The journalists at CBS This Morning on Monday alternated between praising former Senator Jeff Flake for his current stand against Donald Trump and complaining that the Republican didn’t take the stand sooner. Talking to the guest, co-host Tony Dokoupil played the role of good cop.
He quoted, “Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona served in the Senate from 2013 until last year. In September, he wrote in The Washington Post, ‘My fellow Republicans, it is time to risk your careers in favor of your principles. Whether you believe the President deserves impeachment you know he does not deserve re-election.’”
Co-host Gayle King, adopting the bad cop role, chiding that Flake’s opposition didn’t come soone enough: “You have said recently, ‘Fellow Republicans, there's still time to save your souls. You've also said politics can make us silent when... we should speak. Silence can equal complicity.’ Do you think, Senator, that you should have spoken up more?”
After not getting a satisfying answer, she repeated, “Do you wish you have spoken up more? It seems like if you do speak up, you don’t have a job.... But when you look back over it, I’m curious.”
Credit to Dokoupil for at least offering one attempt at a different point of view: “People who voted for these Republicans in the Senate, when they say, ‘Look we support the President, we voted for you. We want you to support the President also.' Isn't it fine and dandy from a voter perspective for them to tow the party line?”
In January of 2019, CBS welcomed the disaffected Republican as a new contributor. Then-co-host John Dickerson pushed him towards a primary challenge of Trump: “Before we start, I want to find out if you want anybody to call you president. You thought about running in 2020? Are you going to run?”
On March 12, 2019, King repeated this media push, wondering about a “secret” GOP challenger:
You made it clear you were not thinking about running against Donald Trump.... Is there anybody in your party who you've heard is secretly considering it that you would like to share with us today?.... Do you think somebody should run against him, senator?
CBS is so reflexively anti-Trump that they can’t keep their position on Flake straight: It’s either approval for standing up to the President, disapproval that he didn’t do it sooner or pushing him to run for president.
A partial transcript is below. Click "expand" to read more.
CBS This Morning
8:03 AM ET
TONY DOKOUPIL: Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona served in the Senate from 2013 until last year. In September, he wrote in The Washington Post, “My fellow Republicans it is time to risk your careers in favor of your principles. Whether you believe the President deserves impeachment you know he does not deserve re-election.” Jeff Flake is a CBS News contributor and joins us with his insight on the Senate. So, quite an op-ed you wrote there. People who voted for these Republicans in the Senate, when they say, ‘Look we support the President, we voted for you, we want you to support the President also.” Isn't it fine and dandy from a voter perspective for them to tow the party line?
FORMER SENATOR JEFF FLAKE: No, it’s not. We have separation of powers. Congress needs to stand up for its principles. Individual members do as well. It doesn't mean they won't agree with the president. Often if you're Republican you typically agree with a Republican president more often. But not all the time. Not to the extent particularly that the House Republicans did to say that the President did nothing wrong here.
DOKOUPIL: Have to go back and forth, the Trump administration is saying they do not want witnesses.
DOKOUPIL: The Democrats do want witnesses and they are going to need four Republican votes to get them. Looks like they might have three. But from your conversations behind-the-scenes, from your knowledge the way the Senate works and your former colleagues will that fourth vote appear?
ANTHONY MASON: They still need one more. There are other moderate Republicans who are vulnerable in this fall's election. Do you think there are others? I mean, how difficult is that decision to make?
KING: You have said recently, “Fellow Republicans, there's still time to save your souls. You've also said politics can make us silent when we speak — when we should speak. Silence can equal complicity.” Do you think, Senator, that you should have spoken up more? Do you regret you didn't speak up more? And Why is it so difficult for Republicans to speak up against this President when they don't believe what he's doing. Tell us why that's so hard?
FLAKE: Well, it's difficult because they want to keep their jobs and the President is extremely popular among Republican primary voters. That is a subset of a subset of a subset. There are those who decide who represent the party in the general election.
MASON: You said the President isn't the only one on trial. So are your Republican colleagues.
FLAKE: They are in a sense. This president won't be there forever. He'll either be gone by this time next year or four years from now. Then what happens to the Republican Party? My fear is people out there know that even if this is not an impeachable offense, that the President did something wrong and for Republicans to maintain that he didn't is just wrong. And this has long term ramifications for the party if we act as if we are just devoted to the President no matter what and this cult of personality that we've seen, we certainly saw it in the House.
KING: Do you wish you have spoken up more? It seems like if you do speak up, you don’t have a job.
DOKOUPIL: I think it cost him his job!
KING: But when you look back over it, I’m curious.
FLAKE: You always look back and say I could have done this different or that. But I did speak up. I decided that, you know, I would have to condone behavior I couldn't condone or accept positions that I couldn't accept if I wanted to win re-election. That's why I didn't run.
MASON: How do you think Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader is handling this so far in the Senate?
FLAKE: The fact that they will have a vote on witnesses after the president and the House presents their case, that speaks well for the President, I’m sorry for Mitch McConnell. That they’re doing it like they did in the Clinton hearings. I wouldn't have said as he did he would coordinate every move with the White House. That was speaking to a conservative group. That just says to people he won't be fair and impartial.
DOKOUPIL: Doesn't sound like impartial justice.