Jeff Flake is now Arizona’s senior senator, following the death of John McCain. His title will be short-lived, as Flake has already announced he wouldn’t seek re-election, mainly because he’s tired of the increasingly partisan, political maneuvering that has rendered the Republican-controlled Congress the most unpopular in American history.
Not that Flake hasn’t been partisan on most issues, but the Senator from my home state has, to his credit, been more of a free thinker than a staunch partisan. He’s definitely conservative, as you would expect from his small-town, Mormon heritage and background. He was born in Snowflake, Arizona, a community not named after snow, but after two Mormon pioneers, Lorenzo Snow and William Flake, the latter of whom is the Senator’s great-great grandfather. But he’s also been an outspoken critic of Donald Trump, disagreeing not so much with his policy, but with his lack of morals and ethics, his corrupt actions and his Machiavellian approach to just about everything. Unlike conservative Evangelicals, Mormons have stuck to their convictions when it comes to the qualifications of moral character and behavior consistent with faith. Flake decided to get out of the Senate rather than compromise his convictions for the sake of secular politics.
He was the one uncertain vote on the Senate judiciary committee when his fellow Republicans attempted to rush the process of recommending Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court nominee to the whole Senate. Flake isn’t worried about re-election and so was able to make a decision based on his own perspective, and not the party line. Of course, since the hearing, and the subsequent questioning of Kavanaugh and one of his accusers was rushed through, he announced that he would be supporting Kavanaugh. That was until he was confronted in an elevator by a group of women who had enough, and decided to show up and speak up.
It is unfortunate that it took the combination of a passionate confrontation in an elevator by a woman who was herself a victim of sexual assault, and a Senator cut loose from any obligation to a partisan agenda to get to the point where his vote, the necessary one for Kavanaugh to move forward, could influence the committee to do what was right and what proper procedure called for, and get the FBI involved in an investigation.
The week’s delay doesn’t slow down the process enough to endanger Kavanaugh’s potential appointment, but it does allow time to gather evidence that will either put the matter to rest by supporting Kavanaugh’s claim, or confirm his involvement in what his accusers say he did. Even at that, there will be some Republicans who have decided that it doesn’t matter, that “boys will be boys,” and will abandon the values and morals they held when they made similar accusations against Democrats just a couple of short decades back and decide that even if he did what he has been accused of doing, he’s still their guy for the Supreme Court.
If I were Kavanaugh, I’d be the leader in asking for an FBI investigation, especially if I were certain that I had not done anything of the sort of what I had been accused of doing. I’d want a credible investigation to say that they could not find a scrap or shred of evidence that I’d ever been involved in anything that would give even the most rabid partisan any doubt about the consistency of my morals and integrity. And I sure wouldn’t want to appear evasive, overly defensive, or opposed to a short delay and an investigation that would exonerate me. But Kavanaugh’s reaction to the hearing and to the news that there will be an investigation and a delay isn’t one that generates hope for a finding that he is innocent.
For a state that has had more than its fair share of quirky political disasters, Arizona has produced two Senators that have set the bar high when it comes to integrity in politics, and to how someone elected to represent all the people should behave. It is unfortunate that the country is losing the service of both of them in such a short period of time. McCain’s replacement, John Kyl, is a hard core partisan Republican who didn’t leave behind the same kind of legacy. Flake will be replaced by a woman, regardless of whether the Democrat or Republican wins the election, though the Democrat, current Congresswoman Kirsten Synema holds a large, double digit lead in the polls over her Republican opponent. Synema will be a strong voice for women in the Senate.
That Flake’s integrity was pushed to the front by his decision not to run, and by being a lame duck is a great argument for term limits for Congress. Three terms for a representative, one for a Senator.