Jeff Flake - U.S. Senator ~ Arizona

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VIDEO: Flake Warns Against Mistreatment of American Allies

Condemns protectionist trade policies, abandonment of rules-based order

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) today spoke on the Senate floor to denounce the administration’s recent treatment of U.S. allies and trading partners. Flake repeated his condemnation of isolationism and urged his colleagues to speak out against the executive branch’s harmful rhetoric and actions:

“Attacking our friends is not who we are as a nation […] but I fear it is becoming the norm, Mr. President. And that is devastating, and it is a reality we must face in this chamber. We continue to act here as if all is normal, and that all parties are observing norms. Even as the executive branch shatters them – robustly trafficking in conspiracy theories and attacking all institutions that don’t pay the president obeisance – our justice system, the free press, the list is getting longer.”

Video of Flake’s remarks can be viewed here.

A complete transcript of Flake’s prepared remarks can be viewed below.

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Mr. President,

The events of the past week – the baffling, inexplicable attacks on our closest allies by the administration one day, and the appalling praise for perhaps the most brutal dictator on earth the next – these events are not normal. This behavior is not normal. These upside-down values are not normal.

These actions mistake disruption for dynamism.

Empty bravado for bold displays of leadership. These actions are not serious or sober. They represent the opposite of statecraft, and the implications or such thoughtlessness for America, her allies and the world could be lasting and grave. 

A president is, in many ways, a steward of America’s foreign policy. Shaping it during their time – yes – but also understanding it is based on relationships and norms that have existed since long before they took office and will continue to exist long after they exit the political stage.

Over the past several months I have spoken of our abandonment of the international rules-based order that we took the lead in establishing. I have spoken of the profound implications of this abandonment. What it means to our economy, to national security, to our relations throughout the world.

This administration’s dangerous dance with protectionism and its unwarranted besmirching of our allies like Canada, are illustrative of precisely the kind of harmful implications I feared would become reality.

This is not a matter of one instance of a poor word choice or a single moment of absent-mindedness.

This attitude of contempt for those nations who share our values and respect for those who do not has been a common thread throughout the administration’s actions over the past 18 months.

It is disturbing when the American president and his administration is going on about the “great personality” of a murderous dictator Kim Jong-Un or how Kim “loves his country very much” while at the same time calling the Canadian Prime Minister “obnoxious” weak, and dishonest for merely pushing back against proposed tariffs, or declaring the European Union is “solidly against” the United States when it comes to trade policy.

Consistently ridiculing our allies by suggesting they are in some way abusing us, while voicing admiration for despots and dictators represents a fundamental departure in behavior for American administrations.

It represents a fundamental misunderstanding of our relationships with our allies.

It is understandable that we will have disagreements with allies, but that does not justify upending the international framework and foreign relations painstakingly constructed and cultivated by previous generations of leaders.

Issues we have with allies ought to be addressed through constructive dialogue, not bellicose taunts or bombastic tweets.

Such behavior is beneath the presidency and it is destructive to the position of global leadership this nation holds. And it projects to the world not American values, but some sort of creeping nihilism.

Mr. President, I am astonished to use that word – nihilism – to describe the actions of any administration, of any party – much less my own. But it is our obligation to call what is happening here by its name.

When we read this week in The Atlantic, quoting a senior White House official as saying that the ultimate goal of the administration is to destroy the international order so that America will as a matter of policy have “No Friends, No Enemies,” then nihilism is the only word for it.

If I may echo the sentiments of our absent colleague, Sen. McCain, I would like to make clear to our allies – from the Senate floor – that a bipartisan majority of Americans stand with you.

We stand in favor of the principles of free trade, which have brought about unprecedented prosperity around the world.

We stand in favor of preserving alliances based on 70 years of shared values, which have helped secure equally unprecedented peace and comity among nations.

As Sen. McCain plainly stated: Americans stand with you.

Attacking our friends is not who we are as a nation. It is not responsible diplomacy. It is not helpful to our goals as a nation. And it cannot become the norm.  

But I fear it is becoming the norm, Mr. President. And that is devastating, and it is a reality we must face in this chamber. We continue to act here as if all is normal, as if all parties are observing norms. Even as the executive branch shatters them – robustly trafficking in conspiracy theories and attacking all institutions that don’t pay the president obeisance – our justice system, the free press, the list is getting longer.

But this institution – the Article I branch of our government – is not an accessory to the executive branch. And we demean ourselves and our proper constitutional role when we act like we work for the president –that we are only here to do his bidding. Especially now.

And so, Mr. President, with the time I have left in this chamber, I will continue to speak out. And I would invite my colleagues who are disturbed by the recent treatment of our allies to do the same. But as vital as I feel it is to speak out, for the record and for history, it is clear than in such an unprecedented situation, words are not enough. Mr. Madison’s doctrine of the separation of powers tells us that it is our obligation to act.

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

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