When Utah became a state—after years of holding out over the issue of plural marriage—our first senators were Frank Cannon and Arthur Brown. It's too bad we've forgotten about Brown. Years after his Senate term, he was shot by his mistress and died four days later of his wounds. Why can't we have Utah senators like that anymore? I'd trade Brown right now for 10 Mike Lees. Cannon and Brown were Republicans as have been all but five of Utah's senators. Hard to see, right?
Many people remember Sen. Thomas Kearns who left his imprint all over town, including a stint as owner of The Salt Lake Tribune. His beautiful Kearns home is now our Governor's Mansion on South Temple. Some folks also recall Sen. Reed Smoot who served into the 1930s. He is often credited as being one of the persons most responsible for making the Great Depression even more depressing, thanks to his namesake Smoot-Hawley Act that placed onerous tariffs on thousands of goods.
Frank Moss was the last Utah Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate. He was a notable supporter of Medicaid and of our national parks, and he was a visionary leader when it came to toy, product and poison safety. For those good reasons and others, his name graces the top of the Frank E. Moss U.S. Courthouse on the corner of 400 South and Main. A block west of that building, the Orrin G. Hatch U.S. Courthouse sadly stands at the corner of 400 South and West Temple. It's fair to claim that Moss has his name atop the better building. The Hatch building is an abomination, much in the form of the career of Sen. Hatch himself.
Hatch served alongside Sen. Jake Garn, the former Navy pilot who is remembered for his spaceflight aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1985. Somewhere over Micronesia, Garn famously lost his lunch. I never knocked Jake for puking in space. I puke at the thought of it, so he'll always one up me on that score. Garn also lent his name to one of Salt Lake City's iconic bands of the era, Jake in Space. That's as kind as history can be to Jake Garn.
Garn's Senate tenure is sandwiched between that of Sen. Robert Bennett, who served after him, and Sen. Wallace Bennett who served before him and delivered Garn a bit of seniority when he retired from the Senate early. The father and son duo represented Utah for 41 years. That seems incredible until you realize that Hatch—who campaigned on a pledge not to serve more than three terms—served 42 years all by himself. Both Bennetts will be remembered more fondly than Hatch will, primarily on the virtue of not being terrible people, more in tune with public service than being a servant to publicity.
Utah is currently blessed with two senators who will be ledgered into future history books—but for entirely different reasons. On the good side of history will be Mitt Romney. On the bad side will be Mike Lee. Enough has been written about the spines of both to write novels. However, history doesn't remember if people are likable or honest; rather it remembers them for what they do.
Donald Trump fully understands that. He told a supplicant or interviewer—I don't recall which—that he couldn't care less how history remembered what kind of person he was, because by then, he'd be dead anyway. Lack of a conscience is a trait of tyrants, misogynists, liars and thieves. It is apparently genetic.
Of our two senators, it is only Romney who exhibits that he has a conscience. Mike Lee is like a baby Trump, a transactional opportunist above all else. His fundamental nature is to drill down on something entirely arcane just so he can show off his brilliance, never mind how others are affected. You saw that when he solely blocked passage of a bill that would have developed national museums for Latinos and American women at the Smithsonian. He said he did so for unity. No one on the planet except Mike Lee saw it that way. But, he had to make his point. He did it again last week when he declared the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump to be unconstitutional. Never mind that a who's who of American jurisprudence felt otherwise.
Worse, Lee is also an absolutist. Remember Utah's first two senators? Brown died gloriously, while Cannon, the son of an LDS apostle, went on to reject Mormonism, especially because of its absolutism and interference in politics. If you are a Utah non-Mormon, you know what that means—you will always be regarded as wrong and no matter how sane the policy—if the LDS Church wants the opposite, the opposite will be served.
On that subject, Cannon wrote a book titled Under the Prophet in Utah in which he describes the embodiment of hierarchal Mormons such as Mike Lee as "[persons who] live under an absolutism. They have no more right of judgment than a dead body. Yet the diffusion of authority is so clever that nearly every man seems to share in its operation and feels himself in some degree a master without observing that he is also a slave." That's right. Mike Lee is so blind to what he is that he can't see that he is also what he opposes.
The judgment of Mike Lee—barring those persons who are as blind as he—is that he is a terrible human being. So much so that a group has formed to unseat him in 2022. The group has the apt name of Humans Against Mike Lee. A more perfect name could not have been chosen. Look for them on Twitter. If you count yourself as a human, join in.
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