Rolly: Don’t count on Utah’s delegation to stand up to Trump

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Paul Rolly.

David Irvine’s insightful op-ed in Sunday’s Salt Lake Tribune about the incompetence, instability and self-delusion of President Donald Trump issued a challenge to Republican candidates for Congress.

“What will it take for you to recognize the seriousness of the threat [of Trump’s presidency]?” he asked.

Unfortunately, Utah’s members of Congress already have failed that test. And they will be re-elected anyway because they are GOP incumbents and this is Utah.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, who became Trump’s biggest sycophant and earned some scorn for it, has decided to call it quits at the end of his seventh term, so he is no longer in the equation.

Mitt Romney, whom Irvine specifically called out in his challenge, hasn’t announced whether he’ll run for Hatch’s seat, but he looks to be the heir apparent. And he has been the most vocal Trump critic, aside from that embarrassing dinner he attended with the narcissist in chief when he thought he might be appointed secretary of state, only to become a pawn in Trump’s scheme to humiliate him.

It remains to be seen, if Romney is elected to the Senate, whether he will continue his harsh scrutiny of the president or fall in line with the rest of the GOP lemmings and fawn all over Trump because he is their president.

Others in Utah’s delegation were willing, at first, to criticize Trump, but quickly melted into the Republican crowd pretending not to notice that the emperor has no clothes.

The most blatant Trump admirer, next to Hatch, has been Rep. Chris Stewart. The 2nd District congressman warned against a Trump GOP nomination in 2016, calling him “our Mussolini.” “As a Republican,” Stewart said, “I’m telling you: Donald Trump does not represent Republican ideals.”

After Trump secured the nomination and won the White House, Stewart, who foolishly thought he might be named secretary of the Air Force, transformed himself into the president’s Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Stewart praised Trump’s decision to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, even though Republicans condemned former President Barack Obama for the same move.

But, you know, Obama is a Democrat.

Stewart, being the good helper he is, followed up on Trump’s dismantling of Bears Ears National Monument by proposing legislation to turn the little piece of the monument Trump left standing into a national park — a gesture of support for the president’s controversial action.

And Stewart, as Trump’s lap dog, called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign, a nod to the ego of Trump who was outraged that Sessions recused himself from the investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian hackers. Had Sessions not done that, he would have been under Trump’s control as the probe inched forward — if it even did.

Stewart’s loyalty to “Mussolini” is consistent with his political character. You might remember the way he won the nomination at the 2012 Utah Republican Convention, when he spoke in LDS code words to the delegates, warning of conspiracies by the “Gadianton robbers” (scriptural bad guys in the faith’s Book of Mormon).

That speech was followed by a bizarre accusation from one of the other candidates, little-known Milton Hanks, who had hardly campaigned, that four other candidates had conspired to damage Stewart’s reputation.

Stewart prevailed. But the whole dispute led to a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission and prompted state Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper and now the House speaker, to grumble, “I smell a rat.”

Utah’s other delegation members have not been as all-in with Trump.

Sen. Mike Lee had reservations about Trump’s troop expansion in Afghanistan and was reluctant to sign onto the Republican tax plan. Rep. Mia Love has disagreed with the president on immigration matters, particularly his withdrawal of protections for refugees from Haiti, Love’s ancestral home. Rep. Rob Bishop, other than his shared belief with Trump that monuments needed shrinking, hasn’t said much. That’s because Bishop basically goes into hibernation after each election and doesn’t emerge again until the next one.

Rep. John Curtis is too new to the job to assess whether he, too, will be a Trump lackey.

But all of Utah’s delegation voted for the tax plan — despite predictions it will add more than $1 trillion to the national debt over 10 years.

So Irvine, a former Republican Utah legislator, can hope these lawmakers do the right thing for the country instead of just for their party and its leader. But he best not hold his breath. They don’t have a good track record.