THE MORNING PLUM:

Sen. Jeff Flake’s dramatic stand against President Trump continues with a piece in The Post that lays out his indictment, in a tone that aspires to catapult this confrontation into the ranks of other moments of world-historical grandeur and weightiness. Flake (R-Ariz.) invokes Joseph Welch’s famous clash with Sen. Joseph McCarthy — “have you no sense of decency, sir?” — and though Flake doesn’t compare himself to Welch, he hopes to precipitate the kind of moral awakening about the degradation of Trumpism that followed from Welch’s similar j’accuse moment.

This comes after Flake delivered a barn-burner speech making similar points, and after fellow Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) blisteringly warned that Trump’s temperament and character threaten untold damage to the country and the world. Flake even called on Republicans to stop enabling Trump. “We must be unafraid to stand up and speak out,” he said.

AD
AD

There is great value in Flake’s demand of his own party, and in the fact that both senators are forcing a public discussion of Trump’s mental unfitness for the presidency and the GOP’s complicity in this disaster. But if they are really going to “speak out” and challenge other Republicans to do the same, there is a lot more to discuss. In that regard, here are five questions for you, Sens. Flake and Corker:

Does the GOP’s continuing plutocratic tilt bear some blame for Trumpism? Just after you heroically denounced Trumpism, virtually every Senate Republican — including you both — voted to kill a rule that allowed consumers to bring class-action suits against financial services companies, a massive giveaway to Wall Street. You both voted for health-care bills that would have left millions uninsured to facilitate a huge tax cut for the rich. You both will vote for the coming tax reform that will massively slash taxes for the wealthy while conferring no obvious benefit on the working and middle classes.

Defend those votes if you will. But Trump’s ascension was fueled in part by his broad condemnation of the GOP’s pro-plutocratic tilt, hostility to social insurance and lack of a real agenda for workers. That turned out to be pure fraudulence, but still: What is your limited government conservatism (which you want to maintain as the central GOP governing philosophy against the Trumpist threat) offering to GOP voters who finally heard a GOP candidate at least seeming to speak to their economic woes? Is there a paucity of vision here that bears some blame for Trumpism taking hold?

AD
AD

Shouldn’t the GOP condemn Trump’s dismissal of the Russia probes and nonstop lies about our democracy? It’s good that you both cast Trump as a threat to our civic institutions and to liberal democracy itself. But shouldn’t the party be taking the Russia probes more seriously and prodding Trump to stop dismissing them as a hoax? They are meant to determine how a hostile foreign power sabotaged our democracy and how to stop that from happening again. Shouldn’t Republicans be directly condemning Trump’s efforts to undermine our chances of doing that effectively? Shouldn’t they be doing more themselves to bolster this effort? Shouldn’t you — and your party — speak out more forcefully against Trump’s nonstop lies about how millions voted illegally in our elections, which undermine faith in our institutions and in liberal democracy’s integrity?

Shouldn’t Republicans do more to prod Trump to release his tax returns? Both of you rightly blasted Trump for degrading our democratic norms. But even if you want tax cuts (that will overwhelmingly benefit the rich, including Trump himself in a big way), what is the justification for the GOP failure to even try to shed light for the public on how it will impact Trump’s bottom line? Doesn’t this failure help Trump degrade a basic norm of transparency that you think is worth safeguarding, and reward the very contempt for our norms on Trump’s part that you are condemning?

Should the GOP really make a home for lawless bigot Roy Moore? You both repeatedly condemned Trump’s bigotry and racism. Moore, who will likely be the next GOP senator from Alabama, has been removed from the judicial bench for putting God’s law above U.S. law, is a raging anti-Muslim bigot and birther (just like Trump), and has said homosexuality should be illegal. Shouldn’t more Republicans declare him unfit to serve? Some Republicans actually mumbled weak justifications about how Moore will be for tax cuts (for the rich). Is welcoming Moore into the GOP caucus really a good way to strike a blow against Trumpism, senators?

