Sen. Mike Lee Makes the Establishment Cringe

Just when I complimented my friends at The Salt Lake Tribune for being authentic for owning the cause of anything other than Mormon and Republican in Utah, they have to go and act like their journalistic editorial standards trump their politics – which is, of course, nonsense.

When the Media Research Center in Washington, D.C., cited dozens of reports and editorials issued by the Tribune painting Utah Senator Mike Lee negatively throughout the drama over the shutdown of the federal government, the Tribune balked.


But why take umbrage? The Tribune editorial team has no affection for Senator Lee’s politics – everyone knows it. Is it likely that its editorial tone might influence the type of stories the Tribune produces about Senator Lee? Of course! I’m not questioning their reporting. I’m just saying that it is ridiculous for the Tribune to act like the stories they choose to focus on don’t project its bias. Well, if the Tribune thinks the news is a crazy Utah senator shutting down the government, that’s what its news will be – and you won’t read other reports in its pages about how the Democrats gamed the whole thing.

But there’s more to the attacks on Mike Lee than just whatever the Tribune chooses to report.

Senator Lee and his colleagues make the Washington and Utah Establishment cringe. Senator Lee is bright, prudent, conservative and principled – and that drives the Establishment nuts. The Establishment in Washington and Utah need predictability that every elected official will fall in line behind Big Government.

The attacks against Mike Lee come from all directions within the Establishment. Inside Utah, the most disingenuous effort is the Count My Vote initiative. Once a reasonable idea to tweak the caucus/convention system to protect democracy from being held hostage by extreme voices, the Count My Vote effort has moved beyond smart fixes. There’s only one reason any prudent political effort is ever abandoned – partisan politics. Senator Mike Lee is the target for Count My Vote. Utah’s Establishment wants their own guy in that seat, not Mike Lee.

Partisan interests seize on a moment of weakness in public perception about Senator Lee and are trying to drive a wedge between voters and his credibility. Part of this effort comes from Democrats who are never at a loss to say anything negative about a Republican, and part comes from Utah’s Republican establishment who try to exploit the sense that Senator Lee’s Senate seat might be vulnerable.

I heard from friends throughout the congressional fight over ObamaCare and the debt ceiling that Senator Lee went too far. I respectfully disagree. He did what was available for him to do – my guess is that he did what I would have done.

For any critic or skeptic thinking that a stable functioning government is the main priority in a free society, they should be reminded that what we have isn’t stable and isn’t functioning – unless you believe that imperialism, oligarchies and bureaucracies create stability.

Within proper constitutional authority, and when no other political leader had the courage, Senator Lee fought back. He used every line inch of the Constitution as well as the rules of the United States Senate to fight back. He did so prudently and respectfully of those who disagreed with him. Far from embarrassment, Senator Lee brought honor to Utah.

Editor's Note: The above was originally delivered as a radio commentary and has been adapted from the Sutherland Institute's website. You can read the transcript here.