Shurtleff's Lost It, Folks 

Has the AG forgotten he benefits from the same “socialist” government health care Utahns seem to oppose?

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The only time I shared oxygen with Sen. Bob Bennett, he was speaking to a group of student journalists at the University of Utah. We have almost no political common ground, though he almost won me over when he mentioned that he considered a cousin of mine, Mary Pappasideris, to be one of the smartest people he’d ever met. Well, she is. Bennett didn’t know I was there, not that he’d know me anyway. We don’t hang out at the same watering holes.

Yet, Bennett holds a prominent place in the history of City Weekly. Anyone coming into our office has seen the enlargement of our June 10, 1992, cover, our first as a weekly newspaper (we previously published bi-weekly). Next to a photo of a younger Bob Bennett in full Senate stride reads the headline, “The Spooky Past of Bob Bennett.” At the time, Bennett was considered by some to be Watergate’s mysterious “Deep Throat,” the clandestine courier of information to Washington Post investigative reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein whose stories about high-level political involvement in the Watergate break-in led to the resignation of President Nixon. Around City Weekly, Bennett has been considered something of a boogeyman ever since.

But he wasn’t Deep Throat. Or, in the spirit of boogeyman-ness, he wasn’t the deepest Deep Throat. Still, over time, it’s harder and harder to look at that cover and think Bennett is a terrible guy. Sure, I’m Greek, and he hasn’t done a damned thing for the Greek community that I’m aware of, and sure, he helped ensure that our former offices on 400 South were demolished to make way for a new federal courthouse, a financial black hole. Sure, Bennett was among those who marched us to war in Iraq. We don’t see eye to eye.

But, this is also surety: Bennett may be on the “wrong” side of the health-care debate, but he’s more right than nearly every other one of his Republican counterparts in the U.S. House and Senate. His Healthy American Act, a bipartisan bill cosponsored with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., promises to provide health insurance to all Americans, while also promising not to add to the federal deficit. Bookies give it no chance and not because it’s a bad bill.

As sure as a BYU football huddle sends mild-mannered office managers into homophobic hypertension, right-wing nutjobs (there is no longer such a person as a right-wing conservative) want no part of it. Too much like Obama’s bill, they say, and that means more government, they say. Naturally, they only offer phrases stolen from Fox News to bastion their position, but who needs logic or education when all you need to do is scare the crap out of people?

Meanwhile, the left-wing liberals want to win with their own bill championed by President Obama. But Obama is nearly as black as a Carbon County coal seam, and that doesn’t sit well in some parts—Utah and South Carolina, for instance. And he doesn’t have a valid birth certificate. And he says nice things about Muslims now and then, proof that his middle name is no accident. And he wants you to die before you want to die, because Sarah Palin said so. He doesn’t just want government involved in your health care, he wants a chip in your head. You do have a chip in your head, don’t you? Good, Comrade.

Talk of decent health care is getting ugly. Glenn Beck’s recent organized protest against the Obama plan—but disguised as a “unity” march—was to unity what a helicopter is to deep-sea exploration. It was depressing. Those folks are angry, all right. You would be, too, if you woke up one day and found that some government-funded study discovered that milk is healthier than a Big Gulp. Or that riding a motorcycle with a helmet is safer than riding one without.

A couple of years ago, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff wrecked on his motorcycle, crushing a leg. He’s had numerous surgeries and has spent nearly the whole time in various stages of rehabilitation on the leg he nearly lost. I’m pretty sure he was wearing a helmet, but no matter, he’s gone nuts just the same— he thinks embarrassing the AG office is a qualifier for the U.S. Senate.

President Obama spoke to Congress and the nation last week. At one point, Sen. Bob Bennett rose with Democrats and a few other Republicans to show support when Obama denounced Palin’s false claims of “death panels” while advocating his own plan. For that act of statesmanship, Shurtleff fired off a broadside denouncing Bennett and implying Bennett is a devil liberal. “In Washington D.C., you are known for the company you keep,” is how the Shurtleff camp put it. How lucky for Shurtleff, then, to be from Utah, where keeping dubious company—as Shurtleff has—doesn’t seem to matter.

Shurtleff also benefits from the same “socialist” government health care Utahns seem to oppose. If Shurtleff had his motorcycle wreck while working in private practice, he’d have lost that practice. If he worked for a company without a decent health plan, he’d have lost the farm. Utahns paid the medical bills for his motorcycle folly. Yet, he stands up and criticizes Bennett, whose only fault on this issue is twofold: Bennett has kissed the butts of neither the left nor the right.

Shurtleff is proving to be a bona fide butt kisser, and he’s turned to time-worn right-wing crutches for support, leftist and centrist Utahns be damned. He’s also known to use real crutches. Someday someone’s going to kick them out from under him.

Related article:

Should we continue to provide our elected officials with government health care?

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