Poor Orrin! It's sad to watch a 35-year career come to this

Jul 23 2011 - 10:30pm

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CHARLES DHARAPAK/The Associated Press
CHARLES DHARAPAK/The Associated Press

In keeping with this column's policy of comforting the afflicted, I shall now say a kind word about Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Not too kind. Orrin's politics and mine rarely mesh. My sympathy arises from the current political climate, which is forcing someone whose career should be winding down with dignity to behave in a silly manner.

Orrin is 77 and has been in the U.S. Senate for 35 years. Three-and-a-half decades is a long time in government for someone who hates government as much as Orrin suddenly claims to.

Does he really? I suspect not. Orrin loves being in politics. Problem is, the people who control his next nomination hate government and want everyone in government to hate it too.

Like former Sen. Robert Bennett, Orrin comes from a time when a Republican politician could think independently and get away with it. Hatch was even good buddies with Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Such independence is now taboo. Conservative politicians must pledge to never, ever, raise taxes and always fight abortion. They must never tolerate same-sex marriage. One pledge even requires swearing fidelity to their spouses.

Orrin's enemies are attacking him for making decisions in a less rigid past that were supported by his party and actually helped the nation, but violate these taboos. Retrospective purity is the name of the game.

The Club for Growth, a hard-right Tea Party bunch enforcing this new discipline, has a list of Orrin's crimes.

It says Orrin voted for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). President George W. Bush and other party leaders asked Orrin to vote for it because otherwise the economy would collapse.

The economy didn't collapse and the government got most of that $700 billion back. Distasteful? Yes. Bad? No.

Orrin voted to increase the debt limit six times. Only six in 35 years?

The limit's been raised dozens of times. When Orrin voted "no," he knew the limit had enough votes to pass anyway.

Orrin had to help raise the limit. He supported his party's massive unfunded spending bills that created the debt, including two wars costing $100 billion a year.

The Club zings Orrin for voting "yes" on S-CHIP, medical insurance for poor children.

That's a good vote. I thank Orrin for it. We're a pathetic nation if we can't care for uninsured sick children.

The Club is outraged that Orrin voted for Medicare's prescription drug benefit. Any seniors out there want to start buying all their own prescriptions again?

Orrin's, and the GOP's, real crime is not raising money to pay for the things they bought. They chose to add to the debt. The Club even hates a 1998 Hatch vote for higher cigarette taxes.

All this has forced Orrin to twist himself into knots to meet increasingly irrational demands. He'll scream that 51 percent of all Americans don't pay any income tax, implying they darn well ought to. Then he'll scream President Obama wants to raise taxes on "hardworking Utah families."

Having to denounce the DREAM Act, a common-sense benefit for undocumented children who go to college that he originally proposed, had to be galling.

All this because he hopes to survive the next GOP convention, which will be dominated by the same extremists who dumped Bennett.

Must it come to this, Orrin? You've had a good run, you aren't getting any younger. Now is not the time to sell your soul.

Remember, nobody likes a suck-up. Keep your dignity. Defend your past. Even your enemies will respect that.

If you have to go down, go down well.

Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can call him at 801-625-4232 or email ctrentelman@standard.net. He also blogs at www.standard.net.

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