Jeff Flake says ‘enough’ to Trump in blistering op-ed

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Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, arrives for the start of a closed-door security briefing at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (CBS News) Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., delivered a pointed message to President Trump in an op-ed in the Washington Post on Wednesday, the day after he rattled the political world by announcing he would not seek re-election in 2018.

In a piece headlined “Enough,” Flake compares the political climate to that of the McCarthy era in the 1950s, applauding the efforts of Joseph Welch, chief counsel for the Army at the time of the Army-McCarthy hearings, who delivered a stunning rebuke to McCarthy, asking the senator, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

“The moral power of Welch’s words ended McCarthy’s rampage on American values, and effectively his career as well,” wrote Flake. “Welch reawakened the conscience of the country. The moment was a shock to the system, a powerful dose of cure for an American democracy that was questioning its values during a time of global tumult and threat. We had temporarily forgotten who we were supposed to be.”

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The Republican writes that the country faces similar times today, saying that “we have again forgotten who we are supposed to be.”

Flake referred to political discord being sowed in the era of Trump, a “sickness in our system — and it is contagious.”

The senator points to Trump’s recent controversy surrounding his contacts with Gold Star families and what he calls the president’s “childish insults” being hurled at a “hostile foreign power,” likely referring to Trump’s tweets at North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

“How much more damage to our democracy and to the institutions of American liberty do we need to witness in silence before we count ourselves as complicit in that damage?” Flake asks.

Flake, who told “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday that “it’s time we stand up and be a little more forceful” to the president, wrote “we can no longer remain silent, merely observing this train wreck, passively as if waiting for someone else to do something.”

He added, “The longer we wait, the greater the damage, the harsher the judgment of history.”

Trump has since responded to Flake’s comments, tweeting that Flake and his Republican colleague, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who has also announced he will not seek reelection and has condemned the president’s behavior, dropped out of their Senate races because “they had zero chance of being elected. Now act so hurt & wounded!”

The president added in a follow-up tweet, “Jeff Flake, with an 18% approval rating in Arizona, said ‘a lot of my colleagues have spoken out.’ Really, they just gave me a standing O!”

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