Senator Jeff Flake

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Arizona Senator Jeff Flake will talk about the tumultuous presidential election and his view on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and other current issues critical to our state and nation.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on Arizona Horizon. A conversation with Arizona senator Jeff Flake. We'll get his thoughts on how Donald Trump's presidential campaign is impacting America in general and the Republican Party in particular. Senator Jeff Flake, next, on Arizona Horizon.

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Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon, I'm Ted Simons. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake has not been shy in his concerns over Donald Trump's presidential campaign. But does Senator Flake support Trump for president, and what does the senator think is happening to the Republican Party in the wave of the Trump campaign. U.S. Senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, joins us now on Arizona Horizon. Good to see you again.

Jeff Flake: Thanks. Good to be here.

Ted Simons: All right. Let's get it going here. Do you support Donald Trump for president?

Jeff Flake: No. I would like to. It is not a comfortable position to not support the nominee of the party. Let me just say I don't support Hillary Clinton. I will not vote for Hillary Clinton. But I can't, at this time, vote for Donald Trump. I would like to but not now.

Ted Simons: You going to vote in the election?

Jeff Flake: You bet. There is a lot of down ballot races I am concerned about. I think he cannot win if he continues to take the positions he has taken and campaign the way he has and using the language he has used. So he cannot win and frankly shouldn't win if he continues to use this language and state these positions.

Ted Simons: There was a letter from a hundred elected officials from the Republican National Convention calling Trump divisive, reckless, incompetent. Do you agree?

Jeff Flake: They can use their own words. I am not use them. I just say he should not be our nominee and using the language he has used and taking the positions he has taken he should not be the nominee.

Ted Simons: Do you believe the Republican National Committee should shift resources away from the Trump presidential campaign and focus on keeping the House and the Senate?

Jeff Flake: Well in every race, take '96 for example, Bob Dole was our nominee. He had full support of the Republican Party but it wasn't enough and he wasn't going to get there. Everybody knew it so the Senate committee spent a lot of time focusing on the Senate as did the overall republican committees, the Republican National Convention, just to make sure they were shored up. It will be tough to see if we see Hillary Clinton in office appointing Supreme Court nominees. It will be even tougher if she does so and they are confirmed by a democratic Senate. So I do hope we shore up the senate. Right now, if the election were today it would be very dicey.

Ted Simons: Would you rather see the resources away from Trump and toward House and Senate?

Jeff Flake: Yes. I just think that given the campaign that he is waging, you know, some people think he will change. I hope that he does. I would like to be able to support him. I am not part of the Never Trump movement but given the campaign he is running I cannot support him.

Ted Simons: After the Mitt Romney defeat, what came out of it was the Republican Party needed to campaign among blacks, Asian, Hispanics and LGBT community to show we, the Republican Party, care about them too. What happened?

Jeff Flake: We forgot it about it likely. Donald Trump is likely to do far worse among those demographics and groups than our previous nominees did. So it was an autopsy that was spot on. We will get right back to it. I think we will have another autopsy after this election. I hope we don't go to the other direction.
We cannot afford to. This is very troubling what we are hearing but the poll out earlier this week that showed among those under age 35, I think, Hillary Clinton had a 56 20 advantage meaning that I think 1 in 5 people under 35 are going to pull the Republican lever. That is unacceptable. That not only bodes ill for this election but perhaps for decades to come

Ted Simons: How divided is the Republican Party right now over Donald Trump?

Jeff Flake: Pretty divided. There are those of us that believe the principles the Republican Party has stood for limited government, economic freedom, strong national defense, and we say how does that square with the nominee who seems to go out of his way to simply offend every demographic that we need to win this election? It doesn't make sense to me.

Ted Simons: I think for a lot of folks it doesn't make sense. We talked about the post mortem, the autopsy. We wound up with Donald Trump. Republican establishment, and long-time republicans, yourself, John McCain and others don't see eye to eye with Trump, yet republican voters have chosen him. What happened?

