Sen. Flake: GOP Compromised by ‘Extreme Nationalism,’ ‘Populism’
By Bill Hoffmann
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., the GOP lawmaker under fire for his criticism of Republican leadership in his new book “Conscience of a Conservative,” told Newsmax TV on Monday that his party desperately needs a follow a solid governing philosophy.
“When I started this book . . . I thought that our party was being compromised by concepts like nationalism or extreme nationalism, protectionism, populism,” Flake told “Newsmax Now” host Bill Tucker. “Those may win you an election, but they’re not much of a governing philosophy.
“The principles that have animated the movement for generations now [are] limited government, economic freedom, individual responsibility, free trade. Those things have served us well as a country, and I fear that some of those principles are in danger.”
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Not only at home, but in U.S. foreign policy, according to Flake, a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Real conservatism is a steadiness, and soberness, and predictability [with which] we should embrace our allies and recognize our adversaries,” he said. “And I’m concerned about that kind of foreign policy positions that we’ve taken as a party.”
The rise of populism is one issue, he told Tucker.
“As a conservative, you owe honesty to your constituents and my concern is that with populism – I’m not denying the popularity of populism, it’s called populism for a reason – it’s easy for a politicians to point to a shuttered factory and say, for example, hey those jobs were gone because of a trade deal,” he said.
“China took those jobs, or Mexico, when the truth is it’s probably more complex than that. We know it’s more complex than that, and I’m not denying that you can win some elections that way.
“What I’m skeptical of is if that is a governing philosophy, and if we can win future elections, because I think it’s a bit of a sugar high, populism is, and when you come down it’s not very pleasant politically.”
Still, he believes not all is lost, and the GOP can rally.
“I think we can show progress, and I commend the president for putting a good Cabinet together and filling the administration posts with some good people,” Flake said.
“I put out a press release the other day from my office actually praising the EPA in working with some of the federal regulators that we just haven’t been able to lately for years, and so there are some good changes on the regulatory front.”
Change in tax policy is also a must – and something that will need bipartisan work, Flake added.
“[We have] to get a hold of our deficit, which could be $1 trillion again in a couple of years and our massive, massive debt, $20 trillion, we’re going to have to strike a deal of some type that’s going to be required, let’s face it, to sitting down with our colleagues across the aisle,” he said.
“The prospect of that happening right now just seems almost nil, and I’m very concerned about that as a conservative that we aren’t addressing those issues . . . The deficit is a perfect example.
“The only good really restraints we’ve put on spending over the past four years have been when we have divided government, when both parties sat down and said let’s share the political risk.”
He believes, paradoxically, the party of limited government, Republicans, have “a hard time doing that when we’re in charge of both chambers and the White House, because the Democrats aren’t inclined to help, and they’ll just say, ‘we’ll win in the next election.'”
“So that makes it very difficult, but I have to say I think it’s more difficult when we assume or ascribe the worst motives to our political opponents,” Flake said. “If we call them losers or clowns, it’s just tough to actually sit down and reach agreements that will fulfill a conservative objective, and that’s one thing that concerns me about the administration.”