On the EDge: Bailing out early is a smart political move for Chaffetz

Composite stock image, St. George News

OPINION – Jason Chaffetz punched all the right buttons.

As the representative from Utah’s 3rd District, his political star was on a streaking arc.

Of course, when he first entered politics, it looked like he would be one of those guys destined for obscurity.

He successfully guided Jon Huntsman to the governor’s mansion and, in January 2005, became Huntsman’s chief of staff.

Nobody gave him much of a chance, though, when he decided to take on six-term incumbent Chris Cannon for the House. In Utah, it is bad form to challenge an incumbent Republican and the numbers reflected that as Chaffetz, just days before the Republican caucus, polled with only 4 percent support.

Something, however, happened on the way to the party convention, where Chaffetz posted an impressive 59-41 percent win over Cannon.

Despite the fact that then President George W. Bush, Sen. Orrin Hatch, former Sen. Bob Bennett and most of Utah’s Republican moguls threw their weight behind Cannon, Chaffetz thumped him in the primary, winning 60 percent of the vote, appealing to new wave conservatives who latched onto the outer edges of the far, far right. He swept into the House with 66 percent of voters supporting him. His popularity with voters continued to rise and there is no reason to believe he would have lost had he decided to run again in 2018.

He had established his position as a Hillary Clinton-hating, anti-Affordable Care Act, demonically fiscal conservative (who slept on a cot in his office), anti-marijuana legalization, global warming-disbelieving, Planned Parenthood-hating, same-sex marriage opposing kind of Republican Utahns take to their bosom.

He fell in with the other hard right Republicans and quickly rose to the lofty position of chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

His course was firm, even when he flip-flopped on Donald Trump, first opposing him for his lewd, anti-woman comments, then offering a last-minute endorsement when Trump’s fortunes changed.

That’s why it wasn’t really much of a surprise when he announced he would not run again for the House and stepped up his retirement date to the end of June.

There was, of course, speculation that he himself was about to be outed for some conspiracy theory charges that have yet to take real shape and form; that somebody had the goods on him and that discretion was the better part of valor, leading him to quit his job early into this term.

I don’t know if, indeed, that is true. Given the political climate, it is never a surprise any more when an elected official ends up on the wrong side of some investigation. But, we have no evidence of any Chaffetz misdeeds other than arrogant partisanship and a regressive political agenda.

Insiders say Chaffetz is taking time to build a war chest to make a run for governor when Gary Herbert’s current term ends in 2020. Herbert has said it is unlikely that he will seek another term.

There has also been talk that Chaffetz will become a Fox News commentator to keep his face before the public and build upon his popularity to pad his profile for the gubernatorial race.

Maybe.

I mean, if anybody can out-Hannity Sean Hannity in terms of radical conservatism, it is Chaffetz.

What I think is really taking place here is that Chaffetz, who is a smart cookie when it comes to politics, realizes that the GOP is in such a downward spiral that it is likely to suck down any and all who get caught up in its wake.

With presidential approval numbers at all-time lows and one fumbling embarrassment after another befuddling the splintering party, Chaffetz wants to put as much distance between himself and Washington, D.C., as possible before making a run for governor.

He knows there will be a lasting stink on those who remain administration loyalists and that voters will turn out with vengeance in 2018 where, even in states like Utah, Democrats will, at worst, put up a strong showing.

That’s also why, if you look closely, you will notice that Chaffetz has also changed his course a bit and is encouraging fired FBI chief James Comey and others to come forward with memos, testimony and any other pertinent information regarding Russia, the Comey firing or potential obstruction of justice or abuse of power charges.

It’s a way to cleanse the record no matter which way this whole mess goes, a way to purge the guilt-by-association that will ruin Election Day 2018 for so many Republicans. He will be able to point to the record and say, “well, I put the screws on the administration to come clean.” Plus, he won’t have to face the possibility, as slim as it is in Utah, of losing his House seat.

Chaffetz has made some money, he can go back into private business or become a talking head and come out just fine. I mean, let’s face it, Fox News needs somebody to replace the departed Bill O’Reilly.

Washington, D.C., is a fairly unsavory place these days and, honestly, Chaffetz is smart in getting out while he can, readjust his politics over the course of the next few years and stroke the voters to set himself up for a sweet gig as governor.

Chaffetz is pretty good at that sort of thing.

I remember when Jon Huntsman first announced he wanted to be governor.

He made a tour of the state, visiting editorial boards at newspapers throughout Utah, pitching his case.

His first visit to St. George was a disaster.

As the meeting ended, he acknowledged as much, telling us he would be much better prepared next time.

Jason Chaffetz was in the room that day, taking notes, wincing occasionally, watching the reaction of those in the room.

Next time Huntsman came around, he was clearly focused, had sharp answers with substance and depth and he had gained enough political savvy to exude a sense of confidence and purpose. When he left, we didn’t ask ourselves if Huntsman knew why he was running.

That’s why I seriously doubt we have seen the last of Jason Chaffetz, who will take this hiatus to reinvent and present himself to voters as the only logical candidate for governor in 2020.

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

No bad days!

