As is their wont, the folks on public radio gave me a lot more time to complete a thought than the guys who run cable TV news.
So I had a much better one to offer the interviewer from KBUR’s “Here and Now” broadcast than I managed to squeeze into either of my auctioneer-speed talking-head appearances on CNN or MSNBC.
The thought being that Orrin Hatch’s primary embarrassment to Utah and to the nation is not so much his efforts to undermine the state’s status as an eternal public lands domain or his inability to let go of his power. It is more obviously and specifically his downright sickening tendency to give a series of big, wet kisses to the unfortunate choice the Electoral College made last year as head of the executive branch.
Early this week your Salt Lake Tribune created a huge year-end (i.e. dead season for news) splash with its article and accompanying editorial on how and why Utah’s exceedingly senior senator came to be named our Utahn of the Year. Not everyone caught our drift when we said that the “honor” is sometimes attached to the person who committed the most newsworthy acts during the previous trip around the sun.
And, as we in the nobody-writes-about-the-airplane-that-landed-safely brigade usually take as a given, newsworthy doesn’t always mean worthy.
It was enough to draw the attention of the national media — web, print, cable and NPR — not all of whom grasped the difference between the relatively straightforward Page One article and the much more, well, opinionated opinion piece on the Opinion page.
This is where I develop some sympathy for the gun nuts, er, firearms enthusiasts, who try to dismiss from the conversation any of us who don’t have the lingo down cold. Who can’t always articulate the difference between, say, a clip and a magazine, or automatic from semi-slaughterhouse settings. The fact that people who are in the media biz can’t always tell a news article from a commentary from an editorial never ceases to tick me off.
CNN’s Don Lemon and MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson each tried to pin me down as to why The Tribune Editorial Board said such critical things about such an established and, by our own words, effective politician. And neither of them would shut up while I tried to answer.
(Though, to be fair, if you are trying to squeeze anything resembling a full political conversation into less than four minutes, everybody talking at the same time may be the only way to do it.)
The answer is, of course, that one can be very accomplished in doing things that shouldn’ta oughtn’ta hadn’ta been done. Like perpetuating the evil myth that those huge tracts of public lands near Utah’s small towns are to blame for the fact that many of those towns are going away. Willfully ignorant of the fact that small towns everywhere else, including in states where there are no public lands, are going away just as quickly.
But in a much more leisurely talk with the folks of the NPR news program “Here and Now,” I had a chance to develop a deeper reason for Why It Is Time For Hatch To Go.
The senator’s recent and cringe-worthy infatuation with our current chief executive, calling him the best president he has ever served under, maybe the best president ever, is appalling.
The “best ever” part isn’t as bad as the “served under” bit. Senators, particularly the sitting president pro tempore of the United States Senate, do not “serve under” a president. They are members — and, in Hatch’s case, constitutionally designated leaders — of a co-equal branch of government. One that, in the vision of the Founders, are supposed to maintain a delicate balance of power only by each branch guarding its prerogatives and powers.
“[T]he great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others.” — James Madison, Federalist No. 51
Note that the man who is arguably the greatest of the founders counts not just on structure to maintain the balance of power, but also on “personal motives,” in hoping that the executive, legislative and judicial branches will each be so protective of their own power that none of them will seize it all.
But when people like Orrin Hatch put party — what Madison denigrated as “faction” — ahead of the Constitution, the machine is severely damaged. And when your own senator is the one wielding the largest monkey wrench, you have little choice but to recognize him as Saboteur of the Year.
George Pyle, The Tribune’s editorial page editor, is campaigning for the honor of The Most Opinionated Man in the World. Stay angry, my friends. firstname.lastname@example.org