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Orrin Hatch's mean streak

Associated Press

A few years ago, as the fight over health care reform grew more intense, organized a protest at Sen. Orrin Hatch's (R-Utah) Salt Lake City office, objecting to the conservative senator's positions on health care policy and donations from the insurance industry. Asked about the demonstration, Hatch told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, " is a scurrilous organization.... And frankly, they're not gonna smear me without getting kicked in the teeth by me."

That was October 2009. Last week, Utah's senior senator once again had violence on his mind when asked about FreedomWorks, a right-wing organization that was pushing for Hatch's defeat in a GOP primary.

"I despise these people, and I'm not the guy you come in and dump on without getting punched in the mouth," he said on National Public Radio.

For the record, I don't seriously believe that the Republican senator is considering violence against anyone. His rhetoric is almost certainly intended to sound tough, not be threatening in a literal sense.

Still, six-term senators generally choose to conduct themselves with at least a modicum of dignity, and refrain from talking about kicking people in the teeth and punching people in the mouth.

The New York Times recently ran an item asking, "Where Are the Republican Elder Statesmen?" Alas, it appears that guys like John Warner and James Baker have been replaced by the likes of Chuck Grassley, who tweets about the president being "stupid," and Hatch, who wants to beat people up.