This past weekend, Tea Party forces within the Utah state GOP denied Bob Bennett an opportunity to continue his personal political career at taxpayer expense, at least under the banner of the Republican party. I suppose he could always consider running as an independent like Joe Lieberman, but I doubt it will happen and even if it does, I doubt he would garner any significant portion of the vote.
I have two stories I like to tell about Bob Bennett, one of them personal and one of them heard second hand. In the late 1990s I was working at Philips Digital Video Systems in Salt Lake City. We were located just down the road from Franklin-Covey, the dayplanner people and Bennett’s old stomping grounds before becoming a senator. I never understood exactly why, but one day Bennett was visiting our company. We weren’t a huge outfit, just a couple hundred people, but perhaps it was the proximity to Franklin-Covey that put us on Bennett’s radar. At any rate, we were given an opportunity to hear Bennett speak and there would be a brief Q&A period. I sat in the front row so that I could ask Bennett a simple, but serious, question.
When we got to question time, I was called on to ask my question. I asked:
All my life I’ve been told by Republicans that they stand for smaller government and respect for the individual, but for my entire lifetime government has done nothing but get bigger and bigger. What are you doing to make government smaller?
What ensued was a long-winded answer that didn’t even start by agreeing with my desire for smaller government. Whenever a politician, executive, or other figure of authority gives you a long-winded answer to a simple question, you know it means that they are ducking the question. In fact, the amount of dodging is generally proportional to the length of the answer. The gist of Bennett’s answer was as follows: well, its just so darn hard to reduce the size of government, that its easier to just go with the flow and try to make sure that whatever gargantuan bureacracy gets erected isn’t monstrously evil, but evil with a friendly face.
This was only the guy’s first term as a senator, not even yet complete, and already he’d given up, assuming he’d ever tried in the first place. The long-winded qualified answer told me that he had never even intended to reduce the size of government and restore individual liberty as much as was feasible, he was simply “going along” with the bloated system as it was. Its just easier that way. Why do something hard? Geez dude, if we’d have known that was your attitude, we might as well have elected a Democrat who would at least be honest about their desire to increase the size of government.
A few years after I’d been telling the story of my personal encounter with Bob Bennett, I met someone who worked at Franklin-Covey at the time Bennett was considering seeking the GOP nomination for US Senate. The story goes that another person at Franklin-Covey was also considering seeking the GOP nomination and would be contesting Bennett’s attempt to garner the nomination. This person was brought aside by the Franklin-Covey management and counselled to drop out of the race, leaving the nomination uncontested for Bennett. Their reasoning? Having him become a senator would be perfect for the company because they could finally get rid of him without making a stink.
Since hearing that story, I’ve never heard any other confirming sources, but then again I don’t pal around with the people who were the top-level management of Franklin-Covey at the time. However, I’d say that their reported opinion of the effectiveness of Bennett as a CEO of Franklin-Covey mirrors my assessment of Bennett as a US Senator: dead wood that is marking time on a calendar while in office and not really trying to get anything done. Oh sure, his office will regale you with a seemingly never-ending series of bills and measures sponsored by the senator that redirect this or that pork to the state of Utah, but let’s be honest here: the guy has done nothing but what I call “tinker around the edges” legislatively speaking. The problems facing the future of this country (or the present for that matter) are structural in nature and no amount of tinkering around the edges is going to address the structural deficiencies that have crept into the federal government since its founding.
Now that we’ve dealt with Bennett, we’re still only half-way done. We have another “Republican in name only” to deal with and that is the Butthead to Bennett’s Beavis: Orrin Hatch.