Our political culture has come to a sad state when the simple act of retiring before obvious disability intervenes is an act of rare responsibility and courage. We are at that sad state, however, so the announcement by 83-year-old Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Republican senator in American history, that he will not run for re-election in 2018 is worthy of salute. Hatch will leave the Senate at the end of his current term, after 42 years in office. He is giving up power, something so many find difficult to do.
Hatch has power now: he is the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. He played a pivotal role in passing the Trump tax reform bill that passed before Christmas, and decided that it was a fitting way to crown his historic Senate career. It isn’t exactly Ted Williams hitting a home run in his final at bat; for one thing, there is another year to go before Hatch’s term is up. Nonetheless, he is doing one of the hardest things for a p0werful figure to do, especially, it seems, today’s Senators in both parties,
More than half of the 18 Senators up for reelection in 2018 will be over the age of 65. If they win, another six years in office would put Senators Feinstein, Nelson, and Sanders well into their 80s. By the 2020 elections, 21 of the 33 Senators running for reelection will be 65 or older. This is neither healthy for the country nor responsible, and the problem extends beyond the Senate. Over the past three decades, the average age of a member of Congress has steadily increased. In 1981, the average age of a Representative was 49 and the average of a Senator was 53. Today, the average age of a Representative is 57 and the average of a Senator is 61. House Democrats are especially antediluvian: the average age of the Democratic House leadership is 72 years old, in contrast to the average age of Republican House leadership, 48 years.
When my father reached his 80th birthday, he called me on the phone and said cheerily, “Well, son, I’m in the red zone!” He meant that at that advanced age, he could,as he put it, drop dead any second. (Dad made it to 89, but he did, in fact, drop dead.) The average life expectancy for a man at 80 is about 7 years. The Senate term is six years. That’s playing it irresponsibly close. This year we already have the unpleasant spectacle of Senator John McCain, not only in his 80s but battling brain cancer, still refusing to resign in favor of a healthier replacement.
“When the president visited Utah last month, he said I was a fighter. I’ve always been a fighter. I was an amateur boxer in my youth, and I brought that fighting spirit with me to Washington,” Hatch said today in a video statement. “But every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me, that time is soon approaching.”
No, every good fighter doesn’t know when to hang up his gloves. Joe Louis didn’t, and ended his career being defeated by opponents who wouldn’t have lasted five minutes with him in his prime. Muhammad Ali didn’t, and crippled himself as a result. Political leaders who don’t know when to hang up their metaphorical gloves do even more damage, for they harm their constituents and their country with their diminishing vigor and mental acuity.
My favorite fact about Orrin Hatch is that he is a professional pop composer and lyricist, having written songs recorded by the Oakridge Boys, the Osmonds, Gladys Knight and others among his more than 300 musical works. Three of his songs made it into Hollywood film scores, like the one above, written for his friend Ted Kennedy. It was used in “Oceans Twelve.” Last year, Senator Hatch reported $39,092 in royalty earnings on his songs; most pop lyricists would consider that a great year.
Maybe now Hatch will devote himself to his music full time.
19 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Orrin Hatch”
Now the question of Evan McMullen running. Perhaps Mia Love should consider a bid. If not her, perhaps Jason Chaffitz should reevaluate his leaving Congress
Everyone seems to think the seat is Mitt’s if he wants it.
I think that’s right, and I think he does. Frankly, I think Romney would be a fine senator. I hope he runs and is able to earn it.
I think so too, and I think Mitt may be positioning himself to either primary Trump in 2020 or run in 2024 against the next Democratic president. If Mitt tries to challenge Trump in a primary in 2020, will you back him?
As for Hatch, he’s doing the right thing. Senator Frank Lautenberg, brought back from retirement here, once said, “I’ll live forever before I give up this seat to Cory Booker.” A few months later he was dead, and Booker won the seat handily in the following special election. You can’t stop the clock from ticking, and it’s irresponsible to try.
You mark my words, Bernie Sanders, Diane Feinstein, and Elizabeth Warren will all die in the saddle. Like RBG on the Supreme Court, they think they are the last keepers of the flame of progress, and the minute they step down, everything they accomplished will go poof. No one’s that powerful or that important, and it’s hubris to think you are.
Sure. In fact, I wrote in Mitt on the 2016 ballot.
Romney will probably get the nod, but Mia Love would be great on so many levels, not the least of which would be tolerant Lefties unable to contain their racial animus toward a minority that’s decided to eschew the Lefty Plantation.
If you’ve never seen/heard her January 2017 “March For Life” speech, give it a watch/listen.
Her speech was wonderful; her story is inspiring; but (and I say this despite being proud of so many of my race) the whiteness of that crowd, in the middle of Washington, DC, for that occasion, is depressing.
”the whiteness of that crowd, in the middle of Washington, DC, for that occasion, is depressing.”
Bear in mind that this but a mere week after Lefty’s Apocalyptic/End Times/Holocaust/Armageddon/D-Day/Total Protonic Reversal/Secular Judgement Day.
Not to put too fine a point to it, most (not all) Lefties were deeply mired and dangerously immersed in catatonic/apoplectic, pillow-biting, mouth-breathing, thumb-sucking, weenie-whiny, simpering-whimpering, aimlessly reeling, convulsively sobbing, complete metaphysical, emotional, existential, psychological, philosophical, full-throated, freaking out, melting down, totally collapsing free-fall.
Many still are, but that accurately depicted description has been mercifully whittled down to read:
Ha-ha! Paul, I can always count on your humor to lift my spirits. We must not forget Lefty’s most recent addition to her free-fall antics: “sky-scolding” (my marginally effective effort at whittling-down “screaming-at-the-sky”).
Some would say his retirement has less to do with ethics and more to do with the fact that 3 out of 4 Utahns don’t want him to run again. Then there was this editorial.
1. You know, Polls
2. That’s an anti-GOP paper.
3. Lots of Senators get re-elected with those kinds of numbers. Harry Reid, for example. Also McCain.
4. But I’m sure those were factors too.
Even if 3 out of 4 Utahns might not want him to run, there’s very little question he’d win if he had run again.
And yes, the Tribune hates everything right of Obama. The comment section–you’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villiany
+1 for the Star Wars reference.
I just read the comments on the editorial, and found the comments on the left no more offensive than those on the right. Comment sections, in my experience, attract scum and villainy on both sides.
I also read an article on Hatch’s legacy in (I think) today’s paper, and found it pretty balanced. It didn’t glorify or deride Hatch, just stated the facts of his influence. I’m not arguing that the paper is not left leaning, but it does not seem to be a partisan screed.
Just the fact that Hatch ran on the tag line that a senator should be “called home” after 8 years, then served for 40, and that in 2012 said he would not run again and strung the voters and potential candidates along until yesterday is unethical.
While I don’t disagree with you in principle, at least senators face the checks and balances of the electorate every now and again, I can only imagine your opinion on SCOTUS justices like Ruth “I can’t stay awake for long ceremonies, they’re past my bedtime” Ginsberg.
Too easy. When you start falling asleep on the job, then you need to hang them up. Judges should have mandatory retirement at 80 or earlier.
The average age of Congress made me think of this:
“The internet is a series of tubes”