Utah's Rep. Chris Stewart once quoted his wife as saying, "There's nothing worth accomplishing in Washington that's worth losing your soul over." It seems like he didn't take her words to heart.
Stewart is a larger-than-life specimen of humankind—a prolific novelist of books centered on political and military intrigue; a four-term congressman with deep ties to the intelligence community; a family man and devout Latter-day Saint who has made frequent references in his writing to the havoc coming in advance of the final days on earth; and a 14-year military pilot deserving of all the glory normally bestowed on those who defy gravity and escape the "surly bonds of earth."
In short, he is a star. But, while Stewart might deserve a pinch of hero worship, he's having a difficult time moving in a direction that Utahns can trust. Somewhere along the way, Stewart stepped in some super glue. Despite his prowess as an aviator—he seems unable to break the bond between his shoes and the GOP path.
Stewart's "my party right-or-wrong" mantra isn't being overlooked. Something interesting happened a few nights ago at Stewart's North Salt Lake town hall. His previously sheepish constituents grew teeth, asking pointed questions about America's most pressing issues, and his answers were not to their liking, revealing some kind of evolutionary accident that had left him totally gutless. It seems he is better suited to survival in the D.C. slime than in defending those values he swore to uphold.
Predictably, the pressing issues included gun control, President Donald Trump's recent racist tweets and the economy. While Stewart would have probably been capable of dealing with a mid-flight mechanical failure, he'd apparently left that part of him at home in his flight bag. Instead of maintaining his cool, his constituents found out how easy it was to rile him, and the meeting turned into a verbal melee.
In the wake of one of America's deadliest gun tragedies, Stewart was asked how he planned to keep our school children safe. Torn between his NRA campaign financing and recent mass shootings, Stewart did the standard GOP two-step, showing concern for victims and acknowledging that the proposed "Red Flag" legislation was needed to avert such disasters. He explained how the proposed Trump-supported law would allow courts to respond to reports by family and friends who view a person as a potential threat, and that the courts would have 72 hours to decide whether a person should be deprived of their firearms. Wrong answer.
Stewart seemed incapable of tackling the matter head-on, parrying left and right, and choosing, instead, to decry white nationalism and racism. His audience pointed out how Stewart had failed to vote for the nonbinding House resolution condemning Trump's vitriolic tweets about four non-white representatives. Stewart acknowledged his "no" vote, adding a defensive, "By your question, you are implying that I'm a racist." The audience reminded him of Trump's anti-immigrant stance, asserting that the president's rhetoric has fomented racial hate. Stewart explained lamely that Trump has committed no violence. Another bad answer. That's tantamount to saying that Hitler, himself, killed no Jews. Stewart was so flustered, if not embarrassed, that he threatened to walk out of the meeting if the contentiousness continued.
Questions about the economy and the new tax law followed. "The problem," Stewart parroted, "is that we're just spending too much." And it was followed by another standard GOP myth: "President Trump came to office as a businessman." Predictably, there were more verbal rights, lefts and uppercuts from the audience—clearly aware that Trump's business history is, at best, laughable.
The final question asked if Stewart believed that the findings of the Mueller report justify impeachment.
"The Democrats control the House," he said, adding, "They are free to do that, and I pray they do, because, if they did, you [can] guarantee Donald Trump will be re-elected." His final words proved his worth. He cannot be included in the ranks of Homo erectus. Spineless is the better fit.
It doesn't matter how many kudos Stewart has received. He's incapable of breaking from the party line, and Utahns are seeing just how pathetic he is. The verbal donnybrook that characterized the town hall was a sign that the people of our state don't like what's going on. There was little question when the town hall meeting was over; Stewart had not flown gracefully through the fray nor had any of his audience found satisfaction, closure or even understanding. Instead of responding to the people's need for positive action, his performance was exactly what was to be expected from a Republican pawn.
The way I see it is that we elect and pay our congressmen to represent our rights and move along our agendas. Although Stewart spent years navigating the skies, it seems that he's forgotten his wife's simple moral roadmap. Even his most faithful constituents can see it: he has lost his soul. Instead of choosing the high ground, he answers only to the Republican Party—something that a robot is fully capable of doing.
The author is a former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and one mongrel dog. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org