, I told the story of J. Bracken Lee, governor of Utah and tax resister. He seems to have been a sort of Ron Paul of his time, the darling of libertarian sorts who had hopes for bringing the country around by means of the ballot box.
“When Utah’s Governor Bracken Lee said that he wouldn’t pay his income tax this year, Bill Johnson went to see him. Governor Lee told Bill these incidents which happened over a period of months. Bill compressed them into a few dramatic hours. The assignment? Construct one archetype day in the life of a libertarian governor. Show in action how he stands on current issues. Show dramatically how he bears up under the constant pressure put on him to make him compromise his ideals.”
The lean, leather-faced chairman of the Mining and Metallurgical Engineers (Salt Lake City chapter) pushed back his chair, looked across the banquet table, put a match to a big cigar and waited for his audience to stop jiggling, talking and chewing their apple pie.
On his right he saw the governor sipping his coffee. “Pretty good lunch, eh?”
“Fine,” the governor grinned. The chairman felt warmed by his smile. He was glad he’d asked Bracken Lee to speak.
“Just a friendly get-together,” he had said. “Nothing too serious, you understand. Maybe you could entertain us with some of your famous good humor.”
That’s why the men were looking up toward the speaker’s table now, grinning expectantly. The chairman introduced Lee: “Gentlemen, Utah’s genial governor.”
They all settled back, limbering up, unbuttoning coats, ready to laugh at Lee’s jokes.
The chairman felt it was going off just fine. Then he heard Lee say: “I am not going to pay my income tax this year.” The chairman shot a hasty glance at the governor. Some of the men laughed· dutifully. But not many. Most of the audience sat up straighter and looked as if jolted to the edge of their cane chairs.
“I’m not going to pay my income tax because I believe it is unconstitutional for this nation to tax its citizens to support foreign nations.”
Burrs in His Saddle
I was driving back to the office from a conference with Mr. Hensen, our printer. Just as I turned onto Wilshire Boulevard, I heard the radio announcer say: “Governor J. Bracken Lee of Utah has just refused to pay his income tax. He plans to send in his return, Lee said, but no money. Instead he wrote a letter saying he has put the money aside in a bank and won’t pay the tax until the United States Supreme Court orders him to. Lee believes it is unconstitutional to tax Americans for the support of foreign countries. But the Bureau of Internal Revenue isn’t worried. Commenting on Lee’s intention to make a test case, an Internal Revenue spokesman said:
“‘We have ways of getting our money without going to court.’”
I turned off the radio, whistled and said to myself: “This man Lee sounds too good to be true. I wonder if he’s doing this for publicity, or if he’s really going to stand on principle?”
“He’s a politician,” Mr. Hensen said.
Even so, I wondered: What burrs under his saddle make him ride his politics so furiously? What’s the angle?
Unable to restrain my curiosity, I up and went to Salt Lake City.
They Had Cut Me Down
The state house: white stone, golden dome, perched on a hill; high-ceilinged, marble stairs, long hallways, bronze plaques etched with the names of the signers of the Utah Constitution; mineral exhibits in glass cases, gems sparkling from wall cabinets, statues loitering in the passages; men wearing tired and worried faces, women lifted by a mission in life.
The door to the governor’s office suite stood open; no receptionist yet. The tableful of magazines didn’t tempt me, for I could use the time profitably in worrying about Lee.
Would he be a tough customer: give me a fast shuffle — make me work ten times as hard digging facts from inside dopesters in Salt Lake City? Why would he open his books, and his soul, for the cantankerous editor of a small religious magazine?
The receptionist, 20 minutes before nine, sat at her desk, nodded my way, stretched her neck to see the clock, shrugged, and checked her desk calendar. Typewriter clatter ricocheted from the plaster walls, shook my mind from interview worry to office decoration.
Gold lettering on the frosted glass of the door invited: “Governor — Walk In.” Utah’s mountains and public parks hung in oil on the far side of the room. An atom exploded at Frenchman’s Flat in a color photograph above the receptionist. Peering down on the magazine table to my left, two Senoritas within a gold frame posed sadly in a flower garden.
