George Pyle: The senator in the iron mask

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, answers questions at a town hall in Draper on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020.

Data had his Lore. Samantha had her Serena. Jeannie had her, well, Jeannie’s sister. President George H.W. Bush’s evil twin, in “Doonesbury,” was named Skippy.

Then there was Spock and Spock with a Beard. And Patty and Cathy Lane. But Spock with a Beard was just cooler than regular Spock, and perhaps the most decent person in an otherwise evil Mirror Universe. And neither cousin on “The Patty Duke Show” could be considered the evil one. Same with both the prince and his pauper. And all those twins in Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” and “Twelfth Night.”

All of those, of course, are fictional characters. But Sen. Mike Lee and his evil twin, Mickey, are real.

How else to explain that, just the other day, four years after Mike Lee was working the floor of the Republican National Convention, searching high and low for some last-minute trick or miracle to block the nomination of the man who is now the president of the United States, the self-same Lee was part of this week’s mostly virtual RNC, happily casting all of Utah’s convention votes for that same president’s reelection?

Obviously, as in “The Man in the Iron Mask,” the real Mike Lee has been spirited off to some castle tower or dungeon and has been replaced by the evil Mickey. The same Mickey who announced last year that he had taken “the scenic route” to becoming not only a supporter of the president’s reelection but also a co-chairman of his Utah campaign.

Lee, of course, is not the only Republican to have capitulated to the president’s cult of personality. Other senators, including Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, have all been sucked into that orbit of obsequiousness. Utah’s other senator, Mitt Romney, has been in and out, mostly out, going so far as to vote to remove the president after the Senate impeachment trial.

And we are left to puzzle over Utah Rep. Chris Stewart’s history. When he aptly described the then-candidate as “our Mussolini,” most of us thought he meant it as a bad thing. His overt loyalty since then leads one to wonder if he really meant it as a compliment.

Lee, of course, as a self-styled constitutional scholar, should be the one most eager to separate himself, and his Republican Party, from the current occupant.

The administration’s ham-handed attacks on the functioning of the U.S. Postal Service fly in the face of the explicit constitutional empowerment of Congress “to establish Post Offices and Post Roads.” Even if you want to claim that the power to create and maintain a post office system is optional rather than mandatory — and it could be read that way, if you hold the Constitution sideways and squint — disestablishing it, or even just tearing its high-speed sorting machines to pieces, is something that only Congress can order, not the president or his highly conflicted postmaster general.

And then there is the census. Which is not an option but among the firmest of Constitution’s mandates, specified in the original Article I, which Lee holds out as first among equals. That mandate was strengthened by the part of the 14th Amendment that did away with that embarrassing three-fifths of a person business for Black slaves and commanded, “counting the whole number of persons in each State.”

Thus putting the lie to the administration’s attempt to not count undocumented immigrants on the phony grounds that it isn’t required. And leading one to again wonder why Lee — well, at least one of them — isn’t hopping mad about the administration’s open contempt of the Constitution that Lee supposedly values so highly.

Then there’s Rep. John Curtis, a Republican from Provo, who is just too Utah nice to be hopping mad about anything. He made sense about how Republicans have to stop calling climate change a hoax — which bravely puts him in square opposition to one of the president’s top priorities.

Curtis did vote against a House bill that would have boosted funding and mandated improvements — or, at least, undone the sabotage — in the Postal Service, arguing that the administration can be believed when it says the “reforms” it is pushing are beneficial and should continue unmolested.

What Curtis should hear when the administration speaks is the voice of the older frat brother in “Animal House,” saying: “You f----- up. You trusted us.”

George Pyle

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, wears a beard to obscure just how stunningly handsome he really is.


Twitter, @debatestate