Salt Lake Tribune delivers a lump of coal to Sen. Orrin Hatch on Christmas Day

I have always considered Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah one of the smarmiest politicians who has ever served in Congress. His recent fluffing of Donald Trump was gag-inducing:

Screen Shot 2017-12-26 at 12.36.27 PM“This president hasn’t even been in office for even a year and look at all the things that he’s been able to get done by sheer will in many ways,” he said. “I just hope that we all get behind him every way we can and we’ll get this country turned around in ways that will benefit the whole world, but above all benefit our people.”

He said Trump, “who I love and appreciate so much,” is on track for one of the greatest presidencies in history.

“We’re going to make this the greatest presidency that we’ve seen,” he said, adding. “Maybe ever.”

Apparently this was not just too much for us, but for the editors of the Salt Lake Tribune as well.

The paper does its own version of Time‘s “person of the year.” The editors select the Utahn of the year, the label being assigned to “the Utahn who, over the past 12 months, has done the most. Has made the most news. Has had the biggest impact. For good or for ill.”

The Tribune editors delivered a lump of coal to Sen. Hatch on Christmas day. Why Orrin Hatch is Utahn of the Year:

The selection of Sen. Orrin G. Hatch as the 2017 Utahn of the Year has little to do with the fact that, after 42 years, he is the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history, that he has been a senator from Utah longer than three-fifths of the state’s population has been alive.

It has everything to do with recognizing:

  • Hatch’s part in the dramatic dismantling of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
  • His role as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in passing a major overhaul of the nation’s tax code.
  • His utter lack of integrity that rises from his unquenchable thirst for power.

Each of these actions stands to impact the lives of every Utahn, now and for years to come. Whether those Utahns approve or disapprove of those actions has little consequence in this specific recognition. Only the breadth and depth of their significance matters.

As has been argued in this space before, the presidential decision to cut the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in half and to slash the size of the brand new Bears Ears National Monument by some 90 percent has no constitutional, legal or environmental logic.

To all appearances — appearances promoted by Hatch — this anti-environmental, anti-Native American and, yes, anti-business decommissioning of national monuments was basically a political favor the White House did for Hatch. A favor done in return for Hatch’s support of the president generally and of his tax reform plan in particular.

And, on the subject of tax reform: For a very long time indeed, Hatch has said that his desire to stick around long enough to have a say in what indeed would be a long-overdue overhaul of the nation’s Byzantine tax code is the primary reason he has run for re-election time after time.

Last week, he did it.

The tax bill that passed the House and the Senate and was signed into law by the president Friday is being praised for bringing corporate tax rates in line with the nation’s post-industrial competitors and otherwise benefiting corporations and investors in a way that backers see as a boost to the economy, even as opponents vilify it for favoring the rich and adding to the federal budget deficit.

No matter who turns out to be right about that argument, the fact remains that tax reform has been talked about and talked about for decades and only now has anything been done. And Hatch, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has his fingerprints all over it.

But perhaps the most significant move of Hatch’s career is the one that should, if there is any justice, end it.

The last time the senator was up for re-election, in 2012, he promised that it would be his last campaign. That was enough for many likely successors, of both parties, to stand down, to let the elder statesman have his victory tour and to prepare to run for an open seat in 2018.

Clearly, it was a lie. Over the years, Hatch stared down a generation or two of highly qualified political leaders who were fully qualified to take his place, Hatch is now moving to run for another term — it would be his eighth — in the Senate. Once again, Hatch has moved to freeze the field to make it nigh unto impossible for any number of would-be senators to so much as mount a credible challenge. That’s not only not fair to all of those who were passed over. It is basically a theft from the Utah electorate.

It would be good for Utah if Hatch, having finally caught the Great White Whale of tax reform, were to call it a career. If he doesn’t, the voters should end it for him.

Common is the repetition of the catchphrase that Hatch successfully used to push aside three-term Sen. Frank Moss in this first election in, egad, 1976.

What do you call a senator who’s served in office for 18 years? You call him home.”

Less well known is a bit of advice Hatch gave to Capitol Hill interns in 1983.

“You should not fall in love with D.C.” he admonished them. “Elected politicians shouldn’t stay here too long.”

If only he had listened to his own advice.

