STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

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: 112123

Reported Deaths: 3223
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7823176
DeSoto676778
Harrison490283
Jackson439383
Rankin385986
Madison375793
Lee349079
Forrest298078
Jones285384
Washington253799
Lafayette244042
Lauderdale2398134
Lamar219038
Bolivar199477
Oktibbeha197654
Neshoba1820111
Lowndes175562
Panola167638
Leflore163287
Sunflower158849
Warren153255
Monroe146572
Pontotoc145219
Pike137256
Lincoln136856
Marshall136226
Copiah135736
Coahoma124036
Scott123829
Grenada120638
Yazoo119933
Simpson119549
Union116025
Leake113940
Holmes113760
Tate113639
Itawamba111325
Pearl River110559
Adams105243
Prentiss102919
Wayne99421
Alcorn96712
George95718
Covington94525
Marion93342
Tippah86521
Newton84927
Chickasaw83225
Winston82621
Tallahatchie82525
Tishomingo79741
Hancock78727
Attala78126
Clarke72750
Clay68421
Jasper67417
Walthall63327
Calhoun61812
Noxubee59617
Smith58516
Claiborne53416
Montgomery53123
Tunica52317
Yalobusha51314
Lawrence50414
Perry48423
Carroll46812
Greene45918
Stone45514
Amite42013
Humphreys41916
Quitman4176
Jefferson Davis40011
Webster36613
Wilkinson33120
Kemper32115
Benton3194
Sharkey28014
Jefferson27110
Franklin2373
Choctaw2036
Issaquena1064
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 153016

Reported Deaths: 2633
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22720374
Mobile14405314
Tuscaloosa10066137
Montgomery9820196
Madison907894
Shelby715361
Lee646165
Baldwin644369
Marshall431048
Calhoun416059
Etowah412249
Morgan400033
Houston365532
DeKalb325428
Elmore312852
St. Clair283842
Limestone273630
Walker269993
Talladega259135
Cullman231024
Lauderdale212540
Jackson205515
Autauga202130
Franklin201731
Colbert193330
Russell19053
Blount187325
Dallas186027
Chilton182632
Escambia171428
Coffee16829
Covington166629
Dale163851
Chambers133043
Pike131313
Tallapoosa129587
Clarke127317
Marion105029
Butler99840
Barbour9969
Marengo98222
Winston90613
Geneva8447
Lawrence81131
Pickens81117
Randolph80514
Bibb80114
Hale74830
Cherokee72314
Clay72212
Lowndes70228
Henry6386
Bullock63717
Monroe63610
Washington62312
Crenshaw59830
Perry5816
Wilcox55912
Fayette55713
Conecuh55613
Cleburne5327
Macon53020
Sumter46821
Lamar4595
Choctaw38712
Greene34016
Coosa1993
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Broken Clouds
69° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 69°
Columbus
Broken Clouds
69° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 69°
Oxford
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 64°
Starkville
Scattered Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 63°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather