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For week ended August 15, 1999 Posted 29 Aug 1999

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Salt Lake steeler

Summarized by Eric Bunker

Salt Lake steeler
National Review; Page 18 9Aug99 L1
By Jay Nordlinger;

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE: Orrin Hatch is late again, this time in his bid for president. When he announced on July 1, his campaign was only $36 million behind the amount George W Bush had raised. Sen. Hatch commented to the press, "I believe in miracles-and it will take one to elect me." It did take him a while to make up his mind and because of the realities, his family was cautiously opposed, though not hostile to it.

Sen. Hatch also believes that the $36 Million Man, "George W" can't win the general election, that "W is flat-out unelectable," says Hatch, who quickly softening that to a "probably unelectable" and a pampered upstart, that "the media will make mincemeat out of". And if George W does happen to reach the Oval Office, "his learning curve will be very steep", because of his lack of political experience, Hatch feels.

Hatch is not too thrilled either about the candidacy of Sen. John McCain. He's a "true hero" for his courage in Vietnam, Hatch says, but John would "destroy the Republican Party" with his campaign-finance reform. "The Democrats would still have the big soft money from the unions, and we'd have nothing. It'd be the ruin of us."

One question to ask about Hatch's candidacy is, Why not? He's about as prominent a Republican politician as there is these days. He has served in the Senate since the mid '70s and been at the center of many a brawl-over abortion, taxes, the budget, Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, and so on. He certainly has no problem with shyness. Over and over he declares that he's the best man for the job-"the most experienced, the most qualified, the most battle-hardened," the most everything. "I've got guts," he says, "and if I get a little money, I'll tell you what -- I'll win this doggone thing."

In Concord, he has already hit on a gimmick. It seems that he was in a small gathering and the subject of George W's $36 million came up. A woman said, "Why, Senator, all you need is for a million people to give you 36 dollars, and you're all caught up" whereupon she ripped off a check for 36 bucks. Hatch keeps the now nicely laminated check in his breast pocket and waves it wherever he goes, exhorting the people to send similar checks to his campaign.

Hatch is a joyful campaigner. He obviously loves it. He is 65, but a fit, sprightly 65. His stamina is impressive. Even after hours, he makes his arguments with terrific animation and force, always on the make, but nicely. He pesters everyone in sight about those 36-dollar checks. Here is one politician who's hardly afraid "to ask." And he is every inch a missionary, Mormon or otherwise. As a reporter is about to leave, Hatch takes his arm and says, "I want you to know something: I love everyone. There is good in everyone. And I've always tried to do what's right, even when I've been wrong."

At every turn, he identifies himself with Ronald Reagan, recalling the "shining city on a hill" image the ex-- president loves so well. Like Reagan, Hatch is running as an "outsider," an "anti-Establishment" warrior-which may seem a little odd for the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But, he protests, "I've been an outsider all of my life. The Establishment has never had any use for me. I've always been a thorn in their side, and I go my own way."

People may think of Hatch as a white-bread Salt Lake Mormon, but he's actually a gritty Pittsburgher, a poor steel-town boy who worked his way up from nothing. The family had no indoor plumbing, he says, which meant that the Hatch kids trooped 100 yards along a dirt path to an outhouse (which is why "I never pass up a bathroom"). He supported himself as a janitor and a lathe operator ("I was the fastest, the best," he brags, "and I could still do it darn well"). A break came when he won an honors scholarship to a Pittsburgh law school. "I know what it's like to be hungry," he avows.

And he is not above a little class warfare, noting that other candidates are "children of privilege", and does not feel a speck sheepish about using such language about his rivals? "We do have some class difference out there in the country. Why shouldn't I talk about it?" He says defiantly.

He plans to run as an unusual position: a Republican campaign for the working people." He will get "the blacks, the Hispanics, and everyone else," he says. "The Democrats just want to exploit them. I want to help them." If given the chance, "I'll change the face of this party. We'll have a big Republican Party for the people, not the fat cats-and we'll still do all right by the fat cats!"

All day long, he hammers his pet issues: the judiciary, taxes, foreign policy, guns. The next president "will appoint three Supreme Court justices!" he exclaims. "And half the federal judiciary! Clinton's already appointed one half. If the Democrats get the other half, we'll never get this country back!" On foreign policy, he is an unapologetic hawk, chastising his fellow Republicans (although not the internationalist McCain) for their creeping isolationism. As for taxes, he touts his record as a cutter. When it comes to guns, he sees a division between those advocating controls and-how's this for bluntness?-"people who want to be free." The issue on which he is utterly untempered, unashamed and unchanged is abortion. He talks about it passionately, even when he doesn't need to.

Though viewed as an arch-right-- winger in most quarters, Hatch has been attacked by conservatives for his propensity to compromise-as in his legislative alliances with Ted Kennedy, a friend. He is both mystified and irked by the criticism. "I'm a member of Congress," he says. "I deal in the realm of the relative, not of the absolute. If I can't get 100 percent, I try for 90. If I can't get that, I go for 80. And so on-- until I can climb back up to 100." He likes to say that government "should help those who can't help themselves but would if they could."

Considering the Mormon question: Can a member of the church be elected? Hatch says. "I've experienced prejudice my whole life. I can't do anything about the bigots, but I can try to do something about the people who are misinformed."

Another question: Is your faith the most important thing in the world to you? Hatch replies, "My family is. But my faith is very important too. I try to follow Christ every day."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information