Flake: Republicans in denial about Trump

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCorker pressed as reelection challenges mount -trillion debt puts US fiscal house on very shaky ground Senate votes down Paul's bid to revoke war authorizations MORE (R-Ariz.) on Monday said the Republican Party is in denial about President Trump’s first few months in office, calling for members of the GOP to speak out against some of the leader's rhetoric and policies.

“First, we shouldn’t hesitate to speak out if the president ‘plays to the base’ in ways that damage the Republican Party’s ability to grow and speak to a larger audience,” Flake wrote in an op-ed for Politico Magazine that quickly gained attention online. 

“Second, Republicans need to take the long view when it comes to issues like free trade: Populist and protectionist policies might play well in the short term, put they handicap the country in the long term.”

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“Third, Republicans need to stand up for institutions and prerogatives, like the Senate filibuster, that have served us well for more than two centuries,” Flake added.

The Arizona senator, who is up for reelection in 2018, reasoned that conservatives are partially responsible for Trump’s rise due to their focus on former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaGOP rep: North Korea wants Iran-type nuclear deal Dems fear lasting damage from Clinton-Sanders fight Iran's president warns US will pay 'high cost' if Trump ditches nuclear deal MORE rather than “advancing a conservative policy agenda.” 

“It was we conservatives who, upon Obama’s election, stated that our number-one priority was not advancing a conservative policy agenda but making Obama a one-term president—the corollary to this binary thinking being that his failure would be our success and the fortunes of the citizenry would presumably be sorted out in the meantime,” Flake continued.

Flake has previously criticized Trump and on Monday again slammed the administration for its rhetoric about Russia’s election meddling. 

“Even as our own government was documenting a concerted attack against our democratic processes by an enemy foreign power, our own White House was rejecting the authority of its own intelligence agencies, disclaiming their findings as a Democratic ruse and a hoax,” Flake said. “Conduct that would have had conservatives up in arms had it been exhibited by our political opponents now had us dumbstruck.”

The senator, who recently said Republicans who don’t call Trump out are complicit, said the GOP has been in denial this year. Congress has so far failed to successfully pass healthcare legislation, while the administration has been forced to deal with multiple staff shake-ups and struggled with the rollout of its travel ban. 

“To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy required a determined suspension of critical faculties. And tremendous powers of denial,” Flake said.

Flake, who has a new book out, appeared on Fox News Monday night. 

"The White House has done some good things," Flake told host Bret Baier, citing the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and regulatory reforms. 

"We've got tax reform to go through," he added. "That's going to be a big lift. I don't think its as difficult as healthcare reform, but it is difficult" and will require a "very disciplined administration and Congress" to get it done. 

"I think we've about reached the limits of what we can do with one party," on healthcare, he said. "I think we're going to have to involve the other party."