Jeff Flake: Well I think we all know you can take an extreme position sometimes on a topic and win a primary particularly when there are multiple candidates. So you can get it taking the position but you cannot win a general that way. Donald Trump did well in the primary winning about 14 million votes. Just shy of 14 million, the problem is he has to get from 14 million to 65 million. When I had a conversation, the only conversation I had with Donald Trump, I said to him we could all line up behind you, everybody in this room, all of the 40 republican senators who were there and I said everybody in Arizona, every republican could get behind you, and it still wouldn't be enough because there are more registered independents in Arizona than there are registered republicans and you have to appeal to them as well.
It doesn't help to simply double down on that small group that was enough to get you past the primary but certainly not the general.

Ted Simons: Is this the thing where the Republican Party and the democrats who are no doubt watching this because their time will come I am sure. But for the Republican Party does the party look at this and say you didn't have a bunch of no nothings.
You had Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, but you had them all together. Was the problem there were too many people in the field?

Jeff Flake: Those of us who would have liked to see a different nominee would have like to see it differently. Fewer winner take all states in the beginning maybe. But I hope after this election we can regroup and say, all right, what is the message that we ought to deliver? Let's not just look at the process but let's look at somebody who can win a general election. Let's look at somebody who can appeal to the broader electorate.

Ted Simons: We have a letter that won enough people in the Republican Party, for again, I want to know how this happened.
It is not happening in a bubble. He just spoke tonight and gets thousands of people there as opposed to one of his chief offers I don't think a big crowd suggests he will win the presidency but still in all it sounds as though there is a disconnect. Republican voters are wanting X and Y and you are out there offering L and M.

Jeff Flake: People are frustrated out there and they have a right to be. Part of that is the fault of Republican office holders who have over promised, said we could repeal ObamaCare, for example, after it was put in. It is tough to repeal ObamaCare when its namesake is in the White House and you would need 67 votes to do so but that didn't stop the republicans from saying they would go out and repeal it when they didn't, people are frustrated. There are a number of reasons why people are frustrated by overpromising what can be done with a republican majority in office but not enough to override the president is part of the difficulty.

Ted Simons: A couple scenarios here. Critics will say the Republican Party pretty much created Donald Trump and now the party needs to live with it because you, Republican Party, went after this certain base, the angry, disaffected, under employed and divisive crowd, you went after them, got them, and now you have what they built.

Jeff Flake: I think that might be true but it doesn't mean we have to live with it because that would mean we would be relegated to losing the national elections going forward. So I think that appeals can be made to every American. Every American wants to live better than they are living now. We want the economy to be better. But blaming it all on international trade for example or whatever, we have to get away from that kind of rhetoric because all it does is produce disappointment later. Yeah, but a lot of it is our fault.

Ted Simons: Another idea: Republicans over the years have denigrated the Obama presidency to the extent the office out there among the great masses is not taken seriously. Republicans have denigrated government to the extent government is not taken seriously anymore thus you have what many believe a non serious candidate representing a major political party.

Jeff Flake: I can tell you, you hit on a thing that worries me greatly. It is this trend we have where we just disqualify the other side somehow. They are not only wrong but they are evil. It got into gear when George W. Bush won the disputed election in Florida. A lot of democrats at the time said he is not a legitimate president and therefore the manifestation of that is we don't have to go along with his rules or we don't have to approve his executive calendar or his supreme court nominees or other nominees to the federal bench. So for the first time in the senate they started to routinely filibuster the president's executive nominations and that came to Obama getting elected. What did some republicans say? He wasn't even born here. He was born in Kenya therefore we don't have to work with him and that justified in the minds of some Republicans not going along with or trying to filibuster his executive calendar. I fear we will go into the next presidency with the same thing. If it is Donald Trump a lot of democrats will say he is not qualified. If it is Hillary Clinton you will have republicans saying she ought to be locked up. That is why I worry. We have huge problems in this country that can only be solved when both parties come together like the national debt and our annual deficit. If we don't get ahold of that at some point we will wake up and the financial markets will have decided we are no longer a good bet or interest rates go up and the discretionary budget will be used just to service the debt. And those things have to be solved with both parties working together. One party won't do it all if one party controls both chambers. I've been there. I was in the congress when we did as Republicans. Republicans won't do it alone and neither will democrats. That is why I worry about the demonization of the other side. Some Republicans already saying here is why. This will justify not working with Hillary Clinton if she is president.

Ted Simons: How do you stop that? I mean, I am old enough to remember back in Washington, where I was raised, on Friday's you would see the congressional people out eating together and drinking together and vacationing together and laughing it up and then debating strong but it didn't seem so personal.

