U.S. Sen. Rob Portman is pictured with a copy of The Highland County Press in Wilmington during a 2010 interview with Rory Ryan, who may or may not have "planted" the newspaper. (HCP file photo by Brandy Chandler.)
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman is pictured with a copy of The Highland County Press in Wilmington during a 2010 interview with Rory Ryan, who may or may not have "planted" the newspaper. (HCP file photo by Brandy Chandler.)
Without researching it, I can only guess how many times I either suggested that U.S. Sen. Rob Portman should run for president of the United States or be on the presidential ticket.

The logical answer is five. Every four years, from 2000-16, I mentioned Rob Portman as a potential POTUS candidate – as did many much more serious minds across the country. In a Feb. 9, 2015 HCP column, headlined "Rob Portman for president in 2016," I wrote the following:

While we all ought to understand that there exists a ridiculous level of arrogance among many – I think “most” – of today’s public officials, if there’s one public servant whose record would, in fact, warrant some arrogance, it's Rob Portman; yet, he does not display it. Is he different with his staff or associates? I don’t pretend to know. But I do know where some politicians come across as wishing (almost demanding) to be served by the public for whom they are paid to work, Rob Portman does not.

From what I have witnessed over several occasions, he is always gracious and respectful to those around him. I have watched then-Congressman Portman face serious criticism – and up-close confrontation – for a number of Washington missteps not of his own doing during the Clinton administration. He handled each question and each criticism with honest, straightforward responses without a demeaning or disparaging word to anyone in the room.

That wasn’t in Washington or Columbus or Cleveland. That happened in Adams County, in the county seat of West Union. Few in Congress could have handled it as well. No one could have handled it any better. And speaking of the Clinton years, a former Cabinet member for President Clinton, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, said this about Portman in a 1999 interview with National Review: “I hope he’s president of the United States in another 12 years. He’s one of the finest public servants I’ve met in America.”


On Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, Sen. Portman announced that he will not seek another six-year term in the United States Senate when his current term expires in 2022. That is not good news for Ohio or for the nation.

“I feel fortunate to have been entrusted by the people of Ohio to represent them in the U.S. Senate," Sen. Portman said. "Today, I am announcing that I have made a decision not to run again in 2022. This doesn’t mean I’m leaving now – I still have two more years in my term, and I intend to use that time to get a lot done. I will be the top Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and I have a number of oversight projects and legislative initiatives I’m eager to get across the finish line. Over the next two years, I look forward to being able to focus all my energy on legislation and the challenges our country faces rather than on fundraising and campaigning.

“This was not an easy decision because representing the people of Ohio has been an honor. But I’ve been doing this a long time, longer than I ever intended."

Second District Congressman Brad Wenstrup (who would be a great successor to Sen. Portman in two years) said today: "I would like to thank Rob for his years of service to Ohio's Second District, our state and the country. He has been an incredibly effective legislator and a champion for decency and respect with a long list of accomplishments. His leadership on efforts to end the opioid epidemic stands out among his long list of great policy achievements. Rob will be remembered as a true statesman for years to come."

I do not disagree. But this is where I should insert the obligatory line that I did not always agree with Sen. Portman. In fact, I agreed more with Congressman Portman. His changing stance on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) from his time in the House in 1996 (pro-DOMA), to his time in the Senate in 2013 (anti-DOMA) comes to mind. There are a few other issues, as well. But not many. Such are life and politics.

For his three decades in public service, though, Sen. Portman was and is an honorable statesman. He is a man of integrity and a man who has made a genuine difference because of his service.

Some of my more conservative friends may disagree – and that's fine. But I'll stand by this: If the U.S. Congress had more Rob Portmans and fewer Nancy D'Alesandro Pelosis (like me, a Baltimoron by birth), it would be an actual functioning body on behalf of the citizens of the United States of America. As it exists today, Congress is a disjointed, disunited, disorderly house. (Inquiring minds may want to look up that last one – lest you miss out on the intended humor.)

Now, back to the beginning. Why do I say Rob Portman is "A Man for All Seasons?"

Glad you asked.

In our "Wayback Machine," let's cruise back in time to my 1979 English class with Whiteoak High School teacher and varsity track coach Joe Himes.

Joe suggested to me that I read about Sir Thomas More. So I did. (For some reason, Joe was always telling me to read some damned thing or another.)

"A Man for All Seasons" is a 1966 British biographical film based on Robert Bolt's 1960 play. It was released in 1966. I read this in high school, thanks to Joe Himes.

For a brief background, More was a 16th-century lord chancellor of England. He refused both to sign a letter asking Pope Clement VII to annul King Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon and to take an Oath of Supremacy declaring Henry VIII Supreme Head of the Church of England.

More was indicted for his violation of the Treasons Act of 1534, which declared it treason to speak against the king's supremacy. A jury took only 15 minutes to find More guilty.

After the jury's verdict was delivered and before his sentencing, More spoke freely of his belief that "no temporal man may be the head of the spirituality." More believed that the Statute of Supremacy was contrary to the Magna Carta, to church laws and to the laws of England.

He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. However, King Henry VIII opted for decapitation. More's execution took place on July 6, 1535.

Pope Pius XI canonized Sir Thomas More in 1935 as a martyr.

In 2002, Pope John Paul II declared More the patron saint of statesmen and politicians.

If there is a modern-day patron saint of statesmen and politicians, I can think of no one better than Rob Portman.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press, Highland County's only locally owned and operated newspaper.