— Jack Runyan (@JackDRunyan) April 21, 2017
Two reporters from the Deseret News craft an amazing example of what I suppose must be “Mormon nice”, turning never-less-than-postive words and carefully-buffed stories into a portrait of a vicious little self-promoter attempting to slide out of the unexpected spotlight exposing every wart of Grifter King Trump’s nasty court…
… Something had flipped after the election, Chaffetz had noticed, an ugly impulse unfurling across America. He had seen anger directed at him before, but nothing like this. He’d been getting death threats, on his voicemail and in his inbox, and in the ensuing weeks it would only get worse.
He had become a target, the face of Republican fecklessness. At his D.C. office, his young staffers fielded calls from all over the country, hundreds a day, demanding he investigate Trump. As chairman of the House Oversight Committee and Government Reform Committee, Chaffetz had risen to national prominence for his aggressive inquiries into missteps by the Obama administration, making him a hero to the “Fox and Friends” crowd.
He’d hammered the Secret Service, demanded documents on the Fast and Furious gun running scandal, and most notably, grilled Hillary Clinton for hours on the deaths of four Americans at a compound in Benghazi, Libya. So why wasn’t he investigating Donald Trump? People asked him this wherever he went, at the airport, at Five Guys when he was standing in line for a burger. Tonight they wanted answers.
He stepped out from behind the curtain.
The crowd erupted in deafening boos, rising to their feet. Chaffetz smiled. He’d seen worse. As a placekicker at BYU in the mid-1980s he’d played before hostile football crowds with Ty Detmer and Jason Buck. “You think this is bad,” he thought to himself. “You’ve never been to Laramie, Wyoming.”
Besides, plainclothes police officers were standing behind the curtain, and others were scattered throughout the crowd. No one here could rattle him, not really. And even if they did, he wouldn’t let them see it. He would keep smiling, no matter what he felt inside.
Clips of the town hall were starting to go viral. For the part of the electorate who felt the Trump administration was a threat to the republic, this was a moment, #Resistance. Here was one of the few people who could bring Trump to heel, who could subpoena his tax records, force him to testify under oath, really anything he wanted, and his constituents were demanding he do it.
“Do your job! Do your job!” they chanted. Chaffetz smiled through his teeth, pleading for the crowd to calm down, but no one was listening.
In the ensuing weeks, Chaffetz insisted the protesters didn’t bother him, but those closest to him began to worry if all the unhinged Facebook posts and death threats were taking a toll. Trey Gowdy, the Republican congressman from South Carolina who Chaffetz considers his best friend, openly wondered if Chaffetz’s ever-ready smile was masking pain.
“Some of the stuff left on his voicemail,” Gowdy said, pausing. “He plays it for me and I’m trying to evaluate, do you take it seriously? What do you do about it?”…
Chaffetz said he had no doubt he’d win “by a large margin” if he ran again, but he’s also always had a knack for sensing shifts in the political landscape early.
“He sees around corners,” a staffer said, always thinking of next steps. Case in point: Chaffetz rose to power in 2008 as an insurgent candidate, running to the right of four-term congressman Chris Cannon and blasting the Republican establishment as out of touch. No one recognized it at the time, but his election heralded the arrival of a new movement in Republican politics — the tea party.
Chaffetz also broke from Republican orthodoxy in his embrace of the media beyond friendly outlets like Fox. From the time he was elected, he made regular trips to New York to woo low-level bookers to get on cable news shows. His critics have long called him a publicity hound, but for Chaffetz his ready accessibility was always strategic. The higher his profile, the more he could advance his ideas, his influence and power.
This became most apparent when he parlayed his rising visibility into a chairmanship of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which he used to go after Planned Parenthood, Hillary Clinton and other favorite punching bags of the right. He became the most high-profile antagonist of the Obama administration, the tormentor-in-chief, and in the final weeks of the campaign he vowed that he would continue to investigate Clinton for using an unclassified email server, improperly staffing the embassy in Benghazi, and any other possible crimes, whether she won re-election or not.
Then Donald Trump got elected and everything changed…
Had Clinton won, Chaffetz would have used the platform to attack the administration at every turn, the subpoena power literally resting in the pen in his pocket. But now, he was suddenly limited by demands to play team ball for a team that was already struggling, fumbling health care right out of the gate. And whatever Trump and the fractious House Republicans did, he would be held accountable, even though he would have little control.
And if the town hall was any indication, he was already being held accountable for his team’s performance. His approval rating in the 3rd District had dropped by 14 points since the election, according to an April Dan Jones and Associates poll…
It’s unlikely Allen or any Democrat would have beaten Chaffetz, who still had a 72 percent approval rating in his district, but the amount of money Allen had raised suggested that for the first time since his election, Chaffetz would actually have to campaign and spend a good chunk of the next year aggressively fundraising, a chore he’s never enjoyed. The campaign could get costly, loud and bruising. And for someone who had much greater ambitions than the House, it could do lasting damage to his brand…
Seriously, read the whole thing — it’s a masterpiece of the form.
And don’t take your eye off young Jason, either. Columnist at another local paper, the Salt Lake Tribune:
… It’s no secret that Chaffetz wants to be governor after the 2020 election, but that won’t be a cakewalk. This may be coincidence, but try pulling up jasonforgovernor.com and it sends you to Chaffetz’s congressional site.
If he does run, and I think he will, he’ll likely be vying with Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, a popular hometown kid, and possibly Josh Romney for the Republican nomination. Both would be formidable and Chaffetz likely recognized sticking around in Washington could only damage his chances to be Utah’s next governor.
Chaffetz could use his spot as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to go after the unpopular Trump administration, and wreck his relationships with the White House and his congressional colleagues, not to mention Trump loyalists in Utah.
Or he could play lap dog, defend the administration and destroy his credibility and open himself up to the kind of “Do your job” lambasting he received at his recent town hall, then try to run for governor as the Washington insider who climbed into bed with an unpopular president.
Given those options, Chaffetz made the smart move. He shed the Trump baggage and will return to Utah to shore up support for what will probably be a hard-fought Republican primary in 2020.
He gets to at least try to reboot the Chaffetz brand, getting away from the partisan firebrand and bomb-thrower he has been on the House Oversight committee and recast himself as more of a statesman and problem-solver — in short, more gubernatorial…
— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) April 20, 2017
It's one thing to sell your soul, it's another to get totally fleeced in the process.
— Josh Barro (@jbarro) April 19, 2017