Gary the Good | Deep End | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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News » Deep End

Gary the Good

Need integrity? Use the 'Utah Defense.'


Gary & The Cookie Jar - JOHN KILBOURN

Already the authoritative Dictionary of Ancient and Modern Defenses has updated its entry on the Utah Defense. Dispassionate law scholars have worked around the clock to include the response of the Herbert administration to evidence presented by the Corroon campaign that the accidental governor is in the business of exchanging lucrative governmental favors for generous campaign contributions.

Those interested in perusing the entire updated entry can go online at, or hie themselves over to the local library and read the dictionary in book form. Look up the Utah Defense on page 769, on which someone, unfortunately, has spilled some food substance—fry sauce? strawberry sherbert? funeral potatoes?—in the bottom-right quarter, obscuring three words in the middle of the sentence beginning, “Von Clausewitz was baptized by Brigham Young …”

I have received permission from the publisher to print excerpts from the entry in question. Some background might be in order: In early editions, the Utah Defense was known as the Mormon Defense, which was subsequently changed to the Utah Republican Defense. With the demise of Utah Democrats at some point in the final decades of the 20th century, editors deemed it redundant to say Utah Republicans, opting instead for the self-explanatory Utah Defense title.

Serious students of defensive strategies have placed the Utah Defense in the same category as the Sicilian Defense (chess) and The Blitz, sometimes referred to as the Red Dog Defense (football). The Utah Defense is obviously in distinguished company. All three defenses are variations of the principle espoused by Carl von Clausewitz (1780—1831), the noted Prussian mastermind of total warfare. His most famous dictum is, of course, “Die beste Verteidigung ist ein guter Angriff,” translated loosely in English-speaking nations as “The best defense is a good offense.”

The entry describing the Utah Defense begins with a rather rarefied account of how the connection between Brigham Young and von Clausewitz—involving a third cousin of Clausewitz’s who married a sister of one of Young’s wives—eventually led to the surrogate baptism of the Prussian mastermind in the Manti temple. I skip over that to give you an abbreviated—but, I hope, illuminating—version of the entry:

“The essence of the Utah Defense, as practiced by public officials and high-ranking authorities who are caught red-handed in wrongdoing or malfeasance of any sort, is the indignant and self-righteous assertion of innocence. I can’t do anything bad because I am good … In modern times, the Utah Defense was successfully employed by various Olympic officials implicated in a scheme to bribe members of the International Olympic Committee. A classic formulation of the Utah Defense was delivered by former Gov. Michael O. Leavitt when he denied any complicity in the bribery, proclaiming that he had ‘inventoried his soul,’ and found that it was innocent, pure and untouched … [Here follows a digression on a variation of the Utah Defense, the so-called Deaf Man Defense, used by one official to explain how incriminating documents were inadvertently destroyed by a man with double hearing-aids.]

“In September of 2010, accidental governor Gary Herbert, an insecure party hack given to hasty exits and just-keep-walking snubs of the working press, was nabbed in pay-for-play schemes, among them one involving highway contracts, another a mining company and yet another a medical-device business. (See timelines on for damning evidence of erstwhile Realtor Herbert’s culpability. The usual sequence: meeting with governor, first half of ‘campaign contribution,’ awarding of contract or tax break, second half of ‘campaign contribution.’ Contribution is split in manner of various criminal enterprises—half now, half when you do the job.)

“Governor Herbert and his defenders were careful to include all the elements of the Utah Defense. Indignation: ‘I will not sit idly by while you drag through the dirt the reputations of Utah business.’ (Herbert) Innocence and Integrity Cannot Be Called into Doubt, Despite Facts: ‘I wouldn’t dare question the integrity of the governor’ (KSL talk-show host Doug Wright, dear friend of Herbert). Impugn Integrity of Critics: ‘This is entirely a smear campaign based on innuendo’ (Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell).

“Herbert violated one key rule of the Utah Defense, however. He pretty much admitted his guilt by making use of the long discredited Nixon ‘I-am-not-a-crook’ locutionary gambit: ‘Let me be perfectly clear,’ he stated in a public letter, quoting Tricky Dick word for word. ‘There is no basis of truth to the allegations.’” Nixon couldn’t have said it better.