Read Flake’s bombshell Senate speech: ‘Mr. President, I rise today to say: Enough’

AZ Central

The following is the text of Sen. Jeff Flake’s remarks from the floor of the U.S. Senate on Oct. 24, 2017, as prepared for delivery. Ronald J. Hansen, political reporter for The Republic and azcentral, annotates the speech here. Click on yellow highlighted text to learn more.   

Mr. President, I rise today to address a matter that has been much on my mind, at a moment when it seems that our democracy is more defined by our discord and our dysfunction than it is by our values and our principles. Let me begin by noting a somewhat obvious point that these offices that we hold are not ours to hold indefinitely.  We are not here simply to mark time. Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office. And there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles.  

Now is such a time.

It must also be said that I rise today with no small measure of regret. 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 by our — 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.

In this century, a new phrase has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and undesirable order — that phrase being “the new normal.” But we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue — with 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; the flagrant disregard for truth or 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 all been elected to serve.

None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now. If we simply become inured to this condition, thinking that this is just politics as usual, then heaven help us. Without fear of the consequences, and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.

Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as “telling it like it is,” when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.

And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength — because our strength comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit, and weakness.

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 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.

Here, today, I stand to say that we would better serve the country and better fulfill our obligations under the constitution by adhering to our Article 1 “old normal” — Mr. Madison’s doctrine of the separation of powers. This genius innovation which affirms Madison’s status as a true visionary and for which Madison argued in Federalist 51 — held that the equal branches of our government would balance and counteract each other when necessary. “Ambition counteracts ambition,” he wrote.

But what happens if ambition fails to counteract ambition? What happens if stability fails to assert itself in the face of chaos and instability? If decency fails to call out indecency? Were the shoe on the other foot, would we Republicans meekly accept such behavior on display from dominant Democrats? Of course not, and we would be wrong if we did.

When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do — because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseum — when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions of our liberty, then we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.

Now, I am aware that more politically savvy people than I caution against such talk. I am aware that a segment of my party believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect.

If I have been critical, it is not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States. If I have been critical, it is because I believe that it is my obligation to do so, as a matter of duty and conscience. The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters — the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.

A Republican president named Roosevelt had this to say about the president and a citizen’s relationship to the office:

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants.He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.” President Roosevelt continued: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

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.

In that way and over time, we can justify almost any behavior and sacrifice almost any principle. I’m afraid that is where we now find ourselves.

When a leader correctly identifies real hurt and insecurity in our country and instead of addressing it goes looking for somebody to blame, there is perhaps nothing more devastating to a pluralistic society. Leadership knows that most often a good place to start in assigning blame is to first look somewhat closer to home. Leadership knows where the buck stops. Humility helps. Character counts. Leadership does not knowingly encourage or feed ugly and debased appetites in us.

Leadership lives by the American creed: E Pluribus Unum. From many, one. American leadership looks to the world, and just as Lincoln did, sees the family of man. Humanity is not a zero-sum game. When we have been at our most prosperous, we have also been at our most principled. And when we do well, the rest of the world also does well.

These articles of civic faith have been central to the American identity for as long as we have all been alive. They are our birthright and our obligation. We must guard them jealously, and pass them on for as long as the calendar has days. To betray them or to be unserious in their defense is a betrayal of the fundamental obligations of American leadership. And to behave as if they don’t matter is simply not who we are.

Now, the efficacy of American leadership around the globe has come into question. When the United States emerged from World War II we contributed about half of the world’s economic activity. It would have been easy to secure our dominance, keeping the countries that had been defeated or greatly weakened during the war in their place.  We didn’t do that. It would have been easy to focus inward. We resisted those impulses. Instead, we financed reconstruction of shattered countries and created international organizations and institutions that have helped provide security and foster prosperity around the world for more than 70 years.

Now, it seems that we, the architects of this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom and prosperity, are the ones most eager to abandon it.

The implications of this abandonment are profound. And the beneficiaries of this rather radical departure in the American approach to the world are the ideological enemies of our values. Despotism loves a vacuum. And our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. Why are they doing this? None of this is normal. And what do we as United States Senators have to say about it?

