If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail. That seems to be junior Sen. Mike Lee’s dilemma.
There is the world of reflection and the world of action and he seems to have trouble understanding the latter. It’s a world where one has to make a decision, and not making a decision is a decision. If the decisions politicians had to make lent themselves to clear analysis, computers would be doing it today.
Often newly elected officials have a naïve and unrealistic sense of power and ability to make change. They are adamant in clinging to their ideology, and see policymaking as an intellectual exercise rather than solving problems. Many suffer from a sense of arrogance and insensitivity to the plight of the ordinary person.
Sen. Lee went to Washington looking for a fight — any fight. He acted like a tough guy, yet flip flopped on issues. First he was for immigration reform, then against. He is quick to find fault with issues, yet offers no solutions. He offers glib sound bites and seems to dabble here and there. He said he was going to fight for Utahns “feeling the negative effects of Obamacare." Yet he never says how they are hurt by it or what to do with the 123,000 Utahns who can’t afford health care, some losing their homes because they can’t make a short sale as Lee did to avoid foreclosure. He opposed keeping the same low rates on student loans saying, "We should be working to create a higher education that doesn’t force students tens of thousands of dollars into debt in the first place ...” yet offers no solutions for how to do that; fights government handouts, yet his personal disclosure shows he owes $10,000 and $15,000 in student loans as far back as 1997, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
He’s not afraid of a fight; yet not eager to have town meetings in urban districts where his staff say, "We're not going to walk into a buzz saw," or answer questions about his negative polls. He can fight windmills, but not face constituents for whom he says he is fighting. They are the same ones he threw under the bus by shutting down government over the Affordable Care Act that became law three years ago. So much for the rule of law. He seems more concerned about the outside donors who keep him in office than Utah’s small businesses and the loss of $100 million to the state according to Gov. Gary Herbert for the government shutdown.
We need leaders who understand the problems our nation faces and begin offering solutions, rather than simply creating conflict and stop-gap maneuvers for political gain. Our government should not be a politician’s ideological toy store. Sen. Lee was elected to serve the people of Utah and all the people in this nation, not special groups. Maybe if he spent time on some ordinary person’s porch, he would gain some empathy and understanding of the problems and hopelessness people face.
Good leaders bring people together and offer hope, rather than divide for self promotion. They offer a vision of what our nation ought to be and to sacrifice to achieve it. It’s time Lee upgraded to the “statesman’s toolbox for leaders” and offer solutions and hope for all Americans.
Utah native John Florez has been on Sen. Orrin Hatch’s staff, served as Utah industrial commissioner and filled White House appointments, including deputy assistant secretary of labor and commission on Hispanic education. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org