In the annals of epic Trump takedowns, before there was Flake there was Cruz

 

Good day Austin:

When the history of the Trump Era is written, yesterday’s floor speech by Sen. Jeff Flake, in which the Arizona Republican denounced the president as, well, a dangerous demagogue,  even as he announced he would not seek a second term in the Senate, may be remembered as high-minded inflection point, or perhaps the last gasp of a  dying order.

Either way, it is worth listening to and reading.

But, it is also worth recalling that this may be only the second most complete takedown of Trump by a fellow Republican. The first and foremost came on May 3, 2016, from Sen. Ted Cruz, not in a carefully written speech in the Senate chamber, but in an extemporaneous gaggle with reporters on the last day of his campaign for the presidency, in which Cruz described Trump as, well a dangerous demagogue.

Here, for history’s sake, are both of those epic denunciations.

JEFF FLAKE, Senator from Arizona: At a moment when it seems that our democracy is more defined by our discord and our dysfunction than by our own values and principles, let me begin by noting the somewhat obvious point that these offices that we hold are not ours indefinitely. We are not here simply to mark time. Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office and there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles. Now is such a time.

It must also be said that I rise today with no small measure of regret. Regret because of the state of our disunion. Regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics. Regret because of the indecency of our discourse. Regret because of the coarseness of our leadership.

Regret for the compromise of our moral authority, and by our, I mean all of our complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs. It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end. In this century, a new phrase has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and undesirable order, that phrase being the new normal.

But we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue with the tone set up at the top. We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country. The personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institution, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency.

The reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been elected to serve. None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that that is just the way things are now.

If we simply become inured to this condition, thinking that it is just politics as usual, then heaven help us. Without fear of the consequences and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal. Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as telling it like it is when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified.

And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else. It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength because our strength comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit and weakness. It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, ‘Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up?’ What are we going to say?

Mr. President, I rise today to say: enough. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes the normal. With respect and humility, I must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it.

We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that. Here today I stand to say that we would be better served — we would better serve the country — by better fulfilling our obligations under the Constitution by adhering to our Article 1 — “old normal,” Mr. Madison’s doctrine of separation of powers. This genius innovation which affirms Madison’s status as a true visionary — and for which Madison argued in Federalist 51 — held that the equal branches of our government would balance and counteract with each other, if necessary.

“Ambition counteracts ambition,” he wrote. But what happens if ambition fails to counteract ambition? What happens if stability fails to assert itself in the face of chaos and instability? If decency fails to call out indecency? Were the shoe on the other foot, we Republicans — would we Republicans meekly accept such behavior on display from dominant Democrats?

Of course, we wouldn’t, and we would be wrong if we did. When we remain silent and fail to act, when we know that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseam, when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of our institutions and our liberty, we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.

Now, I’m aware that more politically savvy people than I will caution against such talk. I’m aware that there’s a segment of my party that believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect. If I have been critical, it is not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States.

If I have been critical, it is because I believe it is my obligation to do so. And as a matter and duty of conscience, the notion that one should stay silent — and as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters — the notion that we should say or do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.

A president, a Republican president named Roosevelt, had this to say about the president and a citizen’s relationship to the office: “The president is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able and disinterested service to the nation as a whole.”

He continued: “Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be — that there should be a full liberty to tell the truth about his acts and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.” President Roosevelt continued, “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president or that we are to stand by a president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

Acting on conscience and principle in a manner — is the manner — in which we express our moral selves and as such, loyalty to conscience and principle should supersede loyalty to any man or party. We can all be forgiven for failing in that measure from time to time. I certainly put myself at the top of the list of those who fall short in this regard. I am holier than none.

But too often we rush to salvage principle — not to salvage principle, but to forgive and excuse our failures so that we might accommodate them and go right on failing until the accommodation itself becomes our principle. In that way and over time, we can justify almost any behavior and sacrifice any principle. I am afraid that this is where we now find ourselves.

When a leader correctly identifies real hurt and insecurity in our country, and instead of addressing it, goes to look for someone to blame, there is perhaps nothing more devastating to a pluralistic society. Leadership knows that most often a good place to start in assigning blame is to look somewhat closer to home. Leadership knows where the buck stops.