Jeff Flake: It isn't. Gratefully there is more that goes on behind the scenes that you describe. I went to a deserted island with democrats so more of it goes on than people see gratefully. But still with 24 hour news cycle and with the way campaigns are structured now it really makes it more difficult and justifies in some people's minds you can be elected to never work with the other side and our system wasn't setup that way.

Ted Simons: Last question on this, Paul Manford, I don't know who is in charge of the Trump campaign chair anymore, has ties with Russia and the Ukraine and Russia friendly folks in the Ukraine. Are you worried about that?

Jeff Flake: That concerns me. Contributions from foreign governments and individuals to the Clinton foundation concern me as well. Yeah, those kinds of things do concern me on both sides, yes.

Ted Simons: Let's move on we could talk about Trump more if you would like. BLM decrees no water shortage in Lake Mead. The minimal level was reached. Your thoughts?

Jeff Flake: Well, we were close. If it were four-feet above that magic mandatory restriction level. Gratefully we are still above it and that is a good thing. The mandatory restrictions will hit Arizona hard. It will hit Pinal County really hard, because it hits agricultural first. So staying above the mandatory restrictions is important and that's one thing we are really pleased that one we had voluntary arrangements and the reason we are above that level is a lot of water users in Arizona have, you know, foregone their allotment and left water behind the dam. And we finally got assurance from the federal government that that water voluntarily left by Arizonans will not disappear down a canal in California. We set the precedent that voluntary arrangements to sure up the water in Lake Mead will be honored.

Ted Simons: Are there concerns that some of that water might be keeping the ground aquafers from getting to the level they need to be for pumping for west Valley areas and those sorts of things. Are the aquafers suffering because of this?

Jeff Flake: I don't think the amount of water there that was left will that kind of impact if it was a broader scale perhaps but not the level we have seen.


Jeff Flake: Until the end of 2017, we shouldn't have mandatory restrictions. We will likely hit it and we will have to prepare but at least we have more time to work on the conservations methods and it is going to be an all of the above approach to avert this crisis.

Ted Simons: I know you are looking for more state control regarding federal wolf recovery efforts and capping the number of wolves caught in the wild. Why?

Jeff Flake: I think we show the recovery efforts have hit about a 100 wolves and that was the level where the federal government said then the state could take additional control. We reached that level, so we say it is time. We have proven we can do this effectively at the state level let's do so.

Ted Simons: But have you? Some critics say the last time the state took as much control as it wants or did the wolves suffered and the lawsuit happened and now the feds are back.

Jeff Flake: I don't think you can put the blame on Arizona for that. Remember, we are trying to protect the Mexican gray wolf and most of the habitat is in Mexico. Putting the blame on Arizona land users and ranchers and others on that decline I don't think is right.

Ted Simons: When folks say ranchers and hunters' concerns are outweighing the concern of the Endangered Species Act you say?

Jeff Flake: I think we can find an appropriate balance. We have done so with a number of other species and seen them recover. The wolf we have seen recovery there as well. So I think we can do more at the state level.

Ted Simons: I think Representative Gosar is working on the idea of defunding federal wolf recovery efforts. Are you going along with that idea?

Jeff Flake: I think before we get to that we can reach appropriate accommodations.

Ted Simons: We have a few more minutes to go. I want to know. You are a politician. I mean a lot of folks - when we have debates here every person debating can't wait to say they are not a politician and are an outsider. I think I will agree Donald Trump is not a politician and an outsider and someone concerned with government. The overall tenure of what we are going through; what are your thoughts?

Jeff Flake: Well, I am disturbed. I am a politician now but haven't always been one. I have been in politics and seen the best of it. I have seen a lot of my colleagues try really hard to reach accommodation, reach across the aisle when needed, so to indict a whole group of office holders is not the way to go. I have seen this system work well as well. The founding fathers put together a good program here and when a pendulum swings one way, it usually swings back the other way. We have a good system. It is difficult in this environment, the way the news is structured, 24 hour cycle, the way campaigns are now structured, it is, you know, more difficult. But I mean all we can do is try our best and try to work it out when we can.

Ted Simons: Senator, good to see you. Thank you so much for joining us.

Jeff Flake: Good to be here

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Ted Simons: There's a new park being built in Gilbert, a park dedicated to veterans from across generations. Producer Allysa Adams talked to those helping to make "Welcome Home Veterans Park" a reality.

