- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake unburdened himself and burdened the rest of us Tuesday with what may rank as one of the worst-delivered nationally televised speeches in the history of the U.S. Senate.

His message: I will not seek a second term.

It took him 17 minutes to say that. He stumbled oh-so-many times over oh-so-many of the 2,400 words he and/or his speechwriter(s) composed for him that you have to think he was unaccountably overconfident of his speechifying abilities, despite years of evidence to the contrary. He might have read the thing over a few times before attempting to utter its content.

Ok, he loused up the speech, but why is he not seeking a second term?

President Trump is to blame, he said without mentioning him by name.

Mr. Trump has so lowered the tone and content of discourse in the world, in the U.S. and, most intolerably, in the Senate (where Mr. Trump does not have seat to sit on, as I recall) that it’s now beneath Mr. flake’s dignity to remain seated in the Senate seat he does have until January 2019.

Seems Mr. Trump out-insulted the junior senator from Arizona, who had written and published a book devoted to insulting Mr. Trump. In that contest to see who can stream used water farther, the president won. Now Mr. Flake knows how Little Ted felt.

OK, the discourse in the Senate is beneath Mr. Flake, thanks to Mr. Trump’s bad qualities of speech and temperament.

So why’d he really forgo a run for a second term?

You think Steve Bannon’s thundering pledge to find and field a challenger to Mr. Flake might have had something to do with it?

You think these Flake words answer the question?

“It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, and who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican Party — the party that for so long has defined itself by belief in those things,” Mr. Flake said at one point in his endless speech.

You think osteopathic physician Kelli Ward’s beating Mr. Flake in polls of 2018 GOP primary voters has something to do with it?

Mr. Flake was never exactly a hero to most conservatives, despite his lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 93 (he did score under 80 in the two latest ratings).

Mr. Flake thinks populism is for — well, for anything but fiscal conservatives

Mr. Flake thinks Mr. Trump is a flake on immigration. An ethnocentrist. A nativist.

Mr. Flake’s problem is that he doesn’t really get “E Pluribus Unum.” He doesn’t understand why fears continue to grow that America is becoming the salad bowl so many of us feared instead of the melting pot that it was founded to be — that created something new and original in the world — an American, with a unique culture and worldview.

He thinks “America first” is, well, dangerously nationalistic.

Mr. Flake has missed a lot of the changes taking place in our land. What he won’t be is missed.

• Ralph Z. Hallow, chief political writer at The Washington Times, has covered Washington since 1982.

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