Humility helps, character counts. Leadership does not knowingly encourage or feed ugly or debased appetites in us. Leadership lives by the American creed, “E pluribus unum.” From many one. American leadership looks to the world and just as Lincoln did, sees the family of man. Humanity is not a zero sum game. When we have been at our most prosperous, we have been at our most principled, and when we do well, the rest of the world does well.

These articles of civic faith have been critical to the American identity for as long as we have been alive. They are our birthright and our obligation. We must guard them jealously and pass them on for as long as the calendar has days. To betray them or to be unserious in their defense is a betrayal of the fundamental obligations of American leadership and to behave as if they don’t matter is simply not who we are.

Now the efficacy of American leadership around the globe has come into question. When the United States emerged from World War II, we contributed about half of the world’s economic activity. It would have been easy to secure our dominance keeping those countries who had been defeated or greatly weakened during the war in their place. We didn’t do that. It would have been easy to focus inward.

We resisted those impulses. Instead, we financed reconstruction of shattered countries and created international organizations and institutions that have helped provide security and foster prosperity around the world for more than 70 years.

Now it seems that we, the architects of this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom and prosperity, are the ones most eager to abandon it. The implications of this abandonment are profound and the beneficiaries of this rather radical departure in the American approach to the world are the ideological enemies of our values. Despotism loves a vacuum and our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. Why are they doing this? None of this is normal.

And what do we, as United States senators, have to say about it? The principles that underlie our politics, the values of our founding, are too vital to our identity and to our survival to allow them to be compromised by the requirements of politics because politics can make us silent when we should speak and silence can equal complicity. I have children and grandchildren to answer to.

And so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit or silent. I’ve decided that I would be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself of the political consideration that consumed far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles.

To that end, I’m announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019. It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative, who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican Party, the party that has so long defined itself by its belief in those things.

It is also clear to me for the moment that we have given in or given up on the core principles in favor of a more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment. To be clear, the anger and resentment that the people feel at the royal mess that we’ve created are justified. But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.

There is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal by mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle — the impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people. In the case of the Republican Party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking minority party.

We were not made great as a country by indulging in or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorifying in the things that divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake. And we did not become the beacon of freedom in the darkest corners of the world by flouting our institutions and failing to understand just how hard-won and vulnerable they are.

This spell will eventually break. That is my belief. We will return to ourselves once more, and I say the sooner the better. Because we have a healthy government, we must also have healthy and functioning parties. We must respect each other again in an atmosphere of shared facts and shared values, comity and good faith. We must argue our positions fervently and never be afraid to compromise. We must assume the best of our fellow man, and always look for the good.

Until that day comes, we must be unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it, because it does. I plan to spend the remaining 14 months of my Senate term doing just that.

Mr. President, the graveyard is full of indispensable men and women. None of us here is indispensable nor were even the great figures of history who toiled at these very desks, in this very chamber, to shape the country that we have inherited. What is indispensable are the values that they consecrated in Philadelphia and in this place, values which have endured and will endure for so long as men and women wish to remain free.

What is indispensable is what we do here in defense of those values. A political career does not mean much if we are complicit in undermining these values. I thank my colleagues for indulging me here today.

I will close by borrowing the words of President Lincoln, who knew more about healthy enmity and preserving our founding values than any other American who has ever lived. His words from his first inaugural were a prayer in his time and are now no less in ours.

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break the bonds of our affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely as they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

Nearly a year-and-half, and several political lifetimes ago, Cruz went before reporters in Evansville, Indiana on May 3, the day of the Indiana presidential primary, where Cruz’s presidential candidacy ended with Trump’s big victory.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This morning, Donald Trump went on national television and attacked my father.

Donald Trump alleges that my dad was involved in assassinating JFK. Now, let’s be clear. This is nuts. This is not a reasonable position. This is just kooky. And while I’m at it, I guess I should go ahead and admit, yes, my dad killed JFK, he is secretly Elvis, and Jimmy Hoffa is buried in his backyard.

You know, Donald’s source for this is “The National Enquirer.” “The National Enquirer” is tabloid trash. But it’s run by his good friend David Pecker, the CEO, who has endorsed Donald Trump. And so “The National Enquirer” has become his hit piece that he uses to smear anybody and everybody.