The architect and interior decorator who had designed the room worked wonders. The high ceiling, the hard walls, the formal art, even the glare of the morning sun through the iron grill of the windows went to work on me. I no longer felt like the self-ruling citizen who hired public officials to labor for me. Instead, they had cut me down; serf-like, I now hoped the master would permit me to touch his gown.
Would He Sport Two Guns
Before I slithered to the floor, a tall sinewy man rescued me. He marched from the hall with brisk steps, turned his head my way and his strong smile muscles stretched out his mouth and crunched up his eyes.
“Hello,” said the man, much too pleasantly for the early morning hour.
“Hi!” I said, involuntarily, and watched this open-faced man disappear behind the oak door marked “Governor.”
“Was that —?”
“It was,” said the receptionist.
“Gosh,” I stammered. I’d expected to meet a tough customer — a rugged individualist wearing spurs and sporting two guns.
After a while, the receptionist took me into the governor’s office.
“If I had known you were the governor, I wouldn’t have said Hi! so irreverently,” I said.
He waved that aside. “Hate formality,” he said. He waved to a chair. “Sit down!” And aimed his swivel chair in my direction. His trim, welterweight body sat up alertly, his whole attention focused on me.
“I’d like to see how you operate,” I said.
“All right,” he grinned, “you just sit there and I’ll operate. Stay all day.”
“Won’t I be in the way?”
“I operate in a goldfish bowl,” he said. “No secrets. Who’s first?” Governor Lee asked the desk-mike.
8:50 Lee on Economy
“Mr. Mathers wants you to look at some float designs for the Presidential Inaugural in Washington,” the feminine-voice box said, “after you finish with Mr. Johnson.”
“Mr. Johnson’s going to stay all day,” the governor said. “Send in the floats.”
I watched a shirt-sleeved man with glasses unroll a huge drawing on Lee’s walnut desk.
“We can build this float,” the designer said, “for $8000. The others will cost more.”
“Too much,” Lee said.
“But it’s good publicity for the state.”
“If we’re after publicity,” Lee replied, “let’s have two girls march in the parade carrying a sign saying: ‘Funds allotted for a float have been used to build better roads in Utah.’”
Lee watched the designer’s jaw sag. Lee smiled and said, “Don’t worry, Frank, I’ll try to get a private organization to sponsor it. I just don’t believe in taxing people to pay for it.”
9:00 Lee on Eisenhower
“The Republican Party chiefs,” the box said. The door opened; handshakes all around.
Grey flannel: bald head; tweed: beady eyes; pin stripe: extra friendly smile; cowboy boots: black cigar; string necktie; iron handshake.
“Only five of us, Governor,” the spokesman cocked his head. They all laughed.
“Governor, we wish you’d go easy on Ike. It’s not as if he were a Democrat…”
“How is it?”
“Ha, Ha. No, seriously, Governor, those speeches where you’ve been raking Ike over the coals. Why, you said we’ve gone farther to the left under Eisenhower than in any other three-year period in our history. You certainly don’t believe that?”
“I sure do,” said Lee. “When Americans elected Ike, they were mad about losing their rights — big debt, deficit financing, giving away money all over the world, stuck in wars.”
“But,” began the grey flanneled spokesman.
“Ike said he’d get us turned around right. But what happens? He goes to Washington. The voters go back to their jobs. Then the organized minorities sick their lobbyists on him. They tell him the people want what the lobbies want.
“By then, Ike loses his real contact with the people. So he believes the lobbyists, forgets campaign promises, and a new drum major leads the march of socialism.”
Sell Him and I’ll Buy Him
“Come now, Brack, Ike’s had his troubles. Let’s overlook a few things. It’s better to have our friends in Washington. It could be worse.”
Lee bristled as he spoke. “What do you want me to do? Be a hypocrite?”
“Instead of you telling me why I should cast aside my beliefs, you sit there and tell me about Ike’s good points and why I should support him. When you sell me on him, I’ll make you the best supporter you’ve got.”
“Well,” the spokesman said, “it won’t do us any good to fight about this. We really came to see what your Tax Commissioner’s up to.”
