Jeff Flake is an enigma inside a ruby-red wingnut wrapped in temple underwear. As he again unleashes another Mr. Flake Goes to Washington stemwinder assailing President Trump’s Stalinist attacks against the free press, I will once more risk the opprobrium of my fellow progressives by showing sympathy for a rightwinger.
When I previously wrote about the retiring junior senator from Arizona, I paired him with outgoing Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who at the time had launched into his own spirited opposition to President Trump. While both have sacrificed their positions as rising stars in the GOP to voice their opinions about the leader of their party, only Jeff Flake has so far stayed true to the calling.
Shh, don’t tell anyone else at Patheos Nonreligious, but I think it has something to do with his Mormonism. I know, I know. Yes, I agree. Absolutely. And no.
Please hear me out.
It should go without saying that Jeff Flake doesn’t derive his morality from God, Jesus, or Mormonism. And it would take the most blinkered of Christian apologists not to note the almost daily headlines of hypocrisy among avowedly “family values” Christians proving that the foundation of their supposed biblical morality is built upon quicksand.
The latest politician to find himself neck-deep in moral muck is Missouri’s GOP governor Eric Greitens. The father of two young children, he reportedly threatened his former lover/hairdresser. She wisely recorded the call.
Okay, so it’s well established that claims to religiosity have no relationship to actual moral principles. And it should also go without saying that Mormonism — started by a con man — is built on a foundation as ephemeral as Joseph Smith’s incredible disappearing Golden Tablets. (I guess Moses’s “I smashed them in a fit of pique” claim wouldn’t work with a new, New Testament made of a precious metal.)
Yet, among the supposed true believers, some will inevitably actually take their religion’s moral purity gospel to heart. Jeff Flake has said bottom’s up when it comes to the Tea Party Kool-Aid. And he has also imbibed Mormon propaganda from infancy.
He pursues both with Mormon missionary zeal.
It’s no statement of religious sympathy to say that even an ideology built upon a mountain of BS can contain nuggets of value. Those who embrace the good in the ridiculous can find themselves holding the high ground, even while standing upon a foundational dung heap.
Personally, I fortify my moral fiber from humanism. But does it really matter if Flake’s praise-worthy Wheaties were served in a big bowl of bunk?
I think the main difference between Jeff Flake and Bob Corker is that Corker’s objections to Trump came from close proximity to the president’s tantrums and the adult day care center built around him. For Sen. Flake, his moral outrage comes from absolute certitude in his personal convictions.
It’s therefore no contradiction to say that Flake votes consistently with President Trump even as he continues to vociferously speak out against the Racist-in-Chief.
When my Jeff Flake and Bob Corker piece was posted on the Patheos Nonreligious Facebook page, nearly all of the comments were of the f*ck them variety, especially regarding their near lock-step votes with the president. And this was before their support for the GOP’s regressive tax bill, after initial opposition.
I can’t say I blame anyone for skepticism about Flake’s and Corker’s motivations and their self-evident hypocrisy. Yet, while Corker is flying on Airforce One, Jeff Flake is delivering the first in a series of jeremiads against the president.Can’t these people see that the enemy of our enemy is indeed our friend…even if we can’t abide their other beliefs? I would urge progressives to cast aside the temptation toward tribalism and black-and-white thinking. Indeed, I think Flake’s wingnuttiness is of a piece with his stance against Donald Trump, whom he has opposed since the 2016 GOP primaries.
Trump’s sh*thole sh*tstorm forced the Mormon senator to admit (without repeating the president’s language) that in a conversation immediately afterward, participants in the heated meeting had discussed amongst themselves the president’s vomitous comments.
Crumbling Graham: Lower Fiber than Jeff Flake, Yet Fortified by Anger
Lindsey Graham is an interesting case study in inconsistent #NeverTrumpery. He’s ping ponged from vocal opponent to sucking up and head-ducking and back again. He reportedly pushed back directly after the president painted countries whose inhabitants were of darker hues to sh*tholes — as opposed to lily white Norway, from which he would like to see increased immigration.
Gee, I thought Trump was against immigration itself. Who could’ve known racism was the basis of his opposition?
Yet, it’s clear in Graham’s monologue in the guise of questioning Homeland Security director that he’s still “fired up” about what happened in that meeting. Defending the honor of Democrat Dick Durbin and the time-honored practice of bipartisan negotiations, the South Carolina Senator grilled Kirstjen Nielsen:
I’m not saying I agree with Graham on any number of issues, anymore than he agrees with the liberal Dick Durbin. But there’s a nugget of institutional integrity the shines through in this exchange.
Let’s hope Trump’s degradation of the presidency will continue to fire up his moral outrage.
Still, it’s clear that he comes away tainted from his attempts at ingratiating himself with such a naked racist. Every Republican who has excused away or tried to thread the needle — attacking Trump in one breath, while defending him with the next — will be judged by history.
Graham won’t come off as a hero, nor a villain of this unprecedented trial of our democratic institutions. His ailing friend John McCain just joined Jeff Flake in a united Arizona front against Trump’s assault on the free press, on the day Trump was set to announce his spurious Fake News Awards.
(Most of the “winners,” as it turns out, were simple mistakes that were eventually corrected. One was a prediction in a liberal opinion piece…that was also soon retracted.)
Tragically, the war hero is fighting an even more aggressive foe in his usually fatal brain cancer. We can’t know how long McCain will remain on the #NeverTrump battlelines. Jeff Flake, however, won’t be a senator after the end of this year.
But another Mormon — this time of ideologically and morally plastic stock — is poised to replace a reliably pro-Trump vote in the Senate (yet another Mormon, Utah’s Orrin Hatch). Though Mitt Romney was willing to prostrate himself to Trump for a chance to be Secretary of State, I suspect that the Mormon in him played a role in his outspoken role in the #NeverTrump movement. (Of course, the ever-ambitions Romney may well have been hoping that he was opening up a remote chance that he could sweep in as a last-minute GOP savior.)
President Trump reportedly heavily lobbied for the 83-year-old Hatch to run for an eighth term to head off his replacement by the antagonistic Romney.
Jeff Flake: Still an Off the Scale Wingnut
Look, I get it. You abhor Jeff Flake’s politics. So do I.
Perhaps his Mormonism gets your non-temple underwear in a twist. Or maybe it’s a combination of both that puts Flake into the category of the Ridiculously Radical Right for you.
Country over Party pic.twitter.com/JZMTaEYdxQ
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) December 5, 2017
C’mon, ya gonna let a rightwing Mormon take the moral high ground over you?
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