When is an apology not an apology? When it comes from Orrin Hatch

Wednesday , March 07, 2018 - 5:00 AM2 comments

DON PORTER, special to the Standard-Examiner

I’m not perfect. Not by a long shot. I make mistakes. All. The. Time.

Which means I wind up offering lots of apologies. Indeed, I’ve given the word “sorry” a pretty good workout during my life.

But after last week, I see some light at the end of the apology tunnel. If I can make it to age 83, I will no longer have to apologize.

It turns out if I make it to that ripe old age, even if I step up to a public podium and call a large swath of the American populace the “stupidest, dumbass people” I’ve ever met, I’ll get away with it. Furthermore, I won’t have to apologize, but the press will say I did.

This actually happened after Utah’s 83-year-old U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, on Thursday, said the following about people who approve of the Affordable Care Act, more popularly known as Obamacare: “Some of you may have loved it. If you do, you are one of the stupidest, dumbass people I've ever met.”

Hatch’s remarks came during a speech at the American Enterprise Institute. Watching the video of his speech, it’s obvious he wasn’t joking.

  • RELATED: “Sen. Orrin Hatch once called for a return to civility. So much for that”

But afterward, as critics began to object, Hatch’s handlers claimed he wasn’t serious. The senator released a statement which read, “Yesterday, I made a poorly worded joke about Obamacare supporters — a joke that was not reflective of my actual feelings towards my friends on the other side. Throughout my term of service, I have always recognized the importance of civility, particularly in engaging with those of different political perspectives. While I occasionally slip up, I believe that my legislative record reflects my commitment to bipartisanship and civility much more than my flippant, off-the-cuff remark.”

As my late, sainted mother used to say, that’s no apology at all; that’s what livestock drops in the pasture after enjoying a full meal. Most media outlets, inexplicably, have used the word “apology” to describe the statement.

My guess is that it’s always been a tough job carrying the pooper scooper behind Hatch’s so-called “flippant, off-the-cuff” comments. Within the past four years, the gentleman from Utah, as other members of the U.S. Senate refer to him in the chamber, has called Democrats “idiots” and “straight old dumbass liberals.”

Shamefully, Hatch’s latest political vulgarity comes less than a year after he tacked his name on a Time magazine opinion piece calling for courteous and respectful political dialogue. Played against the senator’s “dumbass” comment, the irony of the piece is neck-deep. The cherry on top of the hypocrisy parfait is his concluding line: “Today, I want to make a personal commitment to exercise greater civility in my day-to-day interactions with fellow Americans; I hope you will join me in doing the same.”

Watching Hatch perform in public has always rated about a 9 on the 10-point Gag Meter. For example, in March 2016, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. Hatch, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, violated Senate tradition by arguing against giving Garland a hearing, much less a committee vote.

But when Republican President Donald Trump nominated Tom Price and Steve Mnuchin for Cabinet posts, and Senate Finance Committee Democrats boycotted the hearings, Hatch responded with these two-faced gems:

  • “I don’t remember us treating their nominees this way.”
  • “Assuming that they don’t support these two, then they can vote against them.”
  • “We’ll see if they will come and do the job that they’ve been elected and sworn to do.”
  • “I’m very disappointed in this type of crap. I mean, my gosh, there’s no excuse for it.”

At this point, Hatch’s legacy – such as it ever was – has been severely diminished. And it doesn’t help that he issues non-apologetic “apologies” after his mean and disdainful remarks.

Seems to me when a man can’t even bring himself to apologize, it’s time to surrender. But I guess that’s just an old-fashioned notion nowadays.

Come to think of it, we Utahns could have spared ourselves this embarrassment had we followed Hatch’s own 1976 campaign pledge when he was on his way to defeating three-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Frank Moss. One of Hatch’s favorite rhetorical jabs that year was, “What do you call a senator who’s served in office for 18 years? You call him home.”

Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

You can email Don Porter at dportercolumn@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter @DonPondorter.

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