“You mean H.C. Shoemaker?”
“Yeah, Brack, he’s hired one of the best known Democrats in Salt Lake to head up his legal section. What kind of a way is that to build loyalty in the Party?”
“First I’ve heard of it, Tom. I’ll call H.C. this morning and let you know about it at lunch.”
9:46 Lee’s Consistency on Taxes
Box: “Man insists on talking to you; says he’s a taxpayer. Want to take it on your phone?”
“Be glad to.”
A raspy voice scraped through the telephone: “Governor, the paper says you’re not going to pay your federal taxes because you don’t like foreign aid. Now suppose I tell you that I think your office costs too much and I won’t be paying my Utah taxes his year. Now what do you say to that?”
“I say I’m tickled pink.”
“What? But… Suppose everybody withheld their taxes because they didn’t like what their government was doing?”
“I wouldn’t give a dang if there wasn’t a taxpayer in Utah that paid a dollar. That’s the only way we’re ever going to cut down government: squeeze up on its supply of money…”
9:52 Lee on Special Privilege Laws
Forest green dress, long slim fingers laid a manila file on Lee’s desk; Miss Barlow said: “The clerk says your veto message on Senate Bill 489 comes up first on the docket.”
“Thanks,” Bracken Lee buttoned his trim grey suit, winked at me, and said: “Let’s go. This won’t take too long.”
“What’s this all about?” I asked.
“I’ll tell you on the way down the hall.”
I grabbed my notebook and almost ran to keep up with him.
“My friends in the Senate,” Lee said, “have been hoodwinked into passing a bill prohibiting advertising eyeglasses by price.”
“But you’re vetoing it?”
“They may pass it over my veto. The measure has been pushed through by one of the most expensive lobbies I’ve ever seen up here on the hill. The lobbyists told the senators that the bill would protect the public against inferior workmanship and fraud. That’s how they sell everything: we’ve got to protect the people; so take away their freedom.”
“Why I’m Vetoing This Bill.”
I sat in the visitor’s gallery. The governor walked to the rostrum. Pats on the back. Quick smiles. Clasped hands across an empty chair. Then the governor read his message.
Polite applause, side-looks at colleagues, rapt attention when Bracken Lee told them:
“I want to go beyond the unconstitutionality of the bill, however. I am returning this bill because I am strongly opposed to any legislation promoted by one class or group which in any way deprives others of fundamental rights… I can see no other intent but that it is designed to eliminate competitive advertising and thus limit the advantages to the customer which he gains through competition.”
10:15 Lee on Taxes and Foreign Aid
Back in his office, I asked the governor: “Do you think they’ll pass that bill over your veto?”
He grinned and shrugged. “We’ll see,” he said. “I have to answer my mail now.”
I sat quietly. He shuffled through the papers before him.
“Look at this!” he said, as the creases around his eye wrinkled up.
I took a letter signed by P.F. Taylor, missionary, The New Testament Church of God, Jamaica, British West Indies; I read:
“As an American missionary serving abroad, I believe I can speak from a different perspective to the citizens at home.
“Billions have been squandered in my honest opinion and have actually thwarted the purpose that was supposed to be served. Our prestige abroad has definitely not been enhanced, when even our closest allies, the British whom we have constantly bailed out of the drink, smugly and smirkingly refer to us as: ‘There are no fools like the Americans.’ And they really mean it, because to them it is true.
“They cannot understand why America is so willing to run her vast resources down the drain, and receive nothing but ill-will in return for her pains.”
While I read the letter, Miss Barlow came in, sat beside Lee’s desk; he dictated:
“Letter to Richard Gerlach. Thanks for your support of my stand against taxing Americans to provide foreign aid. I’m sorry, but I can’t advise you to take a similar stand…” He turned to me and said:
“I can’t afford to be part of any conspiracy. Lots of people ask me how they should go about withholding their taxes from the government. I’ve got to tell them not to do it. But deep down in my heart I wish they all would. If enough of them held out, the Internal Revenuers would be stymied.”
“Governor, how many letters have you had?”
