Electoral Indifference in Arizona Wildcard for Trump By Luke Perry and Paul Joyce
Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake are among the most outspoken Republican critics of President Trump. Neither voted for Trump in 2016, so this is not a total surprise. McCain is as forthright as he has been in years since he’s not running for reelection. Flake seems at ease with being among the most vulnerable Republican Senators thanks to his unwillingness to fall in line behind Trump, as other Trump critics in the Senate, like Ted Cruz (TX), John Thune (SD), and Cory Gardner (CO), have done.
The Senators from Arizona will prioritize their convictions over party. This is something that should concern President Trump.
Both have expressed frustration with how controversy and drama has stalled enactment of GOP policy priorities. Mexico and Canada are Arizona’s biggest trading partners, so both strongly support NAFTA in contrast to the President. And both have been critical of Trump’s handling of James Comey.
McCain criticized the timing of his firing, which was permissible, but no explanations presented by Trump were reasonable justifications. McCain believed this is only the beginning, comparing the controversy to Watergate scandal, while citing Ronald Reagan during the Iran-Contra affair as a model of how a president should handle a damaging scandal. Similarly, Flake criticized the timing and found Trump’s rationale unacceptable. Unlike McCain, Flake faced criticism from his primary challenger Kelli Ward, who mirrored the White House’s rhetoric on the subject.
McCain called for an independent investigation months ago, believing appointing a special committee would be the most effective course of action, but stopping short of calling for a special prosecutor. Flake stated that the Senate Judiciary Committee should “take whatever oversight steps are necessary to ensure that the ongoing Russia investigation in the Department of Justice is undertaken properly,” including subpoenaing tapes (if they exist) and any other evidence.
Senator McCain’s bizarre questioning of James Comey last week drew attention, when he incoherently questioned why the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton was concluded, while the one of the Trump administration continues. The Senator saved faced via Twitter with some self-deprecating humor. More importantly, McCain made news yesterday stating that American leadership was better under President Obama. While he has previously critiqued Trump’s leadership, this was a remarkable from a former GOP presidential nominee.
Senators McCain and Flake are a bit of an oddity in a Congress with partisanship at historically high levels. What they will say next, and how this impacts President Trump and their GOP colleagues, could become a major subplot as impeachment proceeding move from a remote possibility to potential reality, particularly if Donald Trump fires special prosecutor Robert Mueller, as the president is reportedly considering.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Professor of Government at Utica College. His column Sound Off! critiques various aspects of American politics.
Paul Joyce is an MPA Candidate at the University of Albany.