Columnist: Mike Lee is Better than This

The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin says Utah Senator Mike Lee has fallen in with the wrong crowd in Washington.

She notes that Lee raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars during the government shutdown faceoff, but earned the scorn of voters in utah with a poll showing his approval rating fell 10-points from June to October.

Rubin says Lee could have been a very fine and thoughtful senator, but he’s chosen the opposite path.

There are two things going on here. First, the short-term incentives for Lee to engage in this stunt are obvious. He’s not ever going to be president of the United States and will forever be in the shadow of people like Jim DeMint, president of the Heritage Foundation, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). But what he lacks in star power and public attention he can make up in money and more media coverage than he’s enjoyed in his entire life. It’s intoxicating, to be sure — and more than enough to necessitate an alternative reality to justify keeping it up, even beyond the bounds of logic. (We are winning. This is what voters wanted.) Second, it is a cheap thrill that ultimately does not help him with voters (hence the poll numbers) or to establish a serious legacy. He’ll forever be the second fiddle to Cruz’s exploits instead of the author of an innovative agenda on civil society.

Lee got to where he is by characterizing Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) as a squishy insider. (Bennett had a nearly impeccable conservative voting record.) However, Lee may have taken his own message too seriously. He apparently learned that you can never be disruptive and conservative enough. What he should have learned is that it is critical to stay close to your constituents and produce tangible results. He has done neither and, therefore, may be just as vulnerable to a challenge as Bennett was.