WASHINGTON – Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake say they have decided not to remain silent any longer when they view President Donald Trump “debasing” the country and “undermining democratic norms,” although they are part of a very small minority in the Republican Party.
“We must never regard as ‘normal’ the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals,” warned Flake on Tuesday upon announcing from the Senate floor that he will not run for reelection to his Arizona seat in the 2018 midterm elections.
Without mentioning Trump by name, Flake delivered a speech focusing on denouncing the president’s attitude and behavior and the consequences of it both inside and outside the US.
“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. They are not normal,” he said.
In Flake’s judgment, no president, whether Democrat or Republican, in recent US history has exhibited the type of behavior that Trump has displayed.
Just a few hours before Flake’s warnings, Corker had questioned Trump’s capacity to govern after having said in early October that the president could be putting the US on the road to “World War III” with his response to North Korea’s nuclear threats.
“Many of us, me included, have ... intervened, ... been with (Trump) on multiple occasions to try to create some kind of aspirational approach ... to the way that he conducts himself, but I don’t think that that’s possible,” the senator from Tennessee said. “He’s obviously not going to rise to the occasion as president.”
During an interview with CNN in the Capitol, Corker – while not outright calling the president a liar – said that Trump has “great difficulty with the truth,”
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has said he will not run for reelection in 2018, also said that Trump will most be remembered for “the debasement of our nation.”
Trump lashed back with a series of insults on Twitter, saying, among other things, “Bob Corker, who helped President (Obama) give us the bad Iran Deal & couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee, is now fighting Tax Cuts.”
The president went on to tweet that “Corker dropped out of the race in Tennesse (sic) when I refused to endorse him, and now is only negative on anything Trump. Look at his record!”
Corker has denied that he decided not to run for reelection to his Tennessee seat because Trump refused to back him.
In another series of tweets, Trump said that Corker “is the incompetent head of the Foreign Relations Committee, & look how poorly the U.S. has done. He doesn’t have a clue as the entire World WAS laughing and taking advantage of us. People like liddle’ Bob Corker have set the U.S. way back. Now we move forward!”
On Wednesday, however, Trump emphasized – again on Twitter – the “love fest” he had, including “standing ovations and great ideas for USA,” with Republican senators on Tuesday “outside of Flake and Corker.”
In another tweet, Trump said that “The reason Flake and Corker dropped out of the Senate race is very simple, they had zero chance of being elected. Now act so hurt & wounded!”
According to several surveys, and as acknowledged by Flake on Wednesday, Trump remains highly popular among voters in both Tennessee and Arizona.
The Republican “rebellion,” thus, does not appear – for the moment – to extend beyond Corker and Flake, along with former presidential candidate and the current senior senator from Arizona, John McCain, who has not held back in criticizing some of Trump’s policy proposals.