Opinion: A leader for these times

Arizona Republic


Read at azcentral.com

Impending “fiscal cliffs.” Unprecedented national debt. Trillion-dollar annual deficits.

These are the great issues of our day, like it or not. We cannot wish them away. About their resolution, the nation has two choices: We can do nothing (or too little) and let the consequences roll over us as they are now in Greece and Spain. Or, we can act.

As a member of Congress, Jeff Flake has demonstrated a remarkable willingness to face down wild-eyed federal spending and deficits. A relentless scourge of the practice of “earmarking” local spending projects in federal budgets, Flake is widely acknowledged as the lawmaker who drove the earmarking money-changers from the Capitol temple.

And he often did it to his detriment, as his many conflicts with Republican House leaders over the years have made clear.

With the exception of Rep. Paul Ryan, perhaps no candidate for federal office in this election cycle is more committed to forcing sanity back into the nation’s finances.

This is Jeff Flake’s moment. The Arizona Republic recommends voters support Flake for the U.S. Senate, replacing retiring Sen. Jon Kyl.

In another election year, in another era, Flake’s Democratic opponent, Richard Carmona, could be an ideal Senate candidate from Arizona.

He is independent-minded on many fronts, a characteristic that has endeared him to Republicans and Democrats alike. He freely acknowledges he changed his party affiliation from independent to Democrat scarcely a year ago.

He is assertive and firm in his judgments, and he makes himself well-versed on issues. When he says he talks to all sides, believe him.

Indeed, he is a candidate reminiscent of another time. His no-nonsense demeanor recalls former U.S. Sen. Dennis DeConcini, a Democrat that Arizona conservatives respected as much as liberals did. And there is more than a touch of Rudy Giuliani in this pretension-free New York native, the war hero and medical doctor with the resume from Central Casting.

But recession-weary Arizonans scarcely need reminding that these are not the economically full-throttle days of Reagan or Clinton.

On issues pertaining to federal deficit spending and over-regulation, Carmona can be elusive. He is committed to “working with” people to arrive transparently at mutually agreeable conclusions. But as to what that means in the harder numbers of taxes and spending cuts, Carmona can be difficult to pin down.

Flake, on the other hand, is philosophically committed to smaller and more efficient government. On fiscal matters, everyone knows where he stands.

But there is something more about Flake. The candidate always has been affable, approachable and informed. But in the course of this campaign, especially, he seems to have grown.

In a recent interview with The Republic’s editorial board, Flake shined. These are subtle intangibles, but in arguing his positions, Flake seemed to demonstrate something very much like leadership. It was his best performance as a lawmaker and leader that we have seen.

The Republican candidate is far from perfect.

We remain disappointed that Flake no longer is the champion for comprehensive border reform that he once was.

Further, the scourge of budgetary earmarking has yet to demonstrate an appreciation for the difference between pork-laden spending projects and legitimate economic development that benefits his home state.

We hope he comes to see the distinction.

If the government is going to spend it, there is nothing wrong with arguing it should be spent in Arizona.

Likewise, it hardly seems a violation of principles of limited government to support job-creating economic development in your home state.

But as a bulwark against the nation’s greatest pending threat — its fracturing finances — there is no one better for the job.

The Republic recommends Jeff Flake for the U.S. Senate from Arizona.