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Viral rant in Springfield makes instant folk hero

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Updated: July 6, 2012 10:57AM



Mike Bost is sorry about only one thing in his infamous rant on the floor of the Illinois House. Only one misgiving about the tirade now viral on YouTube, in which he shouts at the top of his lungs, tosses paper in the air and yells, “Let my people go!”

He voiced his regret immediately afterward when he called his wife of 32 years.

“Tracy, I need to tell you something,” Bost recalled confessing. “I said the d-word twice.”

His wife’s reply was more like a sigh. She said, “Oh, Michael, Michael.”

The d-word, by the way, is “damn.”

Mike Bost, the 18-year state representative from tiny Downstate Murphysboro, is a 21st century version of Howard Beale, the fictional TV anchor in the 1976 movie “Network” who cried out across the airwaves, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Beale, in the movie, becomes an instant folk hero.

Bost, for the moment, has, too.

The retired Marine turned firefighter and conservative Republican politician has, in the last few days, found himself on Fox, CNN and Inside Edition. There are more than 600,000 views on YouTube. Chicago Magazine digital editor Whet Moser put it to music, editing in Howard Dean’s scream and Bill Clinton’s saxophone.

But the 52-year-old Bost is not a cartoon. And his fury is not just political theater.

Bost’s rage had a clear and distinct target: House Speaker Michael Madigan and the way the top House Democrat was controlling debate on what turned out to be the desperately needed but doomed pension overhaul.

“Total power in one person’s hands. Enough!” Bost boomed from the chamber floor.

Although, as a freshman, he voted for some of the rules he now protests, he says he did not vote for the recent restrictions on debate.

“It was rightful and justified anger,” he said. “I just didn’t know it would go national and beyond.”

Part of his anger is shared by colleagues who always see, at the very end of session, the rushed introduction of bills that, with hours ticking away, purposely do not get the scrutiny they need.

But the pension overhaul bill was what finally lit Bost’s fuse.

“Why in a situation where we had a year and five months to work on a bill, where we thought we actually had enough votes, was that bill changed in the . . . next-to-last day of session?”

Bost was 23 and angered by a local political dispute, when his wife told him to put up or shut up. And run.

Advised that he couldn’t win unless he ran as a Democrat, Bost bucked the prevailing political winds and, inspired by Ronald Reagan, ran as a Republican in 1992. Lost. But he ran again in 1994 and has been winning ever since.

He’s been targeted several times by guess who? Mike Madigan, chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. This time around, he is running unopposed in the November general election.

Democrats have until Monday to slate a candidate. Given what’s just occurred, Bost thinks Madigan might be beating the bushes. “He’s probably working his can off to find someone,” he said.

I’m not so sure.

Then again, Bost already has video for his first commercial.



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