“About five thousand,” he said, “And only five that have given me the devil.”
Lee picked up the letter, Miss Barlow triggered her pen, and the governor resumed:
“I am pretty sure I stand on good legal ground. My own lawyers, plus about fifty others who have written to me, say the Tenth Amendment makes foreign aid unconstitutional. It’s never been tested.
“If I should decide,” Lee continued to dictate, “that Utah should appropriate a couple of million dollars for Nevada, I’d be run out of office. The Utah Constitution says it’s illegal. Yet the U.S. Constitution is even tougher.”
“What is the worst that can happen to you,” I interrupted, “if you file a return but don’t pay your taxes?”
“Make me pay interest on the unpaid part.”
“Will they attach your bank account?”
“Not now. They’ll sit back and say, ‘As long as he’s in office, we’ll leave him alone. The minute he gets out, we’ll slap it to him.’”
“Suppose you guess wrong?” I said.
“You mean if they show up at my bank tomorrow and grab part of my account?”
“I’d invoke the Utah Constitution and force them to give back my money. They can’t take my money without due course of law. Trouble is, they bluff others and get away with it.”
“I thought I read once that you opposed the income tax, no matter what the government spends the money on?”
“That’s right. But right now I figure I’ve got a better test case on foreign aid. Pin me down to it and I’ll say they violated the Constitution when they put in the graduated income tax. The Constitution’s suffered so many violations now that in my opinion it’s dead.”
“Chuck the income tax,” I said, “and how do you buy Washington’s carbon paper, typewriters, guided missiles and farm subsidies?”
“Go back to the original plan,” snapped Lee, “let Congress assess the various states.”
“Would that work?”
“It works in every other organization; the churches, the unions, the lodges. None of the national offices assess individual members directly. The local gets dues from its members, then the local pays its share to the national.”
“Wouldn’t the states abuse the power to tax?”
“Sure,” said Lee “but competition would help! Think what it would mean if all the states were bidding for residents, saying: ‘Our taxes are lower. Our government is cheaper.’”
“I don’t see how the states…”
“The state legislators wouldn’t grant all of Congress’ requests. If they had to tax their people for federal expenses plus state expenses, they’d be more tax conscious. Budgets would be trimmed to the bone.”
“What do you mean?”
Lee nodded to Miss Barlow. “Better catch this dictation later.” He leaned toward me.
“Suppose, for instance, the federal government started out saying it wanted $1 billion from Utah: so many millions for highways, so many millions for relief, so many millions for the farm program, and so forth. Know what my legislature would do?”
“They’d look at that budget. ‘Three million for England? No, we won’t pay that. Fifty million for roads? No, we’ll build our own roads. Two million to build a power plant in Tennessee? No!’ They’d tell the federal government, ‘Just don’t bother to give us any aid, we’ll do our own financing.’”
“Don’t forget your eleven o’clock appointment,” the box spoke up.
“Just a minute,” Lee said.
“Johnson, what chance would the lobbyists have trying to get all 48 state legislatures to support a foreign aid program?”
I didn’t have an answer, nor want one. Lee knew it. “Next,” said the governor to the box, and aside to me: “I must sound like a dentist.”
11:00 Lee on “Do Good” Bills
A crowd of conservatively dressed men and women of uncertain ages pressed into the 10′×10′ space in front of the governor’s desk.
“We represent the divorce counselor bill,” a determined lady said. “We understand you intend to veto our bill. You favor divorces?”
“No,” Lee replied, “but I think your bill will do more harm than good.”
“What’s wrong with cutting down on divorces?” The even more determined lady caught the admiring glances of her supporters.
The governor stood up, his eyes searched for a friendly face. “I’ll try to explain my position. The way I see it, a government divorce counselor would never get to a home until the breach had taken place; too late for any hope.
“You would soon reach the conclusion that you weren’t getting at the problem. You would come back here asking for authority to counsel with these young couples before they marry — See if they’re suited for each other.”
One face smiled at the governor, as if to say, “I get your point.”
