Dispute with state insurance division 
shows Udall is more than a bystander

I would like to suggest a campaign song for Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s re-election bid. I nominate “Rubberneckin’ ” by the great Elvis Presley.

“Stop look and listen baby, that’s my philosophy.” These are fantastic lyrics for our new breed of bystander politicians.

This third-party approach to one’s own policies and actions has nearly been perfected by our Bystander in Chief, President Obama, who’s constantly mystified by scandals of his own creation and solemnly vows to get to the bottom of what happened. This usually is not difficult since he generally is at the bottom of what happened. It’s safe to not set the bar too high for performance, and this is a great example of moderation.

In the spirit of the sincerest form of flattery, Udall has adopted this philosophy on his own congressional record.

If one looks at the positions of the senator over the last few months,  it becomes clear that Udall seems to believe he appeared as Colorado senator sometime in mid-2013 and was immediately shocked and dismayed by the damage that those darned politicians in Washington had done to the state.

Mainly, this involves his past cheerleader-with-a-megaphone support of Obamacare, a fact that the senator has clearly forgotten and hopes you have, as well.

This is political pyromania, where the person responsible for the fire runs into the gathered crowd shouting, “What in the world happened here?”

One of the best ways to catch these characters is to photograph the crowd and review each different calamity for a familiar face. The same applies here. When you look at calamities from Benghazi — “This is a tragedy in search of a scandal” — to passing Obamacare in the dead of night, Udall is always a face in the crowd.

Political opponents would make the argument that Mark Udall isn’t much of a leader, but now he oddly seems to be trying to make the argument he’s an absentminded or careless follower, as well, at least to the public.

However, behind-the-scenes, the senator and his staff are reportedly pretty aggressive when it comes to brawling over bad news about programs he evidently does remember supporting.

Over the last couple months, there has been a tussle about the senator’s office trying to “correct” the number — announced by the Colorado Division of Insurance — of Coloradans having their health care policies canceled with the initiation of Obamacare.

In November, according to The Denver Post, the numbers elicited a hard push back from Udall staffers. Todd Shepherd, editor of Complete Colorado, obtained a series of email exchanges, some involving Colorado’s Division of Insurance director of external affairs. Intimidating words by Udall’s political operatives suggested to the insurance director that the agency’s number had to be released quickly because Udall’s legislative director stated Udall’s staff would be “forced to challenge the 249k number ourselves.”

The Post reported that when the insurance official attempted to clarify the numbers to Udall’s legislative director, things apparently didn’t go well. The insurance director wrote in a subsequent message, “Following my email I received a very hostile call from Senator Udall’s deputy chief of staff. Marguerite is on the phone with his Chief of Staff right now. Happy Friday!”

The political operatives apparently weren’t happy with the number announced and seemingly were trying to get the Division of Insurance to change or obscure it with a lot of froth about people being offered the chance to apply for other policies. That, of course, is a completely separate story about the affordability and practicality of the insurances that were available on the exchange.

None of that changes the number of cancellations.

When Republicans demanded an investigation, the Democratic appointee in charge of Colorado’s regulatory agencies put together a panel that determined that Udall’s office didn’t attempt to politically bully the Colorado Division of Insurance.

When questioned about who might be on that “neutral panel,” the appointee, Barbara Kelly, refused to say. After some pressure, she finally identified the members of the neutral panel as herself, her deputy and her legislative liaison, whom the Post identified as the former chief of staff for the state Senate Democrats.

This clumsy handling didn’t help Udall appear to be much of a bystander.

Rick Wagner writes more on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.


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