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Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake's courage of conscience

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"In American politics, it is important not to be right on an issue before its time,” columnist Walter Lippman wrote in the early 1970’s. Lippman cited the defeat of both members of the United States Senate, Ernest Gruening of Alaska and Wayne Morse of Oregon, who had been the only members of that body who had voted against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that allowed President Lyndon Johnson to escalate American military involvement in Vietnam.

More recently, the career of former Vice President Al Gore, who presciently warned about the dangers of global warming, and was defeated by the genial George W. Bush in the race for the presidency in 2000, lends additional credence to the columnist’s observation.  

The record flooding that has taken place in the U.S. and other parts of the world, along with the melting of glaciers that is ongoing, is proof that global warming is real.

A future example of that principle is possibly being played out right now in the response of some Republican leaders to the presidency of Donald Trump.

Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona has eloquently spoken in the Senate of how Trump is dividing Americans and creating rifts in the body politic that will be difficult to heal, as well as setting a poor example for the nation’s young people by his personal attacks on others and his often deceitful statements.  And GOP Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who chairs the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has echoed Flake’s concerns and has also raised the issue of Trump’s mental stability.

Both lawmakers also announced that they would not be running for reelection next year when they voiced their criticism of the nation’s chief executive. The conventional wisdom is that both men feared that they would face a challenger in their respective Republican primaries due to their public statements criticizing Trump.

It should also be noted that both Flake and Corker are card-carrying conservatives as reflected in their voting records, and their only deviation from the GOP party line is their critiques of the president.

“A dime store Stalinist” is how one commentator described Steve Bannon, the former aide to Trump who has embarked on a public plan to purge any remaining Republican members of the U.S. Senate who do not pledge their loyalty to Trump. And while Bannon claims credit for the victory of Roy Moore in the recent GOP Primary in Alabama over sitting Republican Senator Luther Strange, he did not get involved in the campaign until its final months.

Strange, the former Alabama Attorney General, was burdened with baggage regarding his initial appointment to the Senate. Then- Governor Robert Bentley's decision to appoint Strange came under immediate scrutiny because Strange, as attorney general, was investigating the second-term governor for impropriety while in office. It was thought that his appointment may have been a quid pro quo for not pursuing the investigation with thoroughness, and the GOP primary voters in Alabama may have been wary of him as a result.

How influential Bannon and his divisive tactics really are with the GOP electorate in other states remains to be seen.

And it is probable that after the Trump era in American politics is over, Jeff Flake and Bob Corker will be seen as courageous men who were among the first leaders of the Republican Party to speak out against Donald Trump.

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About the Author

Bill O'Brien

Bill O'Brien is an attorney based in Oklahoma City.

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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