Saving Bob Bennett
Like the song says, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone." We hope that's not the case with Utah and Bob Bennett, who could be swept away by an anti-incumbent tide at Saturday's Republican state convention.
While a majority of delegates may not realize it, Utah has an extremely valuable asset --- a three-term United States senator -- in Bennett.
Bennett has a seat on key committees that impact Utah, and serves as counsel to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, helping set the GOP agenda. And it's his longevity that has allowed him to rise to this pinnacle, poised to assume leadership positions that will benefit the Beehive State when Republicans return to power, perhaps this fall.
But a recent Tribune poll reveals that Bennett, while leading the race among the Republican rank and file, is running a distant third among delegates and could be shut out of a primary election.
The gripes against Bennett are five-fold, and largely unfounded.
He's been vilified for his support of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Bush administration's Wall Street-bailout bill. But leading economists agree that without hasty federal intervention the economy could have collapsed, and the Great Recession would have turned into a deep depression.
Plus, Bennett has been called on the carpet for proposing an innovative market-driven, bipartisan health care plan that would have abandoned the failed employer-based insurance system and reduced health care costs. He's been criticized for utilizing budget earmarks to assure that Utahns receive a fair return on their tax dollars. And he's been labeled a Washington insider. But why send a rookie to Washington when we have an incumbent who not only knows the players, but knows how the game is played?
Still, the most beguiling claim is that the senator, who votes the party line 88 percent of the time, is not conservative enough. Bennett has received a grade of "A" from the National Rifle Association, an 84 percent rating from the American Conservative Union and a 98 percent rating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Rest assured, delegates, a closet liberal he is not.
Incumbents should not necessarily serve forever. But you should have a good reason for kicking them out. That's lacking here.
Utah has wisely invested 18 years in Bob Bennett, and that investment is paying off. Delegates need to set their arch-conservative ideologies aside, and send Bennett back to Washington. It's time to cash in, not cash out.
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