George Pyle: Republican weakness endangers us all

(Rick Bowmer | AP photo) In this on July 7 photo, Lt. Gov Spencer Cox speaks during a press conference at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City.

“If power corrupts, weakness in the seat of power, with its constant necessity of deals and bribes and compromising arrangements, corrupts even more.”

Barbara Tuchman

Usually it is the Democrats who are derided for bringing a subpoena to a knife fight. But a week ago, we were treated to the sight of a Republican bringing hot chocolate and cookies to a terrorist rally.

Gov.-elect Spencer Cox was down home in Fairview when he noticed a bunch of people outside protesting the state’s wan efforts to help Utahns live through the COVID-19 pandemic. You know, wear masks, keep your distance, give a damn about the life of another human.

Rather than have them run off by the Utah Highway Patrol or hide in his basement, Cox tweeted a photo of the batches of cookies he and his family baked to share with the protesters.

Apparently there are still a fair number of people out there who believe that their rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness are being unjustly impeded by respect they are expected to show for anyone else’s right to life. Some of them took their displeasure to Cox’s home; others stood in the street outside the private home of Gov. Gary Herbert in Orem.

Given that neither demonstration was staged in a place where a lot of people were likely to see it — usually the point of public protests — there is little question that the goal of those assembled was to intimidate both the sitting governor and his successor into standing down their already puny anti-coronavirus measures.

Baking cookies for people who don’t agree with your politics is Cox in a nutshell. In a way, it just continues the delightfully nerdy public service announcements he cut with his Democratic rival for the governor’s office, Chris Peterson, in which the two of them joined in an appeal for people to respect the process and be civil to one another.

But people demanding the right to poison their neighbors are not just political opponents with whom one can reason and debate. They oppose the core of civilization, and a public official who engages them in pleasant chitchat is not being kind. He’s certainly not leading his state in protecting its residents from harm.

This all bodes ill for any hope there might have been that the transition from Herbert to Cox might leave us with a chief executive who would stand up to the extremists and undemocratic elements of his own party, such as happened when Herbert’s attempt to roll out a Utah version of the Affordable Care Act was torpedoed by the Legislature.

There is reason to think that the disgraceful assemblages worked because, as puny as the state’s public safety measures have been, they got even weaker the other day when Herbert allowed a previously declared state of emergency to lapse and offered some thin gravy worth of advice for the coming Thanksgiving holiday.

Doctors generally, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifically, are urging people to avoid any over-the-river-and-through-the-woods trips to your vulnerable grandmother’s house this week. Herbert did no more than add his advice to theirs, going on to say that, if you are going to gather in groups larger than your normal household, do things like wear masks, wash your hands a lot, open some windows for airflow and avoid potluck-style meals.

In other words, if you are going to do something really dumb, make it a bit less dumb.

Meanwhile, back at the coup, Cox is among those who are not having any of the nonsense about the presidential election being stolen or fraudulent. Herbert the other day matter-of-factly referred to Joe Biden as the president-elect and said he looked forward to working with him on containing the coronavirus.

Sen. Mitt Romney again made a splash in the national media by being honest, tweeting a blunt condemnation of the current president’s disgraceful attempts to overturn the results of a free and fair election.

But Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has done a quick turn as a Rudy Giuliani disciple, minus the dripping hair dye, going out of his way to undermine the credibility of the election process in Nevada. The Utah Republican Party officially stood with the president’s wholly bogus attempts to overturn the results of the vote in swing states such as Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Newly elected 4th District Rep. Burgess Owens is spouting nutball charges of Democrats stealing elections.

It is hard to think of Romney as courageous when he continues to vote to confirm lifetime judicial appointments made by the president that he said, alone among Senate Republicans, shouldn’t be president. But he comes closer than most of the other members of his party.

Which, given the fact that the Republicans were not absolutely routed in the recent elections, is pretty scary.

George Pyle, reading The New York Times at The Rose Establishment.

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, is just brave enough to keep doing exactly what he’s been doing for 40 years.


Twitter, @debatestate