Tribune editorial: Hypocritical Hatch can’t be gone soon enough

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, joined from left by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, holds a news conference to refute Senate Democrats who are intensifying their fight over documents related to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's stint as staff secretary at the White House, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

If Orrin Hatch wants to go out with a reputation as a wise elder statesman, he doesn’t have much time left.

The lame-duck senior senator from the state of Utah reared his hypocritical head the other day, restating his claim to be the poster politician for a lot of what is wrong with out hyper-partisan, gridlocked Congress. And he managed to draw all the more opprobrium for the fact that, only a few days before, The Wall Street Journal published a commentary with Hatch’s byline arguing that there is a crying need for more “respect and civility” in our national politics.

Specifically, Hatch and a few other Republican senators, including Utah’s Mike Lee, were attacking their Democratic colleagues over the Democrats' call to slow down the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment on the U.S. Supreme Court. As is often the case with high court nominees, the party backing the nomination argues that great deference should be given to the president’s choice and that the other party is being ridiculous and obstructive.

Apparently, in this situation, “respect and civility” are for wimps. Hatch went off on the Democrats, saying, "We can’t keep going down this partisan, picky, stupid, dumbass road that has happened around here for so long.”

Everyone plays this game to some degree. Both parties argue deference and cooperation when it serves their interest, and roll out the invective and attack dogs when that suits them.

But one might have hoped that a long-time senator such as Hatch, who has no need to stir up the red-meat base because he isn’t running for re-election, could have made his partisan argument without such derision. Or that he might have realized that he was hardly in a position to cast the first stone.

Hatch’s paper trail of hypocrisy is even more obvious than most. Back in the day, he suggested that then-President Barack Obama might quell the storm of partisanship by nominating a clearly qualified, non-ideological judge such as, say, oh, Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Then, when Obama did exactly that, Hatch was among the Republicans who blocked so much as a hearing on the nomination because, well, Obama.

Now, when Democrats argue that the Republicans aren’t providing as much background detail about Kavanaugh as the Democrats did about nominees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, Hatch and other Republicans basically argue that whoever is in the majority gets to play by a different set of rules.

One of the arguments against even considering the Garland nomination was that Obama was a lame-duck president and that the seat on the high court should not be filled until after the oncoming election.

If that argument were valid — which it isn’t — then a morally consistent and intellectually honest argument would be that a lame-duck senator like Orrin Hatch should butt out of this argument altogether.