The principles that underlie our politics, the values of our founding, are too vital to our identity and to our survival to allow them to be compromised by the requirements of politics. Because politics can make us silent when we should speak, and silence can equal complicity.

I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit.

I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles.

To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019.

It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, and who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party — the party that for so long has defined itself by belief in those things. It is also clear to me for the moment we have given in or given up on those core principles in favor of the more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment. To be clear, the anger and resentment that the people feel at the royal mess we have created are justified. But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.

There is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal — but mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people. In the case of the Republican party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking minority party.

We were not made great as a country by indulging or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorying in the things which divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake. And we did not become the beacon of freedom in the darkest corners of the world by flouting our institutions and failing to understand just how hard-won and vulnerable they are.

This spell will eventually break. That is my belief. We will return to ourselves once more, and I say the sooner the better. Because to have a healthy government we must have healthy and functioning parties. We must respect each other again in an atmosphere of shared facts and shared values, comity and good faith. We must argue our positions fervently, and never be afraid to compromise. We must assume the best of our fellow man, and always look for the good. Until that days comes, we must be unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it. Because it does.

I plan to spend the remaining fourteen months of my senate term doing just that.

Mr. President, the graveyard is full of indispensable men and women — none of us here is indispensable. Nor were even the great figures from history who toiled at these very desks in this very chamber to shape this country that we have inherited. What is indispensable are the values that they consecrated in Philadelphia and in this place, values which have endured and will endure for so long as men and women wish to remain free. What is indispensable is what we do here in defense of those values. A political career doesn’t mean much if we are complicit in undermining those values.

I thank my colleagues for indulging me here today, and will close by borrowing the words of President Lincoln, who knew more about healing enmity and preserving our founding values than any other American who has ever lived. His words from his first inaugural were a prayer in his time, and are no less so in ours:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/arizona/2017/10/24/sen-jeff-flake-senate-speech-full-text/794958001/

4 thoughts on “Read Flake’s bombshell Senate speech: ‘Mr. President, I rise today to say: Enough’

  1. First – WE ARE NOT A DEMOCRACY, WE ARE A CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC.
    — “We must never regard as “normal” the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals.”

    “WE” do NOT have “democratic norms and ideals”, which they chosse to conform to or not. What we have is a Supreme Contract that ALL who serve within our governments – state and federal are LAWFULLY bound, is a felony to go against. Add to that these that serve are also LAWFULLY Oath bound to take on personal responsibility for the actions they take that deviate away from that written Constitution, that contract they are under. That they WILL “Support and Defend” it, the US Constitution first and foremost, not a person, office, branch, entity, group, agency, etc.

    Second – “A Republican president named Roosevelt had this to say about the president and a citizen’s relationship to the office:

    “The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants.He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. ”

    No, the person who serves within the Office of the US President is NOT the “most important”. It is the legislative branch that was delegated the most power BECAUSE a President was more likely to try to be a “King”. Because the people have more control over those that SERVE WITHIN the legislative branch if they would be use it.

    ““To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.””

    Or any other who serves within a federal or state office or branch government. Most should by now realize that in times of crisis the people who serve as US presidents often lay claim to extraordinary powers to “preserve the nation”. Those claimed emergency powers are NOT granted expressly to the president nor are they delegated to Congress by the Constitution. Instead, they are judged to reside purely in the need for leaders to protect national sovereignty and domestic order by federal ATTORNEYS/LAWYERS. Those powers do NOT exist here in the USA, not LAWFULLY. The constitutional mandate in Article II is that the president “PRESERVE, PROTECT AND DEFEND” the US Constitution and UPHOLD ITS PROVISIONS is considered (by those who want those powers) to contain implicitly the notion of emergency powers or the ability to declare “martial law”. Yet that is NOT true BECAUSE the person who serves as a US President is required to “PRESERVE”, not only “protect and defend” the US Constitution during their term(s) in that office. Actuality all US Presidents are held to a much higher standard then everyone else as they are the ones charges with implementing the “laws of the land” by using the Militias of the several states (the people) – all those Laws that are in Pursuance thereof the US Constitution. The wording of the Presidential Oath was established in the Constitution in Article II, Section 1, Clause 8.