Lee looked at his new friend. “The first thing you know, by golly, some government agent would tell you you couldn’t marry that girl because you weren’t suited. Why, if they had had such an agency when I got married, they wouldn’t’ve let me marry Mrs. Lee.”
Angry rumble in the audience.
Lee continued. “And all you’d have done was created another government bureau — a well-meaning bureau, but wrong nevertheless. That’s the way government grows. First thing you’d know, a hoard of people on the payroll up here would go snooping into everybody’s business. If I was having trouble with my wife, the last person rd want to see is some government agent.”
“Governor,” the spokeswoman said, “we are not impressed with your argument. The people want to prevent the climbing number of divorces and you won’t give them what they want. I think you are a dictator.”
The governor flushed; nervously toyed with his letter opener and said, angrily:
“If you people would spend as much time trying to improve yourself as you do somebody else, the world would be better off. Every man, in my opinion, has a lifetime job trying to improve himself.”
11:47 Lee on Prayer
The governor, elbows on desk, rested his head in his hands. Without looking at me, he said:
“My wife always tells me, ‘Brack, try not to lose your temper today.’ If the delegations that come to see me don’t grow to mob size, we can get our business done peacefully. I knew when that mob packed into my office, I was in for trouble.”
The governor stopped talking and seemed to pray quietly. After a minute or so, the governor looked up and my puzzled face must have made him explain, saying softly:
“I usually ask my Maker to direct my steps before I act. This time, mine was a prayer for forgiveness.”
I tried to soften his feeling of guilt. “When mob spirit replaces reason, what do you do?”
“I’ll Do the Opposite of What You Request.”
But the Governor still wanted to beat himself. “I violated one of my own rules this morning; I blame myself. Several years ago, I put a stop to these mob meetings. I told the groups who asked for appointments: I’m not interested in a show of strength. If you limit your numbers to no more than five, I’ll see you. But I’ll tell you to begin with, if you bring more than five, I will do the opposite of what you request. For you’ll prove to me that you’re trying to scare me into doing something.
“No, I knew better. I broke my own rule, and I paid for it.”
11:50 Lee on Political Plums
“I’d better call Shoemaker,” Lee said, “and tell him the party chiefs are riled up.
“H.C.? Brack. Tom Wynn was in here asking me to skin you and nail your hide over the hearth for hiring that Democratic attorney… Now, wait, H.C., I didn’t say… Hello? Hung up. Must be coming over here.
“Johnson, did I tell you how I hired Shoemaker? I don’t believe I did.
“When I first came up here, I needed a good Tax Commissioner. I kept talking to different friends about somebody who was retired. Some fellow mentioned H.C. I started checking on him, found he was retired from Sears and everybody gave him a wonderful reference.
“Then I called his wife — he was out of town. She said, ‘What do you want him for?’ I said, I was wondering if he’d like to come up here as chairman of one of my Commissions.’ She said, ‘Well, I’m sure he would, for he’s been getting cranky lying around doing nothing.’
“I called Chicago, and he’d left. With the nomination deadline breathing down my neck, I sent his name up. The Senate confirmed it.
“As soon as Mr. Shoemaker got off the train, he bought a paper and there’s his picture. He jumped in a taxi and planted himself in my office. ‘What’s this all about?’ Shoemaker asked me. I said, ‘I’d like you to run the department without interference. All I expect you to do is be as fair to the people as you are to the state.’
“Shoemaker said, ‘Yes, I’ll take the job.’ He has reorganized the department. Did a wonderful job.”
A vigorous man paused, then came through the governor’s doorway. He ignored me, and said, “Brack, when you hired me, you said —”
“I meant it, too, H.C.”
“All I did was hire the best tax expert I could find. I didn’t ask him how he votes. If Hodges goes, I quit too.”
“You would, too, wouldn’t you?”
“Well, H.C., you go on running your shop as you want. I’ll handle Tom. But next time you hire a Democrat, let me know, so I can get out of town until the heat’s off.”
12:30 Lee’s Severest Critic
“I’m going to lunch with Tom and the other G.O.P. officials,” Lee said. “Come along?”
“Thanks,” I said, “but I have a date.”
