The irreverent poet Ogden Nash wrote a famous ditty about Utah's pious Sen. Reed Smoot for the January 1930 issue of The New Yorker, parodying Smoot's obsession with obscenity and his efforts to keep erotic books made in Europe from passing through U.S. Customs:
"Senator Smoot is an institute
Not to be bribed with pelf;
He guards our homes from erotic tomes
By reading them all himselfâ¦
Be rugged and rough,
Smut if smitten
Is front page stuff."
If only Ogden Nash were around today to write about our newest senator, Mike Lee.
I was struck, as I often am, by a recent quote from Lee as he was gathering with his usual torch-and-pitchfork peers to discuss their latest reasons to impeach President Barack Obama.
Lee's rhetoric isn't nearly as goofy as his buddy Ted Cruz, the freshman senator from Texas, but it's hair-raising stuff nonetheless.
What got me was his claim that the Obama administration is lying to us.
I won't even get on the recently reported adventure of Lee short selling his million-dollar home, stiffing his bank for about $400,000, then renting a nearby home from his neighbor who got a bargain-basement deal by purchasing the Lee home at a huge discount.
There are plenty of examples of Lee's relationship with the truth to dwell on instead.
When Lee was chief counsel to then-Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., he persuaded me to sit on information I had about a deal between Utah officials and Nevada Sen. Harry Reid to keep nuclear waste from being transported to the Goshute Reservation in western Utah. He said premature reporting would kill the deal, and he promised to let me know as soon as it was prudent to release it. He also promised to be more than open on future stories I might come across.
The deal later was revealed in a Washington, D.C., press conference by Reid, and I never heard from Lee. Thereafter, he never returned my telephone calls.
When he was running for the Senate, a group of Republicans crashed a back-to-school party for residents of the University of Utah's married student housing complex, spreading campaign material and trying to register the unsuspecting residents as Republicans.
The Republican party crashers even ate all the pizza.
I called Lee's campaign because several of the crashers reportedly were Lee supporters. I quoted a campaign official as saying the Lee campaign had nothing to do with it and if supporters were there, they were on their own, not from any urging by Lee.
After I ran the column, I received an email that the Lee campaign had issued to supporters. It urged them to be at the back-to-school party. "A large group" of Mike Lee supporters should be there, it said, "to show our volunteer force." It urged volunteers to wear their Mike Lee shirts or buttons. "If you do not have a button, we will have them there."
There also was the time Lee did not register as a lobbyist while lobbying legislators for a bill on behalf of 1-800 Contacts. He said he was offering legal advice, but individual legislators said his actions fit perfectly the definition of lobbying.