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Mitt Smitten

Why do Utahns love Romney?


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For the life of me, I can’t figure out Utah’s love affair with Mitt Romney. Take away that he’s a Mormon, and there’s no way Utahns would go for this guy. No way. Well, maybe. Because, let’s see, wasn’t that Jason Chaffetz fellow some kind of Democrat in an earlier version of himself, one before he righted his ship—literally—and became a right-wing Republican conservative darling? Utah elected him to Congress once he put the R on his lapel. Same thing nearly happened for Beau Babka, who, as an officer for the South Salt Lake Police force, was a high-profile Democrat. When his aspirations grew, so did his realization that Democrats are hard to elect, and he ran for county sheriff as a Republican.

It makes me wonder how many others of our elected officials have changed stripes just to become elected. You know it’s more than just a couple. In Romney’s case, he didn’t go so far as to change political parties, just political positions. He’s flopped more times than Fosbury. And with each change of position—from health care to gun control—he’s taken one more step to selling the little slice of a human soul that may have once resided under his perfectly combed hair. As we have all learned, it requires a soulless person to run for political office, for how else can we explain that after 40 years fighting the War on Hunger, America is doing no better at it than when it started?

We’re doing worse at many things compared with when I was young. Is our defense or military as strong as it was? Is our standard of living leading the world? Is our health care? Is our privacy not being attacked? Can we assure that America can pay its debts? Politicians keep blaming everything but themselves for the slippage in all of the above. They blame Mexican workers. They blame school systems. They blame Iraq. They blame unions. They blame the president. They blame the Supreme Court. They blame the voters for electing Democrats in one state, and they blame the voters in another for electing Republicans. But they never blame themselves.

For 34 years, Orrin Hatch has been a U.S. Senator. Do you think he ever considers he is part of the problem when he talks about changing the way the government operates? Nah. For all of those 34 years, Hatch has been against abortion. For all of those 34 years, someone like the late Sen. Ted Kennedy supported the pro-choice position. Each of them and many others were elected over and over, predicated on their position on that single issue. Yet, has anything substantive changed on abortion since Roe v. Wade? For all we know, Hatch doesn’t know which side of the nickel is up when it comes to the economy, but since he’s against abortion, he’s worth electing.

You can bet that most of the Republicans in the House and Senate were elected because of their anti-abortion stances. And you can bet that most Democrats are elected on similar wedge issues, which, like the abortion issue, never change. The process only means that we continue to elect a disproportionate number of politicians in both parties who are willing to say the most outrageous things and tell the biggest lies imaginable. The bigger the stage, the bigger the lie. Is Mitt Romney against abortion? Yes, when he’s not running for governor of Massachusetts.

I remember when Mitt left Utah after he “saved the Olympic Games” in 2002. Even I was smitten, authoring a column at the time with the headline, “Mitt for President.” But, times change. For starters, I’ve realized that Mitt didn’t really save the Olympics at all—he was the ebullient, pretty face but not much more. Those games were already being righted financially by efforts put in place by the existing Olympic Committee and previous Olympic organizers like Tom Welch and Dave Johnson. It was the smear of scandal that the dashing Romney changed the face of. He can hardly take credit for the billion or so dollars spent locally by the federal government making sure our games were not only safe just a few scant months after 9/11 but financially rewarding, as well (I wonder what the tea party would say about the feds bailing Utah out on that one).

Later, I learned how Mitt Romney (truth is, I remembered his father, George Romney, more than I knew anything about Mitt) made his wealth. We all know that in Utah, wealth equates to living right and being closer to God and all that, and that wealthy Utah Mormons are regarded as better spiritual beings than regular, normal Utah Mormons like schoolteachers. But still. Romney became the wealthy man he is by handling his leveraged takeover operations at Bain Capital with little thought to whatever Jesus might do. He got rich by buying distressed companies, firing the employees, shipping what remained overseas and keeping the billions in proceeds for himself and his shareholders. Now he says he’s all about job creation. What planet from the Book of Mormon are those Utahns who support Romney from, anyway?

As Massachusetts governor, he essentially wrote the text that became the Obama health plan that he now derides. He lied about being a lifelong hunter to appease the gun-rights groups. What next? That he tans naturally?

What’s next is that he’s building a $12 million home on the site of his “inadequate” current home on the California shoreline. I have no quarrel with that—he can spend his ill-gotten lucre as he wants. And I can spend my days wondering how Utahns can be so in love with a man they’d revile if he were a Democrat, independent, woman, or non-Mormon Republican. 

Twitter: @JohnSaltas 


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