Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Col. Umbus (Ret.) returns to the Ohio legislature

Back when  I was the editor of a small liberal magazine in Columbus, I created a character named Col. Umbus (Ret.)...(Got it?) The Colonel was a bumbling,   blustering bovine guy who could have been the early model for Louie Gohmert and all folks similarly situated on the fringe of American politics.

The colonel, flushed and fulminating, turned up in the midst of the civil rights revolution and deadly concern on the right that the U.S. was on the verge of a Red-inspired takeover. Either that or the supposed threat from  some soft-headed liberal professors at Ohio State U. You may have read about it  in the history books.

I had occasional conversations with ol'  Umbus as he ranted about liberals, government, communists, evil and whatever else was  in the news  that spoke of the death of decency, patriotism and the American way. I seldom found him to be happy.

My angel for the bi-weekly magazine (The Commentator) was Murray Lincoln, the progressive founder of Nationwide Insurance who regularly grew impatient  with the Dispatch's conservative meanderings and delivered  the cash through the company's broadcasting holdings to offer a fresh voice to the Capitol City.

Once the magazine was in print on a biweekly basis Lincoln never again mentioned it to me. I could only assume that he was satisfied after we won several awards, thanks to a colleague, Dave Hess, including a national  honor for our civil rights reporting.

It was pure David and Goliath combat. The Dispatch people were aghast that anybody would  be so brash to challenge it with so little. At one point, it even pointed out to its readers that I had given a dinner talk to the ACLU, which the paper said had endorsed the entry of Red China to the United Nations.  It solved nothing for me to mention that the Vatican had supported it, too.

I think a lot of Col.Umbus (Ret) today as the Ohio legislature parades one idiotic idea after another to advance its foolish idealogical mission in the public arena.  Here, in this  right-wing mass of fringe-a-lings, we have Speaker Bill Batchelder declaring his opposition to expanding Medicaid contained in Obamacare.  Once again a person of Batchelder's great wealth is coming down hard (read: inhumanely) on poor folks who don't have health insurance.

The guy says he doesn't have enough information for the plan (and doubtless never will have because that's how they dodge the game!).  It will continue to be tough on people who can't otherwise afford the monthly premiums for medical coverage.  That's not a condition any legislator would agree to personally live with.  Even the nomads of northern Afghanistan  find the lack of medical atttention a severe hardship.

Over the years as a political reporter I talked to Batchelder many times and found his disarming  good humor and widely spaced laugh a rare attribute of many ashen conservatives that I had covered.  Man, did he snooker me.  Col. Umbus (Ret.) would have been happy to contribute to his campaign.

As for The Commentator, shortly after Lincoln died, the less adventurous brass  on the seventh floor shut down the four-year-old magazine and I was out of work.


Dave Eden said...

Well said. A legislator who "doesn't have enough information" to make an informed decision on a subject isn't doing his or her job. None should be allowed to get away with that lame excuse.

Anonymous said...

Great piece. Batch is also a double-dipper. Innovation Ohio put this out awhile back.

Though fiercely critical of “double dipping” by other public workers, 12 House and Senate members who support SB 5 are themselves double-dippers (one is a triple-dipper), and collect legislative salaries in addition to state pensions. Perhaps the biggest single double-dipper in Ohio is House Speaker Bill Batchelder, who receives over $100,000 in a PERS pension, on top of his $94,500 annual legislative salary;