Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican, tore into President Donald Trump on the Senate floor Wednesday over what Flake describes as behavior from the president that is taking “a very dangerous path.”
Specifically, Flake took Trump to task for the latter’s attacks on the media, and for suggesting that news reports that shone a negative light on the president were “fake news.”
“No longer can we compound attacks on truth with our silent acquiescence,” Flake said. “No longer can we turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to these assaults on our institutions.”
Flake elaborated on the disturbing issue of Trump’s harsh media critiques.
"An American president who cannot take criticism — who must constantly deflect and distort and distract — who must find someone else to blame — is charting a very dangerous path. And a Congress that fails to act as a check on the president adds to the danger," he said.
Trump’s attacks on the media have been unprecedented in the modern presidency. He has called reports he finds critical of his administration “fake news” many times over, mentioning the term in more than 150 tweets alone since his inauguration, according to a search on the Trump Twitter Archive. That number doesn’t include the numerous statements he’s made in other mediums deriding news coverage of his presidency, nor the suggestion that he would create a “Fake News” award for organizations he deemed “most corrupt and biased.”
Trump even called the media “the enemy of the American people” in a tweet back in February.
That type of talk is dangerous, Flake said, and reminiscent of words a former Soviet Union leader once frequently employed against his own detractors.
“It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies,” Flake said. “It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase 'enemy of the people,' that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use.”
Flake is not running for re-election to his Senate seat, and that allows him to speak up against the president without political consequence. It’s also rumored that Flake may consider running against the president in a Republican primary election, a proposition he hasn’t yet formally ruled out.
Even if he doesn’t run, it’s important to note the significance of Flake’s opposition to Trump. Unlike countless other Republicans, Flake is putting his country ahead of his party, refusing to accept Trump’s demeanor and vicious lines of attacks as acceptable or normal. If more of his colleagues were willing to do the same, the country might be in a better place than it currently is today.