Before Mike Pence became vice president and before Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) announced his retirement from the upper chamber of Congress, the two men referred to each other as "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." But now that Pence has allied himself with President Trump, a once thriving friendship is on the fritz, Politico Magazine reported Wednesday.
Flake and Pence became friends early on in their congressional careers, and Politico pointed out that the two "ideological soulmates" made a habit of sitting next to one another during presidential addresses. But Flake told Politico that he was in "shock" when his close friend Pence — then the Republican governor of Indiana — accepted Trump's offer of the vice presidency in July 2016.
The friendship began to fray after Flake could not bring himself to attend the Republican National Convention last summer, a decision that "stung" Pence, Politico reported. At one point, Pence was campaigning near Flake's Arizona home during the presidential campaign and reached out to his old friend, but even their light-hearted banter was tinged with the tension of their diverging alliances:
"Can you help me trim some hedges?" Flake asked. Pence replied: "As long as we can carve in 'Trump-Pence' in the hedge." Flake says he texted him back: "Small hedge. Only have room for 'Pence.'" How did Pence respond? "Ha, ha." [Politico Magazine]
Pence reportedly tried to assuage his friend's concerns about Trump, but could not, and Flake became a vocal critic of — and subsequently, preferred target of — the president. He eventually announced in October that he would leave the Senate at the end of his term.