David Axelrod: Orrin Hatch's simple act of kindness

In March 2010, during my second year as senior adviser to President Barack Obama, I was the subject of a snarky newsp...

Posted: Jan 3, 2018 10:40 AM
Updated: Jan 3, 2018 10:40 AM

In March 2010, during my second year as senior adviser to President Barack Obama, I was the subject of a snarky newspaper profile, portraying me as tired and defeated in the midst of the final push for health care reform.

I was not the first or last presidential aide to find himself in such crosshairs and, as a highly visible member of the administration, I knew such stories were to be expected.

Still, I was working night and day to advance the President's agenda, so it was particularly irritating to see quotes from well-meaning friends and even family members lending credence to the story by sharing their concerns about my stamina.

I was traveling the day the piece hit when an unexpected call lit up my cellphone just as I was settling into my seat for a flight back to Washington. It was from Sen. Orrin Hatch. "I saw that story in the paper this morning," he said, "and I just wanted to call and say, don't let the bastards get you down."

I had known Hatch a little through my wife, Susan, and her work as founder of CURE, an organization she helped create to fight for more medical research into epilepsy. Hatch was in the audience when Susan spoke at an event in Salt Lake City about the toll epilepsy had exacted on our daughter, Lauren. Moved by the story, the senator invited Susan to visit with him in Washington and became a great supporter of epilepsy research.

Though solidly conservative, Hatch had famously found common cause with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on children's health care and other issues. I was in the audience when he had spoken movingly about those collaborations at Kennedy's memorial service in 2009.

By the time of Hatch's call to me, however, partisanship had boiled over, which made his simple act of kindness all the more meaningful.

After four decades in Washington, Hatch was accustomed to the cruel rituals of Washington. He had seen a parade of presidential advisers held up to intense and sometimes very personal criticism when administrations appeared to be stumbling, as all administrations do. As he cheerfully imparted with his call, this is one of the rites of passage of public service. They come and go.

Hatch, 83, who Tuesday announced plans to retire at the end of his current term, has himself been the target of some harsh criticism, most recently over his fulsome praise for President Donald Trump at the White House ceremony before Christmas marking the passage of the tax bill. (Wherever you stand on the 45th president or the tax bill, it seemed more than a little hyperbolic to suggest, as Hatch appeared to, that Trump is on track to eclipse Washington or Lincoln as our greatest president.)

That bit of fawning came amid Trump's own aggressive wooing of Hatch to run for re-election this year, an effort that seemed to ramp up instantly with news that Mitt Romney is waiting in the wings to succeed Hatch as senator from Utah.

Having chased out a number of Republican apostates, such as Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, Trump surely is less than eager to welcome one of his harshest critics to the Republican caucus in the Senate.

With Tuesday's announcement, Hatch yielded to the realities of age, poor poll numbers and, just maybe, a desire to leave on his own terms and not as a convenient tool of this President.

It also means the Senate will lose yet another of the dwindling corps of members who recall a time when bipartisanship was possible and simple acts of civility were not considered a sign of weakness or treachery.

Thanks for the call, Senator - and for your service to the country.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 16560

Reported Deaths: 794
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds107426
Madison76728
Lauderdale75968
Neshoba72844
Jones70133
Scott66312
Forrest59539
DeSoto57510
Rankin4569
Leake45212
Holmes44330
Copiah3294
Jackson31415
Attala31118
Yazoo2964
Newton2884
Lincoln28031
Leflore27736
Oktibbeha27314
Harrison2697
Monroe26925
Wayne2623
Lamar2505
Lowndes2479
Pearl River21231
Pike20411
Adams20316
Washington1987
Warren19610
Lee1948
Noxubee1936
Covington1792
Bolivar16911
Jasper1674
Clarke15619
Smith15511
Kemper15511
Lafayette1544
Chickasaw14014
Coahoma1314
Clay1254
Winston1241
Carroll11911
Marion1169
Claiborne1155
Lawrence1071
Grenada1074
Simpson1040
Yalobusha1046
Sunflower923
Tate911
Hancock9012
Union897
Itawamba897
Marshall873
Wilkinson859
Panola843
Montgomery841
Webster844
Jefferson Davis823
Tippah7611
Calhoun674
Amite661
Walthall640
Humphreys637
Tunica583
Prentiss533
Perry513
Choctaw502
Pontotoc473
Jefferson421
Tishomingo360
Greene331
Stone320
Quitman320
Tallahatchie301
George292
Franklin292
Alcorn191
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 18766

Reported Deaths: 651
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2321118
Jefferson1901104
Montgomery185843
Tuscaloosa83616
Marshall7089
Franklin5858
Lee56234
Shelby52819
Tallapoosa43466
Butler42118
Walker3862
Elmore3749
Chambers36026
Madison3534
Unassigned3062
Morgan3021
Baldwin2939
Dallas2923
Lowndes26512
Etowah26312
DeKalb2573
Autauga2415
Coffee2391
Sumter2287
Houston2265
Bullock2176
Pike2120
Colbert1902
Hale1859
Russell1810
Barbour1771
Marengo1756
Lauderdale1722
Calhoun1673
Wilcox1577
Choctaw15310
Cullman1521
Clarke1492
St. Clair1351
Randolph1287
Dale1240
Marion12411
Pickens1205
Talladega1195
Limestone1080
Chilton1071
Greene954
Macon934
Winston910
Jackson833
Covington821
Henry822
Crenshaw783
Bibb761
Escambia753
Washington736
Blount631
Lawrence510
Monroe462
Geneva440
Perry430
Conecuh411
Coosa401
Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar280
Fayette160
Cleburne151
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