Several Mormons have posted views defending or criticizing Utah Senator Orrin Hatch who died on Monday, April 23, 2022. Below is my friend’s ranking of various Mormon senators and my reactions to his list and others, going from the best at No. 1 to the worst at 15. In asserting these comments, it needs to be said that I’m a life-long committed church member, missionary in Brazil, church leader over a half dozen congregations around the world, and a former full-time Seminary and Institute of Religion teacher, as well as Brigham Young University business professor. After the list, I describe my recollections about Mr. Hatch, both the “the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
15. Mike Lee (R-UT)
14. Dean Heller (R-NV)
13. Mike Crapo (R-ID)
12. Paula Hawkins (R-FL)
11. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
10. Wallace Bennett (R-UT)
9. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
8. Mitt Romney (R-UT)
7. Jake Garn (R-UT)
6. Howard Cannon (D-NV)
5. Gordon Smith (R-OR)
4. Tom Udall (D-NM)
3. Bob Bennett (R-UT)
2. Frank Moss (D-UT)
1. Harry Reid (D-NV)
I pretty much agree with the list but might put the Wally Bennett and Jeff Flake rankings a bit lower (more positive). Millions of Mormons would agree Mike Lee is the worst for dozens of reasons, especially since we keep learning more of his efforts to overturn the 2020 Biden election. But those are for another day. In my view, Sen. Reid will be No. 1 for decades because of his leadership, brains and patriotism. I'll simply respond to several views by others. Hatch was supported by many Utahns precisely and solely because he was a member of the church. If he’d stayed in Pennsylvania where he was born, he’d have never gone to Congress. Maybe never graduated from college.
At the outset, it should be said that I knew Mr. Hatch somewhat. In Congressional hearings in Washington, I testified as an expert witness because of my research on community decline before him in the U.S. Senate on the need to strengthen labor laws, expand employee ownership, and combat factory shutdowns across America. We also met occasionally at events in Utah where I was an MBA professor at BYU.
The first criticism that many of us have of him was that he went back on his promises numerous times. In 1976 he ran against the great Utah Senator Frank Moss (D), promising two things: That he would only serve two terms and he’d make term limits a reality, alleging Moss and others were “out of touch” with their constituents. But after winning a seat in the Senate, Hatch ignored that commitment and stayed 42 years! If he’d fulfilled his word, he never would have done so much political damage.
The decades before the 1970s were among Utah's greatest. Both the LDS church and our state government were led by Democrats for many years. But after Hatch’s victory, Utah began suffering from what I called our state's "Californication," the influx of Republicans from Reagan Country in Southern California. It made fertile breeding grounds for right-wing wannabe influencers like Hatch.
What were some of “Borin' Orrin's” worst actions during his career? Let me spell out a few of his terrible decisions and ugly policies.
- His conflict of interest and corruption in moneymaking ventures by selling snake oil "supplements" for years was wrong and widely condemned
- There were Hatch’s terrible social policies such as defending racism, launching attacks to destroy Obamacare for millions of poor American families, and his likening gay schoolteachers to having Nazis in classrooms.
- In 2017, Hatch urged Donald Trump to ignore climate science and withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement and he continued before and afterward to enjoy huge sums of ongoing campaign funding from polluting companies.
- Hatch was a major advocate for the Federalist Society, facilitating the appointments of extremely conservative judges and Supreme Court justices for decades that greatly diminished the rule of law in our democracy. Many of the legal issues confronting America today have come from alt-right extremist judges making rules to turn back the clock for 50-70 years.
- He often sided with big, corrupt corporations such as his efforts in 1989 to protect the Bank of Credit and Commerce International’s crimes of drug laundering and similar efforts. He defended his buddies at the bank on the Senate floor, giving a verbatim speech written by BCCI’s chief attorney. Ultimately the scheme was revealed, bribes were documented, and Hatch’s secret support became known. He fought to protect corporations in other shady business efforts, as well. That along with other unethical business efforts were a stain on the Senate.
- Some of his sons and donor friends became DC lobbyists and benefitted greatly from Hatch’s coziness with the private sector in protecting Big Pharma and other firms injuring the American people from coast to coast.
- On the positive side, Sen. Hatch did work with Democrats to pass several pieces of major legislation, such as the Children's Health Insurance Program and the Americans with Disabilities Act. In fact, he and Sen. Ted Kennedy enjoyed a personal and professional relationship, collaborating on several bills as leaders of the Senate Labor Relations Committee, surprising me and most political observers.
- Back in the late 1990s, Hatch voted to impeach Bill Clinton, declaring sanctimoniously that “committing crimes of moral turpitude such as perjury and obstruction of justice go to the heart of qualification for public office... This great nation can tolerate a president who makes mistakes. But it cannot tolerate one who makes a mistake and then breaks the law to cover it up. Any other citizen would be prosecuted for these crimes.”
- Orrin Hatch ran for the U.S. presidency in 2000 but wasn’t skilled or energetic enough to have success. He lost badly early on. I always considered his run mostly based on his big ego, but his having little competence. Through the years, he easily won Utah voters because they were largely like obedient sheep following the herd. But attempting a nationally competitive presidential race without a clear funding strategy and doing very little, he was simply too naïve to be a major contender.
- The Senator voted against ratifying the nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia because of his disdain for President Obama and ignorance of geopolitical realities. He was never very aware, nor respected, by U.S. partners in other governments throughout the world.
- Of course, none of us should forget his efforts to join SCOTUS as a wannabe justice, and his later support of two appointees, sex abusers Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh. Scary.
- In trying to give Mr. Hatch some more positives, I should mention he tried to bill himself as a “musician.” Of course, it was nonpolitical, but still was perceived as a negative thing. He reportedly wrote over 300 songs, mostly with some type of patriotic or religious theme. Before a 2018 Senate bill was passed, his GOP colleagues renamed it the “Orrin G. Hatch Music Modernization Act,” hoping to honor him. But for many folks, even Utahns, his atrocious attempts at musical compositions caused pain in the ears of all who knew better.
- Orrin’s relationship with Donald Trump was always contradictory. He defended some of Trump’s racism and worse. In the salacious 2016 “Access Hollywood” tapes of Trump bragging about his many sexual exploits, Hatch at first called Trump “offensive,” “disgusting,” and “degrading.” Yet he quickly dropped his Mormon values and continued endorsing Trump's candidacy for the White House.
- I always found his attempted righteousness to be such a contradiction with Donald Trump’s well-documented 39,000 lies. In 2018, in the wake of court filings that implicated Trump in campaign finance violations and in attempting to buy the silence of women who alleged affairs with him, Hatch said, "I don't care, all I can say is he's doing a good job as president.” Huh?
- Another of Mr. Hatch’s worst moves were his efforts to counter Obama’s creation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, by pushing to have it eliminated or severely reduced by bringing Trump to Utah and (mistakenly?) praising DJT as the “greatest President ever.”
- Happily, Trump rewarded Hatch with a Medal of Freedom, something Donald did for other defenders, including divisive, anti-American partisans like Jim Jordan, Rush Limbaugh (remember his term “feminazi”?), and California’s incompetent Devin Nunes. Even worse, there were the criminal associates and protectors of Trump who received presidential clemency: Crooks like Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, and George Papadopoulos who each carried out criminal acts to overthrow elections, and achieve other despicable strategies.
- With his death, the Hatch right-wing lobby of donors and politicians will soon begin their next efforts to put Orrin’s name on public and private buildings, rivers, schools, city dumps, parks, etc. Maybe even a library or little conservatory of music. It’s going to become very embarrassing.
Orrin Hatch is dead. Long live Senator Hatch!