AD
AD

Shouldn’t you say whether you think Trump should be removed? If you believe Trump is profoundly unfit for his office, and poses such immense dangers to the country and the world, doesn’t that mean it’s time to start talking about impeachment or the 25th Amendment? This doesn’t necessarily have to be tantamount to a call for removal. There is a strong case that the sum total of Trump’s degradations justifies at least initiating the conversation about removal, perhaps via a formal impeachment inquiry. Do you believe it is time for this conversation to begin, including among members of your own party?

And that’s only a start. We’ll have more in a future post.

* NO REPUBLICANS FOLLOW FLAKE IN BLASTING TRUMP: Flake announced his retirement with a fiery anti-Trump speech, but Carl Hulse notes that no Republican senators seem inclined to agree (publicly) with his indictment of the president:

AD
AD
Most congressional Republicans are loath to do or say anything that could upset Mr. Trump and risk provoking an early-morning Twitter tirade from the White House when they are trying to delicately piece together a complex tax agreement. … none joined [Flake] publicly in urging Republicans to stand up more defiantly to the president.

As Corker has told us, Republicans know Trump is unfit for the presidency and a danger to the world, but those tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations must not get derailed!

* QUOTE OF THE DAY, EYES-ON-THE-PRIZE EDITION: Two GOP senators have just blasted Trump as unfit for the presidency, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) keeps the focus on what really matters:

“There’s a lot of noise out there,” said Mr. McConnell, who made clear what the interests of the party are. “Tax reform is what we are about.”

And of course, Flake and Corker will vote for the coming massive tax cuts for the rich and corporations, so maybe McConnell is right.

* SPECIAL BONUS QUOTE OF THE DAY, EYES-ON-THE-PRIZE EDITION: Corker blasted Trump as a danger to the world, which prompted a volley of Trump rage-tweets. Jonathan Cohn flags this doozy of a comment on their dust-up, from House Speaker Paul Ryan:

AD
“I know Bob, who supported the budget, wants to get tax reform,” Ryan said, “and I know the president wants to get tax reform.”

Anyone else noticing a pattern here?

* COULD FLAKE RETIREMENT SAVE SENATE FOR GOP? Politico reports that Republicans think the retirement of Flake, who was deeply unpopular, will allow a more electable Republican to beat wild-eyed Trumpist Kelli Ward in a primary and become the Arizona nominee:

AD
Democrats’ narrow path back to the Senate majority in 2018 runs directly through Arizona, and a Republican hold there would close it completely. … Republicans are now floating a number of other candidates for Senate, looking for a contender who can draw support from the Trump White House and the establishment.

Of course, there is no guarantee Ward won’t win the nomination, which would mean Democrats have a very good pickup opportunity here.

* THE CENTRIST DEMOCRAT RUNNING IN ARIZONA: Democrats appear bullish on Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s chances at winning the now-open seat, and The Post sums up her conservative record:

Sinema was one of just 11 Democrats to vote for legislation that would make it easier to deport immigrants who are gang members, and one of just seven to vote for legislation that would deny Affordable Care Act subsidies to undocumented immigrants. In a study by the data journalism site FiveThirtyEight, Sinema voted for Trump-favored legislation 51 percent of the time, more than almost any Democrat.

One question is whether Sinema will face a progressive primary challenge. Her vote on upcoming legislation for the “dreamers” will be key to watch.

AD

* HERE’S A CHALLENGE FOR REPUBLICANS: The Post editorial board makes a great point about the Flake/Corker challenge to Trumpism:

Republicans who fancy themselves true conservatives, such as Mr. Flake, should stand up against Mr. Trump’s noxious politics, as the senator implored on Tuesday. But they have to do more than that. They have to fashion an agenda and a political style that can compete successfully in primaries against Trumpism. Until they do, all the eloquence in the world will not be enough.

And as noted above, how about taking on Trump in substantive ways that could make a difference, such as demanding he release his tax returns and take the Russia probes seriously?

* AND TRUMP STRIKES BACK: Good morning, Mr. President:

Yep, Trump appears to think this whole situation is a big win for him.

AD
AD