“Fine. I’ll be back here at two o’clock.”
“I may be a changed man, Governor, when I get back.”
“Why?” he asked.
“I’m lunching with one of your arch-critics.”
“You have nothing on me,” Lee said.
“I’m lunching with ten of them.”
I walked down the sunny, clean streets of Salt Lake City, and stopped before an imposing office building; turned in to meet an editorial writer, let’s call him Andrew March, who worked for The Salt Lake City Tribune.
He turned his rimless spectacles on me and I felt as if standing in the glare of the headlights of a British car. I shook his limp hand. He grinned charmingly. We went to a grill.
“So you want to write a story about our governor? Bad publicity for the state. The salads are down at the bottom — there. I don’t mind telling you the man’s a fake. Uses all this publicity to build himself up.”
“How’s that? Even the Deseret News-Telegram, critical as they are of Lee’s policies, say right here —” I dug a clipping out of my pocket, and showed him:
“No governor of recent memory has operated the state house more efficiently, or more openly for public inspection. There has been no breath of scandal… His determined fight for Utah to carry its own load without federal paternalism, his resistance to tax increases, and his stern pay-as-we-go policy have all been in the interests of good government.”
“You can tell,” March said, “they’ve been taken in by the governor’s speeches, too. Here, read what Gail Martin, local public relations man, says about Lee in the New Leader:”
“Lee’s philosophy calls for reducing government functions to the medieval level of merely keeping peace and enforcing contracts.”
March handed me another magazine, point[ed] to a paragraph and said, “Read what Frontier says about him:”
“This bull-headed idealist has raised the blood pressure of most of Utah’s 690,000 residents at some time or another. A political paradox, he tramples on the toes of vote-delivering groups like organized labor, farmers, war veterans, educators, lawyers — any organization seeking public funds, regardless of the merits of their cause.
“A special anathema to school teachers, he not only angers them by keeping the strings tied on their money bags, but he impugns their motives and insults them. This modern knight’s sword is always pointed at waste; he rides out in all directions under the banner of economy, scolding, exhorting and threatening that the country is heading toward socialism.”
“I’m afraid,” I said, “I sympathize with the governor’s philosophy of limited government.”
“I could tell,” said March, “as I watched you read the clippings. Your hero tramps hard when he figures it won’t hurt him. But how many times do you see him flouting the Church? That’s the key to Lee. The Mormon Church runs this state, and the governor, too.
“I know he’s not a Mormon, but the hierarchy supports Lee’s economy campaigns. They keep their eye on the tax bill on something like a billion dollars’ worth of property. Lee won’t ever cross the Mormons. No, Sir.”
1:55 Lee and the Blue Laws
“Miss Barlow,” said the governor, “you have written ‘Blue Law Blues’ on my desk book?”
“How does it go?”
“It is a group from the Church, Governor, who want to ask you to…”
“Pass a law?”
“The Sunday Closing bill, Governor.”
“To close down the state on Sunday?”
“Everything except churches and…”
“Send them in.”
A squad of granite faced patriarchs and matriarchs marched slow tempo into the office.
“The papers say you’re vetoing our bill.”
“Don’t you want me to?”
“No. And we don’t understand why you…”
Lee stood up, took a deep breath, looked up at the ceiling, paused as if in prayer, then said:
“I know you men and women represent the majority of our citizens in Utah. I know the Church supports this legislation. I, myself, admire your desire to keep the Sabbath holy.
“But I have talked to other people too. Sure, they’re in the minority: the Jews, the Seventh Day Adventists — their ideas about the Sabbath run contrary to yours. Then, too, the wayside fruit vendor, the neighborhood grocer who survives at least partially by Sunday trade have come to talk to me. What do I do?
“I said to myself: ‘Brack, is the wish of the majority an accurate measuring stick of right and wrong?’ Suppose the majority of Americans voted to re-establish slavery. You folks wouldn’t defend it as being right, would you?”
“Well, I believe we can’t pass any legislation which discriminates against the freedom of the few. And, besides, I’ve always believed you cannot legislate the morals of the people. I’m sorry, but that’s why I must veto your bill.”
