In his quest to transform himself from establishment elder statesman to tea party insurgent, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) just took a few steps down the path toward becoming the Melissa Leo of the U.S. Senate.
A spokesperson confirms to TPM that the Senior Senator from Utah referred to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as “an awful piece of crap” and a “dumb-ass program” during an appearance at Utah State University last week.
Hatch immediately apologized for dropping the twin PG-13 bombs on the room full of college Republicans, and promised to “repent for using the words that he did.”Hatch has never been a fan of the health care reform law, but his change in tone is indicative of the uphill climb he faces as his 2012 reelection bid gets underway. Hatch’s former colleague, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) was unceremoniously booted from office by tea partiers who felt he wasn’t one of them.
Which is not to say Hatch is changing his position on the health care law one bit. Like Bennett, Hatch is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative who is losing the communications war with other conservatives who really don’t differ that much from him when it comes to policy.
For an example of this rhetorical shift, check out what Hatch said about the health care law when it passed the Senate on Christmas Eve, 2009. From a Hatch release at the time:
“The time for courage and resolve is now. This is only the beginning of the fight. This Senate passed unconstitutional monstrosity will now have to be reconciled with an even bigger liberal tax-and-spend monstrosity on the House side. Americans everywhere need to renew their resolve to stand and fight against this $2.5 trillion Washington takeover of our health care system.”
Now check out the quote picked up by a Utah State student reporter last week:
“Every state has different demographics, every state has different problems. It’s good to allow them to work out their own problems rather than a one-size-fits-all federal government dumb-ass program. It really is an awful piece of crap.”
Same message, amped-up messenger. In Hatch’s race against his own conservative base (a race which polls suggest he’s currently losing) a little coarseness now and then is the kind of thing you hope a reporter hears. It’s the kind of thing we’re likely to hear more of from Hatch as the election heats up.