After much consideration, and a lifetime watching goofy movies and TV shows, I have come to the conclusion that the person we think of as Utah’s soon-to-be-senior senator, Mike Lee, is really two people.
There’s Mike Lee, constitutional scholar, brave questioner of mass surveillance and the Patriot Act and one of the architects of the new, painstakingly crafted sentencing reform law that was a long time coming.
And then there’s Mickey Lee, petulant political extremist who likes to hold his breath and watch America turn purple. (I thought about calling him Spike Lee, but that name’s taken. Or Ike Lee, but that would sully the nickname of President Dwight Eisenhower.)
(It would help if Mickey would grow a beard. But that’s too easy.)
This political mitosis was evident a couple of weeks ago when, in the course of one day, Mike worked with senators of both parties to pass a resolution to end American military support for Saudi Arabia’s genocidal war against Yemen while Mickey single-handedly blocked a bill that would insulate special counsel Robert Mueller from having his probe of the president’s shady dealing with Russia and said Saudis from presidential meddling.
The tag-team governing happened again last week, when Mike, many other senators from both parties and the president’s son-in-law celebrated the signing of The First Step Act. It was one of those things that occasionally happens in Washington, in a process that can be maddening but is an example of how the inventors of America envisioned such progress: a slow and careful merging of ideas and values of different personalities and interest groups to move forward with a proposition that can be supported by enough people to get it over the finish line.
Clearly, this was one of those times when folks up and down the spectrum had to make sure they weren’t letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. The reforms were thought too radical by some and insufficient by others. That’s why they called it The First Step Act. Many of it supporters see it as something that, they hope, will be followed by at least a Second Step, and maybe a Third Step, on the way to true enlightenment in criminal justice reform.
Then, perhaps exhausted by the effort, Mike went home and Mickey showed up on the floor of the Senate to be the one objection that killed a package of public lands reforms that had -- wait for it -- been painstakingly worked out by elected officials and interest groups of all stripes.
The compendium included measures that had been hashed out by soon-to-be-ex-Sen. Orrin Hatch, as well as by Utah Republican Reps. Chris Stewart, John Curtis, Rob Bishop and Mia Love.
But Mickey declared it wasn’t good enough because it didn’t include his demand that Congress amend the Antiquities Act to prohibit this or future presidents from declaring large national monuments in Utah. The law already contains such an exemption for Wyoming and Alaska, and Mickey Lee is among a lot of Utah Republicans who is jealous of that.
It was not, though, part of the agreed-upon package, so Mickey invoked the right of any senator to object to a bill that is, as this one was, on a fast track to approval.
It is like the crabby, entitled child who didn’t get a pony for Christmas so he spends the morning breaking all his other gifts. And everyone else’s, too.
Among those cheesed off by the failure of the bill was Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who tweeted his disappointment, diplomatically blaming “Washington’s dysfunction,” rather than calling out the offending senator by name.
Maybe that’s because he doesn’t know Mickey Lee by name.
George Pyle, the Salt Lake Tribune’s editorial page editor, doesn’t think he has an evil twin. Maybe that means he is the evil twin. He does have a beard, after all. firstname.lastname@example.org