Christopherson: Mike Lee Made a Good Point. He Still Shouldn’t Be Reelected.


U.S. Senator Mike Lee of Utah speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by Gage Skidmore | Courtesy Flickr)

By Nain Christopherson, Assistant Opinion Editor


In a time when nearly every Republican in Congress appears to have thrown their morals out the window in favor of blind loyalty to Donald Trump, the bar for political courage is extremely low. That might be why so many people are so pleased with Senator Mike Lee. Lee lashed out at the Trump Administration over a briefing on the recent situation in Iran, where Trump officials told senators not to debate future military action against the country.

Lee expressed his outrage to CNN about the briefers’ expectation that senators not discuss or debate whether to pursue further military action against Iran. (The briefing came after the attack that killed Iranian general Qasam Soleimani.) A few days later, Lee signed on to co-sponsor the No War with Iran Act with senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Shorty after that, he reiterated his comments at the Utah Eagle Forum in Sandy.

With fears of international war and Lee’s swift action occurring in such quick succession, Lee might look like the kind of Republican that Utah’s Democrats and moderates could tolerate in office. However, these two incidents do not represent his entire political career. Lee still does not deserve reelection in 2022.

If my Twitter feed is any indication, many Utahns seem to be taking Lee’s remarks as evidence that he’s not the Trump loyalist we all imagined him to be. On the contrary, Lee still often praises Trump, calling him “fantastic” and “deferential” as the nation’s Commander in Chief. Lee may look courageous in the headlines, but I personally have a difficult time trusting the opinion of a politician who uses that verbiage to describe a man who rants about dysfunctional toilets at his own campaign rallies and treats women with such blatant disrespect.

Lee’s co-sponsorship of the No War with Iran bill is certainly a good thing, but it’s insufficient evidence to set him apart as free-thinking or moderate Republican. As Vox put it recently, a U.S.-Iran war “has the potential to be one of the worst conflicts in history,” and it isn’t radical to acknowledge that no one on either side of the aisle (or the globe) wants an escalation to war. The Defense Department’s former Iran team chief, Ilan Goldenberg, said it “would be a violent convulsion similar to the chaos of the Arab Spring” — so bad that even Donald Trump has said he’d prefer peace with Iran. Lee is not going out on a limb by opposing a war — it just seems that way because the bill has Sanders’ name on it.

Even if Lee’s commentary on the Iran briefing and support of Sanders’ bill merited praise, they are not enough to make him deserving of re-election to the Senate this fall. Consider his track record over the last two years — in October 2018, he voted for Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, displaying a reluctance to believe women and an amazing lack of caution in offering a man with questionable integrity a lifetime appointment to such an influential position.

That same year, he voted against the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act and the Opioid Crisis Response Act, despite the fact that “Utah has ranked top 10 in the nation for overdose deaths over the last 10 years.” And last spring, he embarrassed Utah in front of the nation with a speech mocking the Green New Deal and trivializing the devastating effects of climate change. Finally, he announced in November that he’s serving as co-chairman of Trump’s re-election effort in Utah, solidifying his transformation into one of the president’s many loyal henchmen. From my perspective, these actions make it clear that Lee doesn’t truly have Utah’s best interest at heart.

An acceptable stance on one issue – the nation’s conflict with Iran – should not be enough of a reason for moderate and liberal Utahns to change our minds about Mike Lee. There’s still time for us to keep an eye on him before the 2022 elections, but as things currently stand, Lee doesn’t deserve our vote.


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This article has been updated to correctly state the year of Mike Lee’s next election. It will be in 2022, not 2020.