And this is not the first time Donald Trump has used David Pecker’s “National Enquirer” to go after my family. It was also “The National Enquirer” that went after my wife, Heidi, that just spread lies, blatant lies.

But I guess Donald was dismayed, because it was a couple of weeks ago “The Enquirer” wrote this idiotic story about JFK. And Donald was dismayed that the folks in the media weren’t repeating this latest idiocy, so he figured he would have to do it himself. He would have to go on national television and accuse my dad of that.

Listen, my father is has been my hero my whole life. My dad was imprisoned and tortured in Cuba. And when he came to America, he had nothing. He had $100 in his underwear. He washed dishes making 50 cents an hour. You know, he is exactly the kind of person Donald Trump looks down on.

I’m going to do something I haven’t done for the entire campaign. For those of you all who have traveled with me all across the country, I’m going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump.

This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying.

He accuses everybody on that debate stage of lying. And it’s simply a mindless yell. Whatever he does, he accuses everyone else of doing. The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist, a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen.

Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and goes, dude, what’s your problem? Everything in Donald’s world is about Donald. And he combines being a pathological liar — and I say pathological because I actually think Donald, if you hooked him up to a lie detector test, he could say one thing in the morning, one thing at noon, and one thing in the evening, all contradictory, and he would pass the lie detector test each time.

Whatever lie he’s telling, at that minute, he believes it. But the man is utterly amoral.

CRUZ: Let me finish this, please.

The man is utterly amoral. Morality does not exist for him. It’s why he went after Heidi directly and smeared my wife, attacked her. Apparently, she’s not pretty enough for Donald Trump. I may be biased, but I think, if he’s making that allegation, he is also legally blind.

But Donald is a bully. You know, we just visited with fifth-graders. Every one of us knew bullies in elementary school. Bullies don’t come from strength. Bullies come from weakness. Bullies come from a deep, yawning cavern of insecurity. There’s a reason Donald builds giant buildings and puts his name on them everywhere he goes.

And I will say there are millions of people in this country who are angry. They’re angry at Washington. They’re angry at politicians who have lied to them. I understand that anger. I share that anger. And Donald is cynically exploiting that anger. And he is lying to his supporters.

Donald will betray his supporters on every issue. If you care about immigration, Donald is laughing at you. And he’s telling the moneyed elites he doesn’t believe what he’s saying, he’s not going to build a wall. That’s what he told “The New York Times.”

He will betray you on every issue across the board. And his strategy of being a bully in particular is directed as women. Donald has a real problem with women. People who are insecure, people who are insecure about who they are — Donald is terrified by strong women.

He lashes out at them. Remember, this is the same Donald Trump who last week here in Indiana proudly touted the endorsement from Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist who served three years in prison here in Indiana for raping a 17-year-old girl. And in Donald’s world, he said Mike Tyson was a tough guy.

I don’t think rapists are tough guys. I spent a lot of years in law enforcement dealing with rapists. Rapists are weak. They’re cowards and they’re bullies. And anyone that thinks they’re a tough guy, that reveals everything about Donald Trump’s character.

Donald Trump said Bill Clinton was targeted by unattractive women. You know what? I have been blessed to be surrounded by strong women my entire life.

Today’s voting day here in Indiana. The president of the United States has a bully pulpit unlike anybody else. The president of the United States affects our culture. I ask the people of Indiana, think about the next five years if this man were to become president.

Think about the next five years, the boasting, the pathological lying, the picking up “The National Enquirer” and accusing people of killing JFK, the bullying. Think about your kids coming back and emulating this.

For people in Indiana who long for a day when we were nice to each other, when we treated people with respect, when we didn’t engage in sleaze and lies — and I would note one of the lies he engages in, listen, Donald Trump is a serial philanderer, and he boasts about it. This is not a secret. He’s proud of being a serial philanderer.

I want everyone to think about your teenage kids. The president of the United States talks about how great it is to commit adultery, and how proud he is, describes his battles with venereal disease as his own personal Vietnam. That’s a quote, by the way, on the Howard Stern show.

