To the editor:
An American journalist in Germany at the outbreak of World War II, Robert Best, chose to remain there through the war, broadcasting Nazi propaganda. Mildred Gillars engaged in Nazi “Axis Sally” broadcast activities through WWII. A U.S. Army Air Force officer, Martin Monti, voluntarily handed his fighter aircraft to the Germans. He was wearing his Waffen SS uniform when he surrendered to the U.S. at war’s end.
Although each of those natural-born Americans became convicted traitors for complicated reasons, they joined history’s notorious Benedict Arnold in benefiting our enemies through acts detrimental to our nation. “Traitor” evokes images of their likes. It is not a term to be employed lightly in a public forum. Taking GOP U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake to his woodshed on Nov. 4, thrashing him with “You’re a traitor to your president …”, Robert Lee contributed to the coarsening of our public political discourse.
A darling of conservatives since 2000, Flake consistently supports ACA (Obamacare) repeal. He opposed President Bush’s 2008 “troubled asset” TARP program, and crusaded against pork-barrel earmarks.
Flake carries glowing reviews from conservative watchdog groups, including 100 percent from National Right to Life. The NRA owns him with its “A” rating. Why, that’s enough for Mr. Lee to roll out his red carpet when Flake drops by! It’s unlikely that I would be a Flake voter, but I’m satisfied he loves our country.
So, what soured? Evidently, Sen. Flake lassoed his conscience and brought it back, which is a problem for President Trump and his acolytes. Flake has dared criticize Mr. Trump’s “politics of anger.” He even regrets his vote against the TARP program, a legislative cousin to President Obama’s 2009 Stimulus. He now, rightly, acknowledges it was a modest price to pay to forestall global depression.
Flake has been ripped for such “sins” as befriending Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, and sitting with fellow Arizonan, Democrat Gabby Giffords, at the 2012 State of the Union, shortly after she survived a would-be assassin’s bullet.
Mr. Lee has worn our nation’s uniform in defense of our constitution, and practices free speech in this space each Saturday. He knows that citizens — even members of Congress — do not check those rights at the door in criticizing the president. “Traitor” is a term that should remain a rare draw from a writer’s word quiver.