Earlier this month, three-term incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) was denied his party’s nomination by conservatives angry at Washington and Congress. Bennett’s loss raised questions of whether Utah’s other longtime senator, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), was “next in line for a pink slip.”
On her radio show today, Laura Ingraham asked Hatch whether he “would be re-elected” if he “were up for re-election in November.” “Yeah,” said Hatch, saying that he agreed with voters who believe that “these people in Washington are running this country right into the ground.” When Ingraham reminded Hatch that he was “part of Washington,” he denied it:
INGRAHAM: But aren’t you part of Washington?
HATCH: Hell no. I’ve never been. I’ve never considered this a job. I’ve had, people have asked me, they said, “say Senator Hatch, don’t you just love being a U.S. senator?” My constant answer is this. No, I don’t love it at all, but I’m good at it. And I’m here for a reason. And all I can say is I’ve never changed my reason. Now, I am fair. I’ve got a reputation for being fair and honest and decent. But the fact of the matter is, if you get Orrin Hatch on your side and he really gets, he really gets his back up, watch out. It’s just that simple and I’ve done it time after time after time.
Hatch’s claim that he’s “never been” part of Washington is laughable. Hatch, who was first elected in 1976, is the longest-serving senator in Utah history. He has been chairman of both the Judiciary and Labor committees and even ran for president in 2000. He participates in elite Washington events like the Gridiron Club and made an appearance in the movie Traffic in a scene re-creating a Georgetown cocktail party. In 2002, Hatch released a book, Square Peg: Confessions of a Citizen Senator, in which he admitted that living in Washington had “changed” him:
“You’ve forgotten us, Hatch,” one man screamed. “What are you, Hatch? Yelled another. “You’re sure not one of us anymore.”
I felt awed, overwhelmed for a moment by the force of their belief. Were they right? Had I really changed that much? Had I abandoned what — and whom — I stood for?
I thought back to the woman with the five dollars, whom I sometimes imagine sitting in judgment over everything I do as a senator. It’s not like that, I wanted to say — I haven’t forgotten you. Sure, I’ve changed. I’ve spent a quarter of a century in Washington, and over time you learn things. I’m more open to different ideas than I once was, more interested in the substance of a proposal than its author.
In the book, Hatch also said that he believes it is “important” for members of Congress to “move your family to Washington” because their “presence during the week is critical to keeping a sense of balance and perspective.” Indeed, Hatch’s family is now part of the Washington establishment. His son Scott is a partner in a Washington lobbying firm, Walker, Martin & Hatch, that was reportedly started with the senator’s “personal encouragement.”
Noting that Hatch has “been a Senator longer than I’ve been alive,” Matt Yglesias writes that Hatch is “a long-serving veteran legislator with a record you can defend or attack. But he’s definitely part of Washington.”