Do you want to spend the next five years with your kids bragging about infidelity? Now, what does he do? He does the same projection. Just like a pathological liar, he accuses everyone of lying. Even though he boasts about his infidelity, he plants in David Pecker’s “National Enquirer” a lie about me and my family, attacking my family. He accuses others of doing what he is doing. I will tell you, as the father of two young girls, the idea of our daughters coming home and repeating any word that man says horrifies me.

That is not who America is. And I would say to the Hoosier State, the entire country’s depending on you. The entire country is looking to you right now. It is only Indiana that can pull us back. It is only the good sense and good judgment of Indiana that can pull us back. We are staring at the abyss.

CRUZ: There is a broader dynamic at work, which is network executives have made a decision to get behind Donald Trump. Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes at FOX News have turned FOX News into the Donald Trump network. Rupert Murdoch is used to picking world leaders in Australia and the United Kingdom running tabloids, and we’re seeing it here at home with the consequences for this nation. Media executives are trying to convince Hoosiers, trying to convince Americans the race is decided. You have no choice. You are stuck between Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, either one of which is a horrific choice for this country.

And I will say the cynicism — and Donald is playing on the cynicism. He lets the media echo he cannot be beat. Hoosiers can prove that wrong. The people of Indiana can prove that wrong, and the country is depending on Indiana. If Indiana does not act, this country could well plunge into the abyss. I don’t believe that’s who we are. We are not a proud, boastful, self-centered, mean-spirited, hateful, bullying nation.

If you want to understand Donald Trump, look no further than the interview he did a few months ago in Iowa when he was asked a very simple question — when is the last time you asked god for forgiveness? And Donald Trump said he had never asked God for forgiveness for anything. I want you to think about that. What does that say about a person? I have asked God for forgiveness three times today. Your children, do you want your children coming home and saying, mommy, I don’t need to ask God for forgiveness for anything. Why? Because Donald Trump doesn’t, and he if he doesn’t, and everyone likes him, all the media praises him, I don’t need to either.

I love this nation with all my heart. I love the people of this country. This is not who we are. These are not our values. If anyone has seen the movie “Back to the Future II,” the screenwriter says that he based the character Biff Tannen on Donald Trump. A caricature of a braggadocious, arrogant buffoon who builds giant casinos with giant pictures of him everywhere he looks. We are looking potentially at the Biff Tannen presidency. I don’t think the people of America want that. I don’t think we deserve that. I don’t think Hoosiers want that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, these are some of the strongest words you’ve used against Donald Trump yet. You know I have been with you, I heard you talk about him. Today feels different for you. I’m going to ask you a question and you’re going to say I sound like a broken record —

CRUZ: You sound like a broken record.

CRUZ: Does someone else have a record?

CRUZ: You have asked one already, Hallie.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will you support him as the nominee. I don’t understand why you won’t answer the question, Senator. If you say he’s a liar — if you say he’s a pathological liar —

CRUZ: Hallie, you have asked one already.

CRUZ: Go ahead, Jessica.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, when you talk about Midwestern values and the common sense and good judgment, if Hoosiers don’t pick you today, does that mean they consider things a different way when the northeast voted and you could say those are Trump’s neighbors?

CRUZ: There is no doubt this Indiana primary has national significance. The media is trying desperately to convince you it’s over, I’ll tell you if Hoosiers come out and vote, if you pick up the phone and you call your friends, you call your neighbors, if Hoosiers come out today and vote and say no, this is not who we are, this is not America, that will change the entire trajectory of this campaign, of this primary. It will pull us back from the cliff. Indiana can do it. Indiana can pull us back, but it takes Hoosiers showing up and voting today. And the country is looking to Indiana. It’s looking to the judgment of the good men and women of this state.

Heidi and I and Carly, we have traveled the state showing Hoosiers respect, asking for their support, answering their questions, all the while Donald Trump laughs at the people of this state, laughs, bullies, attacks, insults, I don’t believe that’s America, and it is my hope, it is my prayer, that Hoosiers will come out and vote today in record numbers to say to this who we are. We are a people who believe in goodness. We are a people who believe in manners. We are a people who believe in generosity. We are a people who believe in honesty. We are a people who believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is America. That is the America I love. It’s the America my father fled Cuba to come to. We’re fighting for this nation. We’re fighting for who we are for the very soul and character of this nation, and it is quite literally in the hands Hoosiers across this state.

 

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