Fox News host Martha MacCallum grilled former Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake on Monday over his controversial decision to endorse Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.
What’s the background?
Ahead of the Republican National Convention, Flake formally endorsed Biden, along with more than two dozen other former members of Congress, including prominent lawmakers like Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) and Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.).
The Biden campaign said:
These former members of Congress cited Trump’s corruption, destruction of democracy, blatant disregard for moral decency, and urgent need to get the country back on course as a reason why they support Biden. These former members of Congress are supporting Joe Biden because they know what’s at stake in this election and that Trump’s failures as president have superseded partisanship.
What happened in the interview?
Republicans and conservatives who refuse to support Trump often cite his policies — that they are neither conservative nor do they authentically represent what the Republican Party has historically advocated.
So how can a conservative endorse Biden because they oppose Trump’s policies, when Biden’s policies are even less conservative than Trump’s? MacCallum sought to expose whether Flake endorsed Biden based on his policies or his personality.
MacCallum asked, “Joe Biden, he has said that, ‘If I’m elected, I will be the most progressive president in history.’ How do you, as a lifetime Republican, support someone who has that goal?”
In response, Flake justified Biden’s comments by deferring to the fact that Biden made them during a presidential primary rife with ultra-liberal candidates.
“I think, if you look at Joe Biden’s record, he’s not been that,” Flake said. “He’s a creature of the Senate. He knows how to compromise. He knows how to work across the aisle, and I’m confident he will do that in the future.”
MacCallum later responded, “I’m just trying to figure out in terms of actual policy what it is that you really like in Joe Biden as a lifelong Republican.”
For example, MacCallum noted how Flake had long supported the First Step Act, a major criminal justice reform bill — and that it was Trump, not former President Barack Obama, who signed the legislation into law.
“The president was actually able to sign that into law,” MacCallum said. “We had eight years of the Obama-Biden administration and they did not take action on that. So why support Joe Biden over President Trump?”
Flake responded by noting that the Obama administration, with the help of Biden, helped appropriate more money for border security. But beyond that, he did not note other areas of policy agreement with the former vice president.
“I’ve been supportive of many of the things that the president has pushed –” Flake began to say.
“But you just don’t like his character,” MacCallum interjected.
Later, when MacCallum confronted Flake with the fact that he and Biden differ on education policy — school choice, for example — the former Arizona senator again seemed unable to reconcile his principled stand against Trump with his support for Biden.
“I think [Biden] will preserve the public space so that we can go back to disagreeing about policy and not just this ripe tribalism that we see today,” Flake said.
Martha grills Jeff Flake on if he’s backing Biden on policy or personality