Allysa Adams: With the military introduction, in a dusty lot in Gilbert, hundreds of military veterans and their families dedicate a park with a simple message:


Allysa Adams: Welcome Home Park is a seven acre shout out to the friends who never got the word 40 years ago.

Skip Erikson: I was actually deployed over to Vietnam in April 1968.

Allysa Adams: Skip Erikson was a crew chief in the air force. His job? To make sure the fighter jets were ready for their daily missions.

Skip Erikson: Ours was more like normal I think service.
Hours of boredom filled by moments of terror. They lobbed in some rockets, they try to invade the base.

John Chiazza: At night mostly it was shelling a lot of it at night. The hills right behind the harbor would be illuminated every half hour.

Allysa Adams: John Chiazza served in the navy during the Vietnam War and remembers first arriving in the southeast Asian country after 21 days at sea.

John Chiazza: You realize it is great to see land but this land is torn apart by war and this is real.

Roger Pollard: By the time I got to Vietnam, I was a captain but the military intelligence division

Allysa Adams: Roger Pollard was drafted in the army when he was 20 years old.

Roger Pollard: We were at the cross of two canals, there were no roads. The only way in and out was by boat, which was an hour and a half, or by chopper which was faster and more desirable because bad things happen on the canal.

Allysa Adams: The three men served in different branches of the military and areas of Vietnam and their jobs and experiences with battle were all different in a war that was as muddy as the waters they encountered. But they all came home to feel the same sting.

Skip Erikson: It was lousy. It was not a lot of fun to come home to. I was welcomed home by my mom, dad and brothers and that was it. And I certainly wasn't unique.

Roger Pollard: Nobody came up shook my hand and said "Thanks and welcome home".

Allysa Adams: The United States was a country divided and the soldiers got blamed for a battle they didn't begin. That is what brings them here to this barren lot that holds the promise of redemption.

Skip Erikson: This isn't a bunch of old guys trying to build a monument. I wouldn't be involved if it was just a wall. The whole concept is Welcome Home Veterans Park. A veterans park, not necessarily a Vietnam veteran park.

Allysa Adams: The park includes recognition of soldiers who fought in America's first wars. There will be an education center and a veteran's outreach center. The anchor will be a replica of the Vietnam Wall War Memorial.

Skip Erikson: Anybody of our generation you will know 10, 20, 30 folks on the wall even if you weren't in the service. Classmates, neighbors, relatives.

Allysa Adams: All three men have been to the wall in Washington and standing before the thousands of etched names, they say they all felt the weight of their time in Vietnam.

John Chiazza: It was tough because it just gave a whole look at something that happened in my life that I was part of and here I was lucky to come back. But there were guys on that wall that didn't.

Roger Pollard: I realize I tell people my age and the age of my son is there. They were touching the wall and touching the name and then I thought oh, my, gosh, their father is on the wall. That was tough because I thought I was lucky, you know? Very lucky to have a son and a grandchild now and I must admit that survivors guilt is tough. That works on you.

Allysa Adams: But these survivors are proud to bring the power of that wall to Arizona.

John Chiazza: Other Vietnam veterans, I know a few over in California probably can't make it back to D.C. either by affordability or age and you know not being able to actually make it and now they will have something to actually go to.

Allysa Adams: To make sure each generation learns from its past.

Skip Erikson: I am proud of everybody here today just the way we do welcome them all and say thanks. It is the right thing to do.

Allysa Adams: And to help welcome their fellow veterans home.

Roger Pollard: We are still healing after all these years.
Vietnam vets are still healing but they are healing. They also want others to realize we can never do that again. We can never treat veterans like that again.

Ted Simons: The Vietnam wall in Gilbert will be an 80 percent scale replica of the memorial in Washington. Welcome Home Veterans Park hopes to be open to visitors by Veterans Day 2017.

Ted Simons: Friday on Arizona Horizon, it's the Journalists' Roundtable. The President of the State's Board of Education resigns… and a grand jury subpoenas the parent company of APS… those stories and more on the next journalists' roundtable. That is it for now. I am Ted Simons thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Announcer: Arizona "horizon" is made possible by the contributions of the friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.

Jeff Flake: Arizona Senator

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