Jeff Flake has got it all: He’s tall, buff and handsome, with a made-for-TV smile. He lives in a huge house in a gated community (with high walls, of course), has a pretty blonde wife and five fabulous children. Plus, he’s a member of one of the most exclusive clubs in the World: The Senate.
But Mr. Flake, 55, and (reportedly) a Republican, has been getting flaky ever since he engaged in a battle of wits with President Trump, who beat him like a rented mule.
In September 2016, Trump tweeted: “The Republican Party needs strong and committed leaders, not weak people such as @JeffFlake, if it is going to stop illegal immigration.” That same month he wrote: “The Great State of Arizona, where I just had a massive rally (amazing people), has a very weak and ineffective Senator, Jeff Flake. Sad!”
By October, Mr. Flake, with his poll numbers sagging and his re-election campaign sputtering, announced he would not seek re-election.
Mr. Trump reveled in his foe’s downfall.
“Sen. Jeff Flake(y), who is unelectable in the Great State of Arizona (quit race, anemic polls) was caught (purposely) on ‘mike’ saying bad things about your favorite President. He’ll be a NO on tax cuts because his political career anyway is ‘toast,’ ” Mr. Trump tweeted in November 2016.
There must be something in the Arizona water. The other senator from there, Sen. John McCain, has also targeted Mr. Trump, both before he won the White House and after. Mr. McCain, still bitter over his 2008 loss to Barack Obama, thinks Mr. Trump is wrong about, well, everything.
So does Mr. Flake. “Our presidency has been debased by a figure who has a seemingly bottomless appetite for destruction and division and only a passing familiarity with how the Constitution works,” Mr. Flake said Wednesday in a commencement address at the Harvard School of Law. “And our Article I branch of government, the Congress, is utterly supine in the face of the moral vandalism that flows from the White House daily.”
Mr. Flake waxed poetic: “All is not well. We have a sickness of the spirit,” and painted the Scourge of Trump as evidence that the very fabric of society is unraveling: “This is it, if you have been wondering what the bottom looks like.”
The telegenic senator now spends more time in green rooms than he does in the Senate chamber, with liberal networks clamoring for a Republican who will diss the sitting president (just like media darling McCain did to make his career as a “maverick.”)
Mr. Flake, though, has big ambitions. On Sunday, when he was once again on TV bashing Mr. Trump, Mr. Flake didn’t rule out running for president against the incumbent Republican.
“It’s not in my plans, but I have not ruled anything out,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I do hope somebody runs on the Republican side other than the president, if nothing else to simply remind Republicans what conservatism is and what Republicans have traditionally stood for.”
Mr. Flake also called Mr. Trump’s claims of an FBI spy being embedded in his campaign a “diversion tactic.” “He’s obviously probing the edges [of that idea] as far as he can.”
But the senator is at least honest about what opposing Mr. Trump means to members of Congress. “This is the president’s party, and if you’re running in a primary right now and you stand up to the president, or stand up in some cases for empirical truth, then you have trouble in primaries,” Mr. Flake said.
Just like Mr. Flake did before he decided to quit his day job.
And it’s not even clear where Mr. Flake stands ideologically. Asked if he’d run as a Republican, he said, “I think so.”
All this didn’t work out so well for his mentor Mr. McCain — and it won’t for Mr. Flake. The mainstream media loves him now, slamming his fellow Republican at every turn, but if he were to run as a Republican, he’d suffer the same fate Mr. McCain did: The MSM turned on him and diced him up into little pieces.
Mr. Flake may yet run for president, but it won’t be in 2020, against Mr. Trump. He’s been bested by The Don once already, and he slunk away with his tail between his legs. He may be handsome, but he isn’t stupid.
No, Mr. Flake will do what all the others do when they leave Congress: Slide right through the revolving door and get a cushy job with a massive salary.
That way he can build a bigger wall around his house.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @josephcurl.
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