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The question before the house: Is Becky Lockhart truly that clueless and mean-spirited about the goals, means and hard-won partial successes of the federal Affordable Care Act?

Or does the speaker of the Utah House just think that the voters of her state are eager to believe such drivel and will reward politicians who serve it up to them raw?

Forgoing the happy-talk speech that usually opens the annual regular session of the Utah Legislature, Lockhart Monday used her opening remarks to blast a governor of her own party for, among other things, his alleged failure to protect Utahn from the evils of Obamacare.

Or maybe Lockhart was locking and loading on Gov. Gary Herbert for the sin of being the major obstacle to her own planned ascent to the governor's office in 2016.

Apparently, the Provo Republican has decided that her best chance of sweeping aside the incumbent, especially as long as the state's unrepresentative caucus and convention system survives, is to outflank him on the red-meat right.

Even if she has to take some horridly uninformed and cruel position to do so.

Obamacare, for all its fits and starts and mind-numbing complexity, has already gone a long way toward removing our nation's status as a shameful outlier among civilized nations in its lack of universal access to health care. For Lockhart to excoriate it as a "trap" and a "costly and catastrophic federal mandate," willfully ignores the fact that it is on course to shrink the deficit, boost the economy and lift the crushing burden of medical bankruptcy from millions of families whose only sin was to get sick or be injured.

Herbert has taken his shots at Obamacare, too. And he is taking his own sweet time deciding whether to fully expand Medicaid in Utah, as anticipated in the ACA, or to seek some compromise. But he has wisely decided that just blocking expansion is not a reasonable move.

Herbert, like all those in positions of power, is at a distinct disadvantage in this war of words. He has the weight of real responsibility on his shoulders. He often has to just stand there and allow others, with less influence, authority and much less knowledge, to snipe at him.

Except that Lockhart is not some yahoo from the sticks. She is the leader of the Utah House, and as such carries a great deal of authority herself. She has more to say about state policies, budgets and priorities than just about every other individual. Except the governor.

Which is what she apparently wants to be. Even though she has yet to demonstrate the necessary judgment.