3:00 Lee on Third Parties
Governor Lee came back from the reception room, where he had escorted the Sunday Closing bill people. He turned to me: “I did better. Must have learned something this morning.”
I smiled in agreement.
“Down in their hearts, those folks are good. Yet you can’t trust anyone with the power to control others. Take any religious group, not just the Mormons, really deep believers in their particular faith. Give them the power to close all the other churches and force people to join theirs. Most of them would do it — and they would do it thinking they were right.
“I worry about my own position of power. I try to remember the Golden Rule. I say to myself: ‘Lee, you can’t be governor forever. Don’t get any power here that you’re not willing to pass along to your worst enemies.’”
“Governor, are you running for President?” the pleasant voice in the box asked.
“Not up to now. Why?”
“A ‘Lee for President’ delegation is here.”
“Don’t send in more than five of them or I’ll run.”
The door opened and a grinning group of short and tall men charged us, hands out.
“Governor, we’d like you to head up a Third Party as its presidential candidate.”
“Boys, I hate to dampen your spirits,” said Lee as he sat up on the edge of his chair and spoke very slowly. “But I don’t think a third party’s got a chance. Besides, you couldn’t pick enough congressmen who would keep their word to return us to a limited government. No, better than running for national office, I think I’d do better trying to stir up enough people so they will demand a return to the limitation of powers.”
“But, Governor, are the voters in the other 47 states different? You’re popular here.”
“I’m not quite sure how many vote for my ideals and how many check my ballot box because they think I’m honest and efficient.
“Actually,” Lee continued, “what have I solved here in Utah?”
“You’ve accomplished a lot, Brack.”
“No, the machinery that existed before I took office still exists. Another politician can go back to the same abuses that I’ve stopped. My work will be 100% wasted if the professional politicians come back here and get hold of things again. Without constitutional limitations, what is safe?
“Don’t think I don’t appreciate your confidence. But sometimes I think our country would be safer with a strong political minority opposing statism than for us to have our friends in power. Friends who feel they must compromise.”
4:10 Lee’s Energy
I watched the governor sign a stack of letters. I was beat just watching his day of continuing conflicts. I asked him:
“Governor, you are fifty-seven years old. Where do you get all your energy?”
“Keep in shape, I guess. Most week ends, Mrs. Lee and I and as many of our four children as we can round up go tracking through the mountains. We’re a great family for picnics. I like to trapshoot, too. Last Sunday, I ran 97 out of a hundred. First time I’d been out there in months. One year I was champion.”
I interrupted, “I meant, how do you take all this criticism?”
“I like criticism. It has a way of bringing you up sharp and saying: ‘Wait now, let’s take a look at this thing. Maybe you weren’t so right after all.’ If everybody patted me on the back, pretty soon, I’d be so far off the beam, I’d do nothing right.”
5:00 Lee Says No to His Wife
“Mrs. Lee’s here, Governor.”
“Good. Quitting time.”
“You’ll be stuffing your brief case and working into the wee hours, I suppose,” I said.
“Nope, no brief case. No home work. That’s the trouble with officials. If they’d work less, we’d have less government. I quit at five. Go home, read about anything but government.”
The door opened. Mrs. Lee, warm-smile, beautiful looking, sailed through the doorway.
“Brack, I want to ask you for a favor.”
“Not again, Margaret?”
“Now Brack, couldn’t you find a job somewhere for Charles Higgins? He’s a good man.”
Lee threw up his hands and said to me: “See Johnson, it’s like I say, everybody wants some special privilege.”
I smiled, and tried tact: “Thanks for — I was about to say thanks for the lesson in how not to be a successful politician. But you were reelected by a landslide, weren’t you?”
“Not quite. But it’s an old chestnut that you can’t get elected without compromising. I have a suspicion people like fighters. If you’ve got principles, if you stick to your guns, I think you can get elected because of the novelty of it. It’s never been tried, lately.”
“You’ve tried it —,” I began.
He waved aside what he feared would turn out to be a compliment.
“Good night,” he said. “And don’t stay up all night writing my story. No politician is worth it.”