In an impassioned speech announcing his decision not to seek reelection, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday forcefully denounced President Donald Trump’s “daily sundering of the country” and blasted Republican lawmakers for failing to stand up to the president.
“I rise today with no small measure of regret,” Flake said from the Senate floor, his voice at times cracking. “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,” he continued.
Flake has been an outspoken critic of the president and has frequently found himself as a target of Trump’s social-media attacks. His announcement on Tuesday comes after Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), another vocal Trump critic, declared that he, too, would retire at the end of his term.
“If I have been critical, it not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States,” Flake told his colleagues. “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.”
“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,” Flake said.
Moments after Flake’s speech, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump, arguing that history would judge the president’s achievements over “some petty comments” from senators.