[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text
version below transcribed directly from audio]
Mr. President, I rise today to address a
matter that has been very much on my mind.
At a moment when it seems that our
democracy is more defined by our discord and our dysfunction than by our
own values and principles, let me begin by noting the somewhat obvious
point that these offices that we hold are not ours indefinitely. We're
not here simply to mark time. Sustained incumbency is certainly not the
point of seeking office, and there are times when we must risk our
careers in favor of our principles.
Now is such a time.
It must also be said that I rise today
with no small measure of regret: regret because of the state of our
disunion; regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our
politics; regret because of the indecency of our discourse; regret
because of the coarseness of our leadership; regret for the compromise of our moral
authority -- and by "our," I mean all of our complicity in this alarming and
dangerous state of affairs. It is time for our complicity and our
accommodation of the unacceptable to end.
In this century, a new phrase
has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and
undesirable order, that phrase being the "new normal" -- that we must never adjust to the present
coarseness of our national dialogue with the tone set at the top. We
must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our
democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily
sundering of our country -- the personal attacks; the threats against
principles, freedoms, and institution; the flagrant disregard for truth
and decency; the reckless provocations, most often for
the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing
whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been
elected to serve. None of these appalling features of our current
politics should ever be regarded as normal.
We must never allow
ourselves to lapse into thinking that that is just the way things are
now. If we simply become inured to this
condition, thinking that it is just -- it is just politics as usual, then heaven help
us. Without fear of the consequences and without consideration of the
rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending
that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our
executive branch are normal.
They are not normal.
and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as "telling
it like it is" -- when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and
undignified. And when such behavior emanates from the
top of our government, it is something else. It is dangerous to a
democracy. Such behavior does not project strength because our strength
comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit,
It is often said that children are watching. Well, they
are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation
asks us, "Why didnít you do something? Why didnít you speak up?" What are
we going to say?
Mr. President, I rise today to say:
We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous
never becomes the normal. With respect and humility, I must say that we
have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right
around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. We know better than that. By now, we all
know better than that.
Here, today, I stand to say that we would be better
served -- we would better serve the country by better fulfilling our
obligations under the Constitution by adhering to our
Article 1 -- "old
Madisonís doctrine of separation of powers. This genius
innovation which affirms Madisonís status as a true visionary, and for
which Madison argued in
Federalist 51, held that the equal branches of
our government would balance and counteract with each other, if
necessary. "Ambition [must be made to counteract] ambition," he wrote.
But what happens if ambition fails to counteract ambition? What happens
if stability fails to assert itself in the face of chaos and
instability? If decency fails to call out indecency? Were the shoe on
the other foot, we Republicans -- would we Republicans meekly accept
such behavior on display from dominant Democrats? Of course we wouldnít, and we would be
wrong if we did.
When we remain silent and fail to act, when we know
that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do because of political
considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate
the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad
infinitum, ad nauseam, when we succumb to those considerations in spite
of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of
our institutions and our liberty, we dishonor our principles and forsake
our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.
Now, Iím aware that more politically savvy
people than I will caution against such talk. Iím aware that thereís a
segment of my party that believes that anything short of -- of complete and
unquestioning loyalty to a President who belongs to my party is
unacceptable and suspect. If I have been critical, it is not because I
relish criticizing the behavior of the President of the United States. If I have been critical, it is because I
believe it is my obligation to do so -- and as a matter and
The notion that one should stay silent -- and as the norms
and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances
and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are
routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140
characters1 -- the notion that we should say or do nothing in the face of
such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly
A President -- A Republican President named
Roosevelt, had this to say about the President and a citizenís
relationship in -- to the office (quote):
The President is merely the most important
among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or
opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or
bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and
disinterested service to the Nation as a whole.2
Therefore, it is absolutely
necessary that there should be...full liberty to tell the truth
about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to
blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right.
Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.3
President Roosevelt continued:
To announce that there must be
no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by a President,
right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally
treasonable to the American public.4
Acting on conscience and principle in a
manner -- is the manner in which we express our moral selves and as
such, loyalty to conscience and principle should supersede loyalty to
any man or party. We can all be forgiven for failing in that measure
from time to time. I certainly put myself at the top of the list of
those who fall short in this regard. I am holier than none.
But too often we rush to salvage principle
-- not to salvage principle, but to forgive and excuse our failures so
that we might accommodate them and go right on failing until the
accommodation itself becomes our principle. In that way, and over time,
we can justify almost any behavior and sacrifice any principle. I'm
afraid that this is where we now find ourselves.