    ‘Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”’

    Everything within the US Constitution has a reason, no space markers there. Every word and sentence has meaning, the capitalization of letters, the punctuation used, all of it, the placement of ideas, concepts, protections, divisions, requirements, duties to be performed.

    Notice that the Framers placed the presidential Oath of Office after the beginning clauses which set forth the organization of the executive department, and before the ending clauses that specify the contours of the President’s assigned power. The President is required to take the oath after he assumes the office but before he can lawfully execute it. The location and phrasing of the Oath of Office Clause strongly suggest that it is not empowering, but that it is limiting – the clause limits how the President’s “executive power” is to be exercised.

    There is also an important rule of constitutional law called the “Canon of Antisuperfluity (or canon against surplusage)”, which despite its cumbersome name, means simply that every single word of the Constitution, or lesser laws, should be given legal effect unless their context clearly shows they have no meaning.

    Both the state and the federal governments get their powers from the people who created them, even when it is done by the people’s REPRESENTATIVES.

    Justice William O. Douglas: “Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us? The constitutional theory is that we the people are the sovereigns, the state and federal officials only our agents. We who have the final word can speak softly or angrily. We can seek to challenge and annoy, as we need not stay docile and quiet.” (dissenting opinion, Colten v. Kentucky, 407 U.S. 104 (1972))

    Mark Twain: “For in a Republic, who is “the country?” Is it the Government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the Government is merely a servant – merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them.”

    It is important to realize that we are NOT supposed to have political parties, factions as the framers called them. Nor do those forbidden political parties have the LAWFUL authority to select our candidates for the people to choose between. That is NOT how our elections are set up.

    This guy thinks or is pretending to follow the US Constitution when his words and actions show that he is so far off base how can he legitimately and LAWFULLY serve in the position he is occupying? But then, I can say the same thing for the rest of them in every single position within our governments – state and federal. The closest we had to a constitutional person serving was Ron Paul in many decades.

    How about we do as the framers suggest, and the US Constitution requires of us – replace every single one of them?

    Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 33: “…If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard [The Constitution] they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify….”

    Thomas Jefferson: “When once a republic is corrupted, there is no possibility of remedying any of the growing evils but by removing the corruption and restoring its lost principles; every other correction is either useless or a new evil.”

    Thomas Jefferson: “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” (Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334)

    Archibald Maclaine said during North Carolina’s ratifying convention: “If Congress should make a law beyond the powers and the spirit of the Constitution, should we not say to Congress, ‘You have no authority to make this law. There are limits beyond which you cannot go. You cannot exceed the power prescribed by the Constitution. You are amenable to us for your conduct. This act is unconstitutional. We will disregard it, and punish you for the attempt.’”

    James Madison: “If our nation is ever taken over, it will be taken over from within.” He knew that there was always a possibility that: “men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the [votes], and then betray the interests, of the people” so he recommended that the people always watch those that serve within our governments closely and hold them accountable for their actions.

    James Wilson: “I leave it to every gentleman to say whether the enumerated powers are not as accurately and MINUTELY DEFINED, as can be well done on the same subject, in the same language…nor does it, in any degree, go beyond the particular enumeration; for, when it is said that Congress shall have power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper, those words are LIMITED AND DEFINED by the following, “for carrying into execution the foregoing powers”, it is saying no more than that the powers we have already particularly given (enumerated), shall be effectually carried into execution.”

    George Washington stated in his farewell address, Sept. 17, 1796: “And of fatal tendency … to put, in the place of the delegated will of the Nation, the will of a party – often a small but artful and enterprising minority. … They are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the Power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

  2. Take a knee, too, you whiney, never-Trumper globalist POS. You are an embarassment to your state. Good riddance. After McShame takes his dirt nap we’ll be free of you two seditious pricks.

    1. F chump. He can suck my arse with his kosher arse-sucking mouth. mcShame and chump both deserve rope because they both work against our Republic and there’s evidence ad infinitum of it. chump and mcShame should nap side by side for their crimes against US.

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