Politico op-ed, he said the quiet parts loud. It was a perfectly banal indictment, yet rare for its tone and source. The GOP have managed to govern as a majority party with minority support because of their commitment to a solidarity. Rhetorical dissent is cheap, sure. But we haven’t seen it before, and not like this.

    I’d call Flake’s gambit unusual and potentially serious.

  • randykhan

    I read that piece as saying that he really wants to be reelected.

    • FMguru

      I think he’s angling for McCain’s current (and soon to be vacated) postion as the Republican who earns great acclaim by occasionally tsk-tsking his party (while still voting with them 98% of the time).

      McCain’s carved out a pretty nice niche for himself with his cheap, meaningless Mavericky talk. Why wouldn’t someone else want in on that racket?

  • StrokeCityFC

    If Liberals take the position that “Flake is a hypocrite, unless he starts voting Democrat” shit isn’t going to change. I think Flake’s policy positions are frightful, but they’re not the same threat to democracy as shitheels like Trent Franks calling for Mueller to resign.

    Distinguishing between conservative policy proposals and anti-systemic and undemocratic behavior is critical. If liberals erase that lineand embrace the idea that Flake is just a sellout unless he starts voting like a Democrat, they risk just going to turning off conservatives who might break with Trump and bind them tighter to the Trump camp. Democrats don’t have a majority, so imposing ideological purity tests on potential allies is suicidal.

    Think of it this way, when FDR and Churchill need to defeat Hitler did they say, “look, you can help, but we need you to agree to stop the purges, ‘kay?”

    • mds

      No, but then again, Stalin didn’t tell them “Indeed, Hitler is gravely concerning” while providing material support to the Nazis.

    • ForkyMcSpoon

      A lot of standard Republican policy is a threat to democracy – the gerrymandering, voter suppression, allowing unlimited corporate cash in elections, etc. Would appreciate it if Flake came out against some of that stuff too, before we declare him a defender of democracy.

      I agree that Trump’s behavior is more dangerous though. I’ll note that this is also because it operates on a much shorter time frame.

      • StrokeCityFC

        “A lot of standard Republican policy is a threat to democracy – the gerrymandering, voter suppression, allowing unlimited corporate cash in elections, etc. Would appreciate it if Flake came out against some of that stuff too, before we declare him a defender of democracy.”
        I agree. But that’s not going to happen. The best we can hope for right now is to limit the damage Trump can do to our democratic institutions.

        If GOP congressmen are forced to reckon with Trump’s crimes, that helps run out the clock on his administration, and this congress. They won’t have time or energy to pass legislation. Focus on getting Trump out of office.

  • Thornton Hall

    The rules of “good journalism” are quite clear on this point. Political journalists are not allowed to remain in good standing with the Reporters Guild unless they find protagonists on both sides of the aisle to drive the action in their stories.

    For example, early in W.’s term, Dana Milbank wrote a piece on 5 lies of W. He refused to identify anyone good in the White House. By the end of 2001 he was an opinion writer, stripped of his good standing as a reporter.

    Blaming a nice guy from Arizona for the published rules of “good journalism” seems unfair.

    • mds

      But we’re blaming Jeff Flake instead.

  • The most aptly-named Congressperson since the Gilded Age-era Reginald Shittypol.

    • Captain_Subtext

      Yes, but he’s Mormon and blond and that’s all that matters in AZ.

  • Joe Paulson

    Jennifer Senor critically reviews Flake’s book, including noting his votes “seems to be at odds with his book, in which he specifically cautions Republicans against engineering a sloppy repeal of Obamacare behind closed doors.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/books/jeff-flake-conscience-of-conservative-trump.html

  • And that makes Flake special amongst the GOP how exactly? Slightly different lip service?
    Actually, in Flake’s case he’s learning to be a Trumpian piece of shit. He’ll be able to claim he said whatever while ignoring that he did the opposite.

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