The Town Hall was held at the Provo City Library which is located in the refurbished Brigham Young Academy, which was the institution that preceded Brigham Young University. There were over a hundred people in attendance. Mr. Hatch hit the threshold at 1400 sharp and opened the meeting by thanking us for giving up a fine Saturday afternoon to show up for politics.
Senator Hatch mentioned blogs during both the open Town Hall and the by-invitation dessert meeting afterward. He recommended Powerline and Hugh Hewitt in particular, and Michelle Malkin was mentioned as well. As far as media goes, his statements surprised me a bit. Not much subtlety or temporizing in "The media dislikes conservatives and hates this president". He proposed that blog impact has little to do with the agenda of any single blog; rather, the self-correction and fact checking between widely disparate blogs improves the quality of information available to those who actively follow current events.
But he was up front that is was nice to have friends in blog places, none the less.
Questions from the crowd ranged from border security to if Harry Reid still attended church. Laughs on the latter question, and laughs on the Senator's reply to same. Mr. Hatch and Mr. Reid are both LDS, as were probably ninety five percent of the folks in attendance. Hatch said that Mr. Reid did indeed attend, and that we should consider for a moment the constituency Mr. Reid was trying to represent. That brought a moment of pin-drop silence and some thoughtful shaking of heads.
(I agree that trying to stay in front of the Left must be a frustrating chore. Cat herding would be easier. But that still doesn't affect my personal conviction that Harry Reid and his party are a threat to the country on a level that Al Qaeda could only dream of being...)
Economic issues affecting Utah were discussed at length. Without a senior senator in Washington, Utah would probably have already lost the Utah Test and Training Range to the environmentalists, and with it Hill AFB. Ditto access to a huge bulk of our public lands as well - big state feds (not to mention a recent president) have always looked toward western states to give up land as gestures to the Greens. On those same lines, the Senator detailed his opposition to storing high level radioactive wastes in Utah. He has been in the Senate since before Yucca Mountain, Nevada was put forward as a repository site, and decried the Democrats' decision to use the facility for political posturing AFTER all the billions have been spent in studying, planning, and building the facility. The crux of the matter is that the first state that willingly accepts interstate delivery of highlevel wastes will be THE state that handles the rest. Politically and in terms of permits, costs, and the very real and pressing need to secure unsafe sites that now exist across the country, it just can't work out any other way. Mr. Hatch mentioned "other alternatives" in process for dealing with materials in situ; no details were given but I believe he may have been alluding to vitrification, a method shot down by Jimmy Carter at the behest of environmentalists. Instead of encasing tons of waste in glass, we now store the bulk of spent fuel roads in above-ground water tanks. And those tanks are failing.
Energy policy was discussed. Senator Hatch pointed out that Canada represents our first, largest supplier of imported petroleum products. Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming together have three or four times as much oil in shale as do the Canadians in their tar sands, and technology is coming on line that makes recovery of shale oil only slightly more expensive than it is for tar sand now. He stated that biofuels, hydrogen, and ethanol only make sense in the long term if there is clean energy available to produce them, and that means expanding our nuclear generating capability. France was used as a data point here: they get almost seventy percent of their electrical power from nuclear generation now. ANWR, too, was mentioned. Hatch pointed out that the surface acreage to be explored was smaller than Provo.
Illegal immigration and border security were discussed at length, both separately and as the same issue. Senator Hatch was adamant that the President's guest worker program was not amnesty; I don't think the room bought it. I know I didn't.
Near the end of the allotted hour the senator called for any questions on the domestic surveillance issue. He explained the timeline of the program, and the congressional oversight/periodic review that had been built into the system at its inception. He was adamant that the program has effective in the war and has not violated any citizens' civil rights. He expressed surprise that there hadn't been any so far. A gentleman standing in the aisle next to me asked why the program hadn't been legislated via congress. Senator Hatch replied that at its inception, the administration had presented it as in keeping with the execution of the President's Article II powers during wartime, and supported by precedents from Lincoln to Roosevelt (FDR). Hatch also stated that he was convinced that any move to legislate at this time would simply degenerate into political theater on the part of the minority - he further pointed out that no serious court challenge to domestic surveillance was being pursued in spite of all the media noise on the subject - and predicted that courts would come down on the side of Article II if push came to shove.
After the meeting ended the gentleman who asked the FISA question and I met in the hall and talked further on the details of the issue. One of the staffers stopped by to chat, and shortly after we were both invited up to the dessert meeting.
And that is for tomorrow's post.