It has been widely reported that Mitt Romney is exploring a 2018 Senate run. The Tribune recently reported that President Trump is trying to thwart Mitt Romney, a “never Trumper” who has been critical of Trump, from running for the Senate. Trump calls Romney ‘a great man,’ but works to undermine him and block Senate run:

Trump [has a] complicated and often tense relationship with the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, who has remained a frequent critic of the president and is considering a Senate campaign next year in Utah. The pair’s history stretches from Romney’s pained courtship of Trump’s endorsement in 2012 to Trump’s searing criticism of Romney in 2016, when he called his predecessor a “stone cold loser” who blew an easy chance to beat then-President Barack Obama.

Those tensions were on display again this week, when White House aides scripted a trip to Utah with a single political goal in mind: to convince Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to run for reelection and thwart Romney from mounting his own bid for the seat, according to a senior White House official involved in the preparations.

The White House focus on wooing Hatch, 83, who aides see as a loyal supporter and reliable vote, is part of a growing behind-the-scenes effort to prepare for a difficult 2018 election season. The senior official, who along with others requested anonymity to discuss the relationship, said the White House worries that Romney would continue voicing open hostility to the president on issues such as the endorsement of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

“We hope you continue to serve your state and your country in the Senate for a very long time to come,” Trump told Hatch in his prepared remarks Monday.

* * *

Trump’s advisers have long been wary of any public Trump embrace of Romney. Last December, when Romney was being considered for secretary of state, he dined with Trump over a dinner of frogs’ legs at Jean-Georges restaurant in Trump Tower. After the dinner, Kellyanne Conway, who is now a senior White House aide, said that Trump’s voters would “feel betrayed to think that Gov. Romney would get the most prominent Cabinet post after he went so far out of his way to hurt Donald Trump.”

That dinner was just an opportunity for Trump to humiliate Romney by having him interview for a position he was never going to get. Trump revels in humiliating anyone who is critical of him.

[C]onservatives with ties to Stephen Bannon say they plan to keep attacking Romney if he moves toward a Senate campaign with the goal of blunting his impact as a critic of Trump on the national stage.

“If elected, Mitt Romney would take the role as America’s number one ‘never Trumper,'” said one conservative strategist aligned with Bannon on Thursday, who requested anonymity to discuss strategy. “If he does decide to run I think he can expect a full-on carpet bombing from conservatives coming his way.”

The public fights between Trump and Romney have sometimes been fierce. During the 2016 campaign, Romney warned Republicans that Trump was “a con man, a fake.” Trump dismissed Romney as a “stiff” and a “failed candidate” who “walks like a penguin.”

* * *

First elected in 1976, Hatch is the Senate’s most senior Republican and has said he expects to decide on running for reelection before the end of the year. He has welcomed Romney’s preparations for the race, describing him as an ideal successor.

Hatch advisers said the president’s efforts to woo him were appreciated, but are unlikely to be decisive. “Senator Hatch appreciates the President’s support but his final decision will largely be influenced by conversations with his family over the next few weeks,” Hatch spokesman Matt Whitlock said after Trump’s visit to Utah.

Romney has spoken extensively with former advisers and colleagues about mounting a campaign if Hatch retires, including several calls with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He’s found a receptive audience from Republican senate leaderships.

If Hatch retires, Romney is not expected to face much opposition either in the primary or the general election, given his popularity in the state. “Romney would have to do two things, go up to the capitol and file papers for his candidacy and a make reservations for the victory party,” said a prominent Republican strategist in Utah.

In one November statewide general election poll, Romney was ahead by more than a 3-to-1 margin in a hypothetical matchup with a possible Democratic candidate, Salt Lake City councilwoman Jenny Wilson.

2 responses to “Salt Lake Tribune delivers a lump of coal to Sen. Orrin Hatch on Christmas Day

  1. Concerned Citizen

    “I have always considered Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah one of the smarmiest politicians who has ever served in Congress. His recent fluffing of Donald Trump was gag-inducing:” Couldn’t agree more. We’ve had enough!

  2. Concerned Citizen

    It’s time for the old guys in Congress to pass the reins on to the next generation so they have a chance to move our nation forward rather than backwards. It’s Romney’s turn to represent his generation. Step aside Hatch. Your state has spoken.