When a leader correctly identifies real
hurt and insecurity in our country, and instead of addressing it, goes
to look for someone to blame, there is perhaps nothing more devastating
to a pluralistic society. Leadership knows that most often a good place
to start in assigning blame is to look somewhat closer to home.
Leadership knows where the buck stops.
Leadership does not knowingly encourage or feed ugly or debased
appetites in us. Leadership lives by the American creed, E pluribus unum.
"[Out of] many, one." American leadership looks to the world, and just as
Lincoln did, sees the family of man. Humanity is not a
zero sum game.
When we have been at our most prosperous, we have been at our most
principled; and when we do well, the rest of the world does well.
These articles of civic faith have been
critical to the American identity for as long as we have been alive.
They are our birthright and our obligation. We must guard them jealously
and pass them on for as long as the calendar has days. To betray them or
to be unserious in their defense is a betrayal of the fundamental
obligations of American leadership; and to behave as if they donít matter
is simply not who we are.
Now the efficacy of American leadership
around the globe has come into question. When the United States emerged
from World War II, we contributed about half of the worldís economic
activity. It would have been easy to secure our dominance keeping those
countries who had been defeated or greatly weakened during the war in
their place. We didnít do that. It would have been easy to focus inward. We resisted those impulses. Instead, we
financed reconstruction of...shattered countries and created international
organizations and institutions that have helped provide security and
foster prosperity around the world for more than 70 years.
Now it seems that we, the architects of
this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom
and prosperity, are the ones most eager to abandon it. The implications
of this abandonment are profound and the beneficiaries of this rather
radical departure in the American approach to the world are the
ideological enemies of our values. Despotism loves a vacuum and our
allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership.
Why are they doing
this? None of this is normal. And what do we, as United States senators,
have to say about it? The principles that underlie our politics, the
values of our Founding, are too vital to our identity and to our
survival to allow them to be compromised by the requirements of politics,
because politics can make us silent when we should speak, and silence can
I have children and grandchildren to answer to.
And so, Mr. President, I will not be
complicit or silent.
Iíve decided that I would be better able to
represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my
conscience by freeing myself of the political consideration that
consumed far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too
To that end, I am announcing today that my
service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early
January 2019. It is clear at this moment that a traditional
conservative, who believes in limited government and free markets, who
is devoted to free trade, who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and
narrower path to nomination in the Republican Party, the party that has
so long defined itself by its belief in those things.
It is also clear to me for the moment that
we have given in or given up on the core principles in favor of a more
viscerally satisfying anger and resentment. To be clear, the anger and
resentment that the people feel at the royal mess that weíve created are
justified. But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.
There is -- There is an undeniable potency to a
populist appeal by mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems
and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle -- the impulse to
scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful,
backward-looking people. In the case of the Republican Party, those
things also threaten to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking
We were not made great as a country by
indulging in or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against
ourselves, glorifying in the things that divide us, and calling fake
things true and true things fake. And we did not become the beacon of
freedom in the darkest corners of the world by flouting our institutions
and failing to understand just how hard-won and vulnerable they are.
This spell will eventually break. That is
my belief. We will return to ourselves once more, and I say the sooner
Because we have a healthy government, we must also have
healthy and functioning parties. We must respect each other again in an
atmosphere of shared facts and shared values, comity and good faith. We
must argue our positions fervently and never be afraid to compromise. We
must assume the best of our fellow man, and always look for the good. Until that day comes, we must be unafraid
to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it, because it
does. I plan to spend the remaining 14 months of my Senate term doing
Mr. President, the graveyard is full of indispensable men and
women. None of us here is indispensable; nor were
even the great figures of history who toiled at these very desks, in
this very chamber, to shape the country that we have inherited. What is
indispensable are the values that they consecrated in Philadelphia and
in this place, values which have endured and will endure for so long as
men and women wish to remain free. What is indispensable is what we do here
in defense of those values. A political career does not mean much if we
are complicit in undermining these values.
I thank my colleagues for
indulging me here today. I will close by borrowing the words of
President Lincoln, who knew more about healthy enmity and preserving our
founding values than any other American who has ever lived. His words
from his First Inaugural were a prayer in his time and are now no less
We are not enemies, but friends. We must
not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break
bonds of [affection]. The mystic chords of memory...will [yet] swell
[the chorus of the Union] when
again touched, as surely as they will be, by the better angels of our
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the