Orrin Hatch referred last year to his long Senate tenure as “my whole stinking career.”
That was a fair assessment of the Utah Republican’s 41 years in Washington.
Seventy-five percent of Utah voters told pollsters last fall that they did not want the senator to seek reelection in 2018.
Hatch took the hint this week, announcing that he plans to retire after four decades of placing special interests and the personal power that is obtained by serving them above the public interest and the people whose lives are made dramatically worse when government abandons them.
Few, aside from President Trump, Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell, and the lobbyists for the special interests Hatch served, will miss one of the most egregious hypocrites ever to serve in a chamber where mendacity has always been well represented.
Hatch was elected to the Senate in 1976, after running a campaign that anticipated the crudely divisive strategies and relentless negativity that have come to characterize contemporary campaigning. Hatch was a pioneering practitioner of the new politics of shameless pretense that would come to define Washington. A Republican who had moved to Utah from Pennsylvania, he claimed that the incumbent Democratic senator, who had been born and raised in Utah, was out of touch with the values and the concerns of the state.
That was a fantasy developed by the political con artists who had the malleable newcomer run on the issue of term limits. Hatch made a joke of incumbent Frank Moss’s three terms of honorable service in the Senate: “What do you call a senator who’s served in office for 18 years? You call him home.” And Hatch promised not to serve for too long in Washington.
Both the slogan’s suggestion—that Moss had nothing more to contribute—and the term-limits commitment were shameless lies.
Moss was not a typical politician. He was one of the most effective public servants of the 20th century. While studying at George Washington University’s Law School in Washington, he worked during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first term with the National Recovery Administration, the Resettlement Administration, and the Farm Credit Administration. After graduating, he joined the legal staff of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, serving during the period from 1937 to 1939 when it was chaired by future US Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. Upon his return to Utah, Moss was elected to a Salt Lake City municipal-court judgeship; but when the call of duty came with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he signed up for the US Army Air Corps, serving in Europe through much of World War II. Back home, he was again elected as a judge and then became a county prosecutor before his election to the US Senate in the Democratic wave election of 1958.