Email: edkociela.mx@gmail.com

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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15 Comments

  • Brian May 23, 2017 at 8:09 am

    I had high hopes for Chaffetz, but he never really materialized. He stood solid on issues verbally, but then supported republican leadership far too many times on horrible legislation or spineless actions. In short, he was too good of a politician. I want someone willing to make enemies and take bullets while standing up for what is right, even if it means being on the losing side. I’d much rather be right and lose than be wrong and win. That’s why I’d suck as a politician, and frankly I want my politicians to be that way, too. I want them to go in, stand firm, and burn through 100% of their political capital in one or two terms, then go home and get out of public life forever. I’m sick of career politicians, lobbyists, pundits, and the leeches that go along with them.

  • Who May 23, 2017 at 8:36 am

    I got to admit I’m starting to feel sorry for you. If you could only let go of the hate and desperation, you could quite possibly be a force for the change you seem to think we all need.

  • 42214 May 23, 2017 at 9:37 am

    “The GOP is in such a downward spiral”? Are you comparing the GOP to the Dems that have lost 1000 elected seats nationwide over the past 10 years. The Dems where the party chairman says you can be a democrat and be pro life. How do we thake your articles seriously with such ridiculous hyperbole.

  • comments May 23, 2017 at 10:09 am

    Can’t say I disagree with anything here, Ed. Good work. Chaffetz really is a slimy, crafty, little political serpent isn’t he?

    You know I was gonna keep an open mind on ‘the donald’, but I wasn’t expecting the slime to be as bad as he’s turned out. The not-so-bright trumpites may eventually catch on, but maybe not. A lot of the wingnuts finally caught on to baby Bush II, but that was nearly the end of his term, and only after he’d brought the entire economy to near collapse, $4.50/gal gas, a long failed set of wars, etc etc. Wingnuts really don’t learn by experience do they?

  • Proud Rebel May 23, 2017 at 10:26 am

    Once again, I find myself having to agree with you, Ed. As we get older, ONE of us is changing. Or perhaps we are both changing. In any case I find that I’m agreeing with you, much more than I used to.
    One thing is absolutely certain about Chaffetz. He always has, and always will, do what is best for Jason Chaffetz!
    Now most of us will do what is best for us. But sometimes, we all run into the question of, do I do what is best for ME, regardless of how it’s going to effect others, or do I do what is the RIGHT thing to do. With Chaffetz, he has a proven track record of ignoring what would be best for this country, and doing what is best for himself. If it also happens to be good for the country, it’s purely coincidental.

    • comments May 23, 2017 at 5:10 pm

      exactly, he’s just a typical political slimeball.

  • Who May 23, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    Me first, me first-should be the Democrat slogan. Make sure you don’t disagree tho, as you will be subject to the hateful vitriolic long arm of the Democratic Party and their super rich backers.

    • comments May 23, 2017 at 5:09 pm

      because republicans have no super rich backers, right? Another simple mind. Product of right-wing talk radio.

  • Uncle Lenny May 23, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    Politician quitting his responsibility early? Following the money for personal wealth?
    And to return later to run for office? Way to go, selfish.

  • Ladyk May 23, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    Oh Ed. Once again you completely miss the mark. Jason did a great Job and was well respected. Your wish that he is leaving early because the Rebublicians are failing is just wishful thinking, as usual. So far Trump is doing just fine. He has cut costs and put forth a balanced budget. The only problem is the liberal media who seem to want to tell lie after lie. Then there are those who fail to see that being disrespectful to President Trump is bad for the country. I HATED Obama but I would have NEVER stood for Rebublician leaders standing up at a gathering and collectively shouting F *** OBAMA. How disgraceful. It makes me sick to think that those are the leaders of our nation. We are surly doomed and it isn’t because of Trump. You and your so called leaders need to grow the hell up and act like adults. You complain about Trump’s behavior yet you have not a word for the “F Trumpets”.

    Now having said that I have to say that I am disappointed in Jason. He sought re-election and agreed to do a job. I was raised to do what I said I was going to do. To leave his post early for whatever reason, baring health related, is disgraceful. We have real work that needs to be done and we need people who are willing to do that work. Not run when they get a better offer. I for one will never vote for him again, for any reason. Who’s to say he won’t quit mid stream again.

    Again, we need people who are willing to act like adults. Not idiots who want to exercise their middle finger and call it free speach (yes I realize it technically is free speach but com’on, really).

    • comments May 24, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      You’re one of those that think any politicians with an R by their name are the “good guys” and any with a D are “evil libruls”. I think you’re that simple.

  • dodgers May 24, 2017 at 5:34 am

    Does Ed ever communicate a positive message, and take a non-partisan approach? I’ve never seen it. Instead, it’s always a bash the differing opinions and beliefs approach. Believe as I believe, do as I say, or you are lumped into my evil enemy bucket. Ed needs to invest in a mirror.

  • uselogicplease May 24, 2017 at 9:54 am

    I dropped the local paper because I tired of reading this old Hippy Hack.. Looks like SGN might be headed for the same scrap pile at my house..

    • comments May 24, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      You won’t be missed. Thanks for playing.

  • commonsense May 24, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    “Democrats at worst will put up a strong showing”. Like they did in the last U.S. Senate race where they ran a transgender store clerk. Dems are on the wrong side of so much policy that Utah will never buy in. This state is fiscally responsible. Do you even know what that means Ed?

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