Rolly: Hatch’s latest bout of foot-in-mouth disease took a swipe at Romney and even himself

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Paul Rolly.

Retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch made comments last week that, if taken literally, described fellow Republican Mitt Romney, who wants to succeed him, as “one of the stupidest, dumbass people I’ve ever met.”

Hatch was referring to supporters of the individual mandate in the Obamacare health care plan. Well, when Romney was the governor of Massachusetts, he signed a sweeping health reform bill that included — yep — an individual mandate.

The idea, as in Obamacare, was to keep the insured pool large enough that a small population of covered people didn’t carry the weight for everyone else.

But, according to his own assessment, Hatch himself has been one of those “stupidest” people.

In 1993, he co-sponsored a health care reform bill that included an individual mandate. At the time, it had the support of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Hatch later apologized for the Obamacare remark he made last week to the conservative American Enterprise Institute, dismissing it as a bad joke.

The longtime senator has a habit of spewing tasteless or questionable comments to conservative groups when thinking he could get away with it.

Speaking to St. George Republicans in 1988, Hatch called Democrats the “party of homosexuals and abortionists.”

When a southern Utah radio reporter, stringing for The Associated Press, put the comment in his story, Hatch said he was misquoted. But, alas, the reporter had the tape.

In 2010, again speaking to St. George Republicans, Hatch said “gays and lesbians don’t pay tithing; their religion is politics.”

And, in 2012, again before St. George Republicans, he said, “I would be letting down my Father in Heaven if I didn’t run again.”

Last year, he derided Democrats for acting “like idiots” and, in 2014, he labeled his opponents “straight old dumbass liberals.”

Hatch has advocated for more civility in politics. Apparently, he didn’t get his own memo.

Tourists not welcome? • When Ronald Reagan challenged incumbent Gerald Ford for the Republican presidential nomination at the 1976 GOP convention in Kansas City, Utah briefly became the center of attention.

Then-state Sen. Doug Bischoff, a staunch Reagan supporter, took offense when Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, sitting with the nearby New York delegation, folded up a Reagan sign and put it under his chair.

The two scuffled, and national television captured it.

Later, when the states cast their votes, Bischoff was the spokesman for the Utah delegation. After listening to the designates from other delegations tout their states’ assets before revealing their votes, Bischoff told the convention he would skip the promo because otherwise everyone would want to come to Utah, implying they’re not welcome.

Nearly 42 years later, it seems the Utah Legislature has embraced that attitude. Lawmakers seem to be going out of their way to discourage tourists from coming here.

The 0.05 blood-alcohol level for DUIs is the lowest threshold in the nation and has prompted such advertising slogans as “Utah: Come for vacation, leave on probation.”

Add that to the state’s efforts to shrink national monuments and its dismissive attitude toward the Outdoor Retailer trade shows, which finally opted to move to Colorado.

Remember the “natural family” resolution passed by the Kanab City Council, an anti-gay message that led to commentaries in national magazines urging a tourist boycott of that southern Utah city?

Then there was the measure in Virgin calling on every household to have a gun and La Verkin declaring itself a “U.N.-Free Zone.”

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, is now sponsoring a bill to rename a scenic highway snaking through southern Utah the Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway.

Given Trump’s public lands record, one wonders if traditional outdoor recreationists would want to avoid a route named in his honor.

The state’s official slogan is “Utah: Life Elevated.”

We may need to change that to “Utah: Go to Colorado.”

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