The news business lets you meet many people who you might not really "know" - but you feel like you do. People who give pithy quotes and those who stir the pot are favorites of reporters, producers and hosts because they make great copy, great TV, great radio. John Orman was one of those guys. I didn't really know him. But I'll miss him. He died suddenly Sunday at the age of 60.
Orman was a political science professor at Fairfield University who was a regular "quote machine" for cable TV news, local reporters and public radio. You knew that if nobody else was available to talk politics on deadline, John Orman would be there. He was a guest panelist for our coverage of a key debate at Fairfield University between incumbent Congressman Chris Shays and newcomer (and eventual winner) Jim Himes. He most recently appeared on Where We Live when we talked about Connecticut as "Corrupticut" - a place of intractable political corruption.
A colleague told WNPR that Orman got his students so excited about politics that many of them ran for office. He ran himself against incumbent Congressman Stewart McKinney in 1984, and lost. But he made his biggest mark during the widely-followed Lieberman/Lamont race in 2006.
After briefly running as a challenger to Liebeman himself, he threw his support behind Lamont, only to see his candidate win the primary and lose to a newly "Independent" Joe in the general election. In actuality, the Senator's invented party affilation wasn't "Independent," it was "Connecticut for Lieberman."
Orman, with a showman's touch and timing, seized the opportunity, joined the "party," became "chairman" and used the platform to blast Lieberman's policies. But, he wouldn't have used the word "blast." He said he did it to be a "watchdog," and he became a darling of the liberal blogs that nearly took Lieberman down.
Orman was known for a civil tone, never adopting the name-calling style that has permeated political talk. He was an educator, he cared about politics, and he thought he could do something to make change. We asked Lieberman for a comment, and he put out this statement: "While he and I had our political differences, I always respected John's intelligence and his passionate citizenship."