VIDEO: Senator Jeff Flake Talks with Trevor Noah about Trump's Tweets & More
GOP Senator and "Conscience of a Conservative" author Jeff Flake explains how President Trump has lowered political discourse and reacts to a mass shooting at a Texas church with Trevor Noah on Comedy Central's THE DAILY SHOW.
Watch the full interview here.
On Trump's Approach to Politics: "I think when discourse is as Donald Trump has waged politics, when you can't say anything good about your opponents, when you refer to your opponents on the other side of the aisle as clowns or losers, then in order to fix the big things that we need to fix, and there are big things out there - $20 trillion of debt, we need tax reform, we need immigration reform - these things are only fixed if we reach across the aisle, when both parties say all right, let's share the political risk. You can't do that when you have a president who just assumes the worst in people, who assumes, as you have said before, that if somebody is winning, somebody else has to be losing. And you know, we'll just never get there if we play politics like that.""
On How It Was So Easy For Trump to Hijack the Republican Party: "I was in the house from 2000 to 2012 and during that time I felt the party drifted. We couldn't be the party of fiscal conservatism when we were ballooning deficits and our debt, and so we started to wage in the culture wars. We started to argue about flag burning, for example, and things like that and we just have gotten further and further down that road, and I think Donald Trump latched on that and put it into hyper-drive. And I think, unfortunately, voters have gone along with it. At some point this fever will cool and we'll realize that resentment and anger is not a governing philosophy. You might be able to win an election here or there, but what are you left with? You're left with the inability to actually sit down across the aisle from your colleagues on the other side of the aisle - political opponents, whatever you want to call them - and actually do something. I think when the voters realize that anger and resentment is not a governing philosophy, then we'll come back to traditional conservatism. I'm a conservative. I believe that conservative policies, limited government, economic freedom, individual responsibility, those are the principles that have animated the party for a couple of generations, ever since Barry Goldwater. That's a governing philosophy. But just inventing nicknames for your opponents, that's not a philosophy. That's a game."
On His Decision Not to Run For Re-Election and How He'll Spend His Remaining Time in Office: "I've got 14 months left in the Senate and so that's time to actually speak out. I think now is a very critical time. And I had a choice, do I engage in politics for another 14 months or do I actually speak out, because I can tell you, you can't win a Republican primary these days by saying that 'Hey, this is how I feel, and this behavior by a president I don't condone, these policies I don't agree with.' Unfortunately, there's a narrowing path for Republicans, traditional Republicans like me, to win a Republican primary. It didn't used to be that you had to agree with the president on everything or condone every behavior of a president in order to have the support of your party, but that's kind of where we've gone. And for me, I thought it was more important for the next 14 months for me to speak out. Somebody has to stand up and say this is not normal and we shouldn't accept behavior like this."
On Trump's Tweets and How He Deals With Them: "Well, I can tell you, nobody can respond to every tweet, and you get kind of tweet fatigue when you wake up in the morning and say, 'Oh no, what did he say.' So I wouldn't expect everybody to stand up every time he tweets something inane, but when he comes out like he did on Friday and basically directs his FBI, 'Go after the Democrats,' that's something. I have lived in Zimbabwe, that's something Mugabe would do. That's something you would expect of a tin-horn dictator, not us. And so I would expect, and I hope that my colleagues stand up when our institutions are being threatened, when our separation of powers is under assault, and for congress to take its rightful role. We're Article 1 Branch. The president is not our boss. We are his equal and we pass legislation, he signs it or vetoes it, but we shouldn't simply allow statements that he makes like this, or actions that he takes that are significant that would undermine the institutions that we've built for so many years. We shouldn't allow that to go unchecked."
On Jobs: "We manufacture twice what we did in the 1980s with one-third fewer workers. So there are going to be people displaced, no doubt about it. What a real leader will do is point to a shuttered factory and not blame a free trade agreement but say this is automation, this is mechanization, this is modernization, and let's find out how, we can make sure that people who used to have those jobs can get better jobs. And instead of just scapegoating groups or individuals as I think the president has done. So I do think that Republicans first and foremost, and conservatives I should say, ought to offer honesty. Some jobs won't come back, but here is job training that we can do better so there are other jobs in the future."
On Gun Control: "I was on the baseball field this summer when the shooter shot a colleague, Steve Scalise, and watched bullets pitching all around me. And that man didn't have a mental illness, that we know of at least. He legally acquired his fire arm. Some things are going to be difficult to legislate, and it's a culture, and I can tell you my first thought as I turned and saw bullets hitting the gravel right in front of me, running for cover in the dugout, I thought 'Us? Here?' How can somebody see a bunch of middle-aged, you know, congressman playing baseball and see the enemy. It's kind of a new culture that we're in. So there are things that we can legislate and that we should legislate. Other things are going to be more difficult."
On Immigration: "I recently wrote about a man named Manuel Chaidez who came across when he was 16 years old, worked on a ranch for 24 years and then raised his family in Snowflake and was living the American Dream, as is his family. All he had to offer was a strong back and the willingness to work. And America is better because he's here, and I think that that has been the immigrant experience more than anything. I've never been able to look at people like him - he came initially illegally - but I've never been able to look at him and people like him as a criminal class. They wanted to make a better life for their family. They are Americans by choice. Obviously, these days we can't have open borders, shouldn't have open borders. We've got to guard against terrorism and things like that, but we ought to recognize that, you know, this is a pretty good place, and those who come here usually want a better life. And they're willing to work for it. And our country is better off for it. And I hope that in the future the Republican party gets back to being known for that and then not blaming or scapegoating immigrant groups."