The [Tuesday] Papers
Where do you start with Dick Durbin?
Maybe with Andy McKenna, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party.
"This issue is not one of party, but of bringing real change to Illinois by the way we conduct business," McKenna said in a statement.
"A commutation of Governor Ryan's sentence sends the wrong message to not only those who betray the public trust but also to the honest, hardworking men and women of Illinois who expect public corruption will be punished to the fullest extent of the law."
This is a no-brainer. It's not even close. What in the world is Dick Durbin thinking?
It's always dangerous for journalists to play armchair psychologist, but could this have something to do with his compassionate feelings toward, mainly it seems, Lura Lynn Ryan?
"Friends say Durbin, 64, is quieter and more reflective these days. His staff says he has reminded them to stop and remember what's most important in life . . .
"In the weeks since his daughter's death, Durbin has received thousands of condolence cards and e-mail messages. He has heard from people he has not seen in decades - even from the student teacher in Christine's kindergarten class who wrote that she still remembered his little girl.
"And he has been struck by the number of people who can identify with his loss.
"'There is a fraternity of grief in America, of people who are still grieving deaths in their family,' he said. 'This very public event with my daughter allows them to sit down and write a card that says, 'You don't know me, but this is what I went through, and I know what you're going through.' "
Or is that giving Durbin too much credit?
Durbin is well-respected by the press corps. I've been skeptical ever since I watched him spin a group of high school students while answering a question about his opposition to gay marriage. That was seven years ago, and everything I've seen from him since has been intelligent and knowledgeable, but also hyper-partisan and, at times, dirty.
But on the possible commutation of George Ryan's sentence, Durbin hasn't been the least bit smart. His logic is bumbling.
For example, Durbin said on Monday that "I would speak out for justice in any case brought to my attention."
So George Ryan's incarceration is the biggest injustice he is currently aware of?
"He explained his decision in the context of spending his entire public life trying to correct government injustices of one sort or another that have been brought to his attention by members of the public," Mark Brown writes today. "He chalked up the Ryan clemency bid as just one more example of that.
"When pressed, though, Durbin said he couldn't remember ever seeking clemency on behalf of anybody else. And he also backpedaled from the notion that Ryan was the victim of any injustice."
So what is it then? Feeling sorry for Lura Lynn?
Ah, the sainted Lura Lynn. How quickly they forget.
"Former Gov. George Ryan's defense rested its case Thursday but not before one of the most volatile clashes yet erupted as prosecutors in the public corruption trial accused the defense of using Ryan's wife in a 'desperate, orchestrated' effort to taint the jury," the Sun-Times reported in February 2006.
"On Wednesday, hours after her husband said he wouldn't take the stand, Lura Lynn Ryan submitted to a series of television interviews, appearing on every local newscast sounding off on issues banned from the courtroom and making virtually the same remarks in each broadcast."
Here's my favorite part:
"On TV, Mrs. Ryan accused prosecutors of bringing charges against her husband in retaliation for his clearing Death Row. However, the feds started investigating Ryan years before that 2003 decision.
She said she backed Ryan's decision not to testify because the courtroom was an unfair playing field and prosecutors didn't have a case."
And then there was this:
""There's so many counts against George, one of them might stick. I just don't know which one.'
"Mrs. Ryan was asked to leave the courtroom during some testimony because Ryan's lawyers, at the start of the trial, said they might call her as their witness. They never did.
"On one of those occasions, a trial observer lay a consoling hand on her shoulder saying: 'It's so unfair that you have to wait out here.'
"Lura Lynn Ryan looked at her and spat: 'It's bullshit!'"
And then there is the Willis family.
"She felt her husband should not be blamed as though he were driving the truck that caused the accident," the Sun-Times reported in September 2006.
"'If George Ryan had hit those people, I'm sorry, that would be different,' she said."
You can debate whether Ryan was responsible for the Willis deaths, but one thing we know for sure is that Ryan quashed an investigation into the accident to protect him politically. Nice.
Then again, Ryan once told Rev. Duane Willis to "get a life."
And it was just a few days ago that Lura Lynn said this:
"When asked if there were anything George Ryan would change, Lura Lynn Ryan said neither she nor her husband has any regrets.
"'His conscience is as clear as his mind,' she said. 'If he had it to do over - and I've heard him say this - he would govern the same way as he did before."
"His serious and pervasive criminal conduct spanned his 12 years in office as secretary of state and governor," his prosecutors remind us today. "The evidence, which the court of appeals characterized as 'overwhelming,' revealed that Ryan repeatedly used his governmental offices improperly to steer state leases and contracts to his friends, and that he used an army of government workers to sell fundraising tickets to finance his campaign fund, which he then used as his personal piggy bank. As secretary of state, he authorized the dismantling of the important inspector general's function at a time when investigations were in the midst of exposing his corrupt fundraising apparatus and its effect on the licensing process. He lied on his tax returns on multiple occasions, and as governor, he lied repeatedly to the FBI and created a sham paper trail to conceal vacation benefits he received from a state lease recipient."
As Brown writes, we should all strive to be merciful and compassionate.
"But we also ought to have some standards as to when we show mercy, and the line doesn't start with crooked politicians."
- Dick's Folly.
- 10 Questions for Dick Durbin. Some of these have now been asked; I'll follow-up later today.
The Beachwood Tip Line: Justice applied.
Posted on December 2, 2008
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