Thursday, May 24, 2018

Hollow Words

Arizona senator Jeff Flake gave the commencement address Wednesday to Harvard Law School graduates.  It was nearly as good as it could have been from a Republican. It also was grotesquely inadequate, like giving 25 cents to a homeless woman who needs $3.25 for the bus. Flake explained

How did we arrive at a moment of such peril, wherein a president of the United States publicly threatens— on Fox & Friends, historians will note — to interfere in the administration of justice, and seems to think that the office confers on him the ability to decide who and what gets investigated, and who and what does not? And just this week, the President — offering an outlandish rationale, ordered an investigation into the investigation of the Russian attack on our electoral process — not to defend the country against further attacks, mind you, but to defend himself. Obviously, ordering investigations is not a legitimate use of presidential power.

That was arguably the best. He said also "I am not so sure that there is much distilled wisdom to be imparted from Washington these days, given what has lately become the tawdriness of my profession."  Similarly, "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."

The problem is not Congress or Washington. It is the Republicans in Washington, worshiping Reagan, Trump, and the Holy.... really, only Reagan and Trump, god-like figures never to be questioned. Flake did acknowledge "Republican" once, as in "I am a conservative Republican, a throwback from the days when those words actually meant something, before the collapse of our politics into the rank tribalism we currently endure. That was an important concession, then ruined by

My sounding this alarm against a government that was elected under the Republican banner and that calls itself conservative makes me no less Republican or conservative. And opposing this president and much of what he stands for is not an act of apostasy — it is, rather, an act of fidelity.

Flake has demonstrated his fidelity to the Republican banner and conservatism. However, he has not done so by "sounding this alarm" but by failing to question the legislative initiatives or priorities of the GOP president, hence enabling the latter's authoritarian tendencies, expressed in temperament, statements, and policies. A solid vote for Republican extremism, the Arizona senator nonetheless declares

But I have long believed that the only lasting solutions to the problems before us must involve both sides. Lawmaking should never be an exercise in revenge, because vengeful people are myopic, self-interested, and not fit to lead....

The greatness of our system is that it is designed to be difficult, in order to force compromise. 

As supporters of President Trump, the Republican Party has come down with a severe case of pneumonia. But it was on the verge of pneumonia, with a very bad case of bronchitis, before Donald Trump was elected. It was already contagious but got worse when a Supreme Court seat 

was stolen from Barack Obama, a twice-elected president who fulfilled his constitutional duty more than nine months ago by nominating Merrick Garland, a highly qualified and widely respected federal appellate judge.

It was stolen by top Senate Republicans, who broke with longstanding tradition and refused to consider any nominee Mr. Obama might send them, because they wanted to preserve the court’s conservative majority. The main perpetrators of the theft were Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, and Charles Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. But virtually all Republican senators were accomplices; only two supported holding hearings.

Jeff Flake's response to this was to keep his mouth shut about Merrick Garland, then vote to confirm Neal Gorsuch.

Senator Flake's response to an aspiring autocrat has been to vote with him, thereby reinforcing the egomaniac's sense of superiority and dominance. It is also to give a speech including some 166 sentences without even once mentioning the word Trump.

Avoiding assessment of blame, Flake assured the graduates "Our leadership is not good, but it probably can’t get much worse."  He knows better. It can, and it will.

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