Take the short apology Flake issued this week to multiple news outlets on behalf of his son. “I’m very disappointed in my teenage son’s words, and I sincerely apologize for the insensitivity,” the senator wrote. “This language is unacceptable, anywhere. Needless to say, I’ve already spoken with him about this, he has apologized, and I apologize as well.”
It sounds like a stand against prejudice, but it’s actually more like a calculated sidestep. Tanner Flake's problems are not confined to his choice of words. It's not as if the situation is improved by changing his screen name to "African-AmericanKiller" or clarifying that he believes Mexicans are the "unwanted peoples of the earth," rather than “scum.” No, the issue is in the sentiments that underlie these comments. Where was Sen. Flake on that?
In reality, that apology is just more of the same from Flake, who’s been all over the place on critical human rights issues. He’s widely portrayed in the media as a reasonable Republican on immigration, a compromiser, though he voted against DREAMers in 2010 and just Wednesday came out in favor of tougher border policing. He voted with the Democratic majority to let gays serve openly in the military, but he continues to advocate a constitutional amendment against gay marriage. In the 1980s, while representing a mining corporation that did business with the pro-Apartheid South African government, Flake claimed to oppose those racist policies, but he testified in favor of a Utah state resolution expressing support for the Apartheid regime.
In other words, Flake -- like so many other prominent US politicians -- has consistently refused to take clear, unambiguous stand against prejudice and fear. Why? Because there are political penalties for doing so. Prejudice and fear still move the polls in Arizona... and elsewhere in America.
And until that changes, boys will be boys.