If Orrin Hatch just could not resist the temptation to make some politically charged remarks in his Memorial Day speech Monday in Woods Cross, he could have at least focused on something halfway germane to the event.
The current scandal over long waits and cooked books at Veterans Administration hospitals comes to mind.
Everyone is offended by reports that many veterans apparently were lost in the system, some for so long that they died before getting the care they needed and had earned, while administrators faked records to make their performance look much better than it was.
Utah’s senior senator could have joined with those expressing their outrage — felt uniformly across the political spectrum — over those revelations.
Hatch had to defile a solemn tribute to America’s war dead by dragging in his well-worn criticisms of the Affordable Care Act, siding with those who view contraceptive coverage as something other than basic to any health care plan worthy of the name, and suggesting that anyone who didn’t agree with him on those issues was "nuts."
You know. Like the time Hatch described participants in a 2005 anti-war rally in Salt Lake City as "nutcakes."
On that occasion, though, Hatch could at least argue that he was provoked. The atmosphere that day was already politically charged by the visit of President George W. Bush and the criticisms of the president, and his invasion of Iraq, by a group including then-Mayor Rocky Anderson.
Monday, no such polarization existed. Until Hatch introduced it.
Legally, Hatch has at least as much right to free speech as anyone else. But someone who exercises that right as much as any politician, and who is expected to demonstrate some statesmanship, or at least some judgment, at non-partisan events should show some understanding of what is and is not appropriate for the time and place.
An event intended to bring Americans together in a somber observance of all the people who have given their all in defense of their nation is not the time or the place for partisan sniping and divisiveness. Not from Hatch. Not from Woods Cross Mayor Rick Earnshaw. Not from anyone who pretends or aspires to positions of leadership.
Hatch’s after-the-fact objection to the fact that The Salt Lake Tribune accurately covered his remarks only intensifies the feeling that, after all these years in politics, the senator is woefully out of touch.
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