“We’re pretty darn happy about what did happen. It sent a message. It says that this tough old bird isn’t someone you can just trample on.” —Orrin Hatch, after failing to emerge from the Republican convention with enough votes to avoid a primary. The Salt Lake Tribune, April 21, 2012
Actually, Uncle Orrin is pretty darn pissed off about having to run in a primary against Dan Liljenquist. The message was not sent from Orrin to the voters, but from the voters to Uncle Orrin: You no longer give us a tingle in our tummies. We’re looking for a younger, prettier face. Voters are hedging their bets, like a wife who isn’t exactly ready to give her tired old hubby the heaveho, but who is nevertheless testing the waters for someone who not only can still do a pretty decent breast stroke, but who might also be able to execute some nifty subaquatic maneuvers without grabbing for the spit trough and gasping for oxygen.
Uncle Orrin’s defiant and worn-out words are straight from the Old Pol’s Book of Practical Fibs. Like a handy phrase book for foreign travelers, it provides English equivalents of political speak: “pretty darn happy” translates as “fucking furious”; “this tough old bird isn’t someone you can just trample on” equals “I may be losing my marbles, but I would sell my spouse into white slavery to keep my cushioned seat in the Senate.”
His description of himself as a “tough old bird” is not the most felicitous image to present to the voters. There are plenty of ways to capitalize on the bird imagery, and here we offer opponent Liljenquist a few campaign slogans to put the old coot out of his misery: “Bye Bye Birdie,” “This Bird Has Flown,” “Give Hatch the Bird,” “The Old Bird Doesn’t Get the Worm.”
And the word has spread quickly through the ornithological world about Hatch dressing himself in bird feathers. Meadowlark Aviary, the militant chief songbird for the Bird Anti-Defamation and Support Society (BADASS), issued an angry denunciation of Uncle Orrin’s allying himself with the noble denizens of the air, whether old, tough or otherwise.
“Maybe he thinks because his dad named him after a bird [editor’s note: Mr. Aviary is evidently referring to the fact that “Orrin” is a cognate of “Ornis,” which is Greek for “bird”], he can go ahead and claim the rights and privileges of tough old birds everywhere. I’ve even communicated with a couple of old coots who say the senior senator is giving old coots a bad name.”
The last thing Uncle Orrin wanted was to submit himself to the rigors of a primary fight. He has spent a ton of money trying to ensure he would get enough delegates to surpass the magic 60 percent. But he fell short, and you can bet that Hatch’s operatives are looking to make it hot for the faithful who didn’t hold their hands up to sustain Uncle Orrin’s senatorial sinecure.
To hold on to his office, our senior senator will have to do a better job of appealing to the youth vote, everyone, say, under the age of 80. An embarrassing example of how out of touch Uncle Orrin is was the radio ad that ran constantly over the past couple of months. You probably tuned out whenever the spot came on, but if you somehow managed to pay attention, what you would have heard was a dialogue between card- carrying members of the Over the Hill Gang, Terry Wood and Jake Garn.
In the faux-news interview, the erstwhile anchor quizzed the ancient astronaut, who also served in the senate during the Garfield Administration, about the great benefit accruing to Utah by re-electing Uncle Orrin. As I recall, the one-time public servant said Hatch, as the longest serving senator (he has now surpassed the record of Strom Thurmond, who represented South Carolina until he was 123), would get to be chairman of the Sub-Committee on Afternoon Naps.
Already, GOP strategists are busy scrubbing assorted websites of footage showing Uncle Orrin reminding Mit Romney that he used to babysit his father, George, or telling Ron Paul, “Lookee here, young fella, you should respect your elders.” Please, please, Uncle Orrin, go sit on a park bench and feed the pigeons along with the other old coots. And in a couple of years, you will be old enough to apply to be an Apostle and start a whole new career.
D.P. Sorensen writes a satire column for City Weekly.