"Durbin: commute Ryan sentence"
In four words this headline from the Chicago Tribune (Dec. 1) sums up everything you need to know about Illinois politics.
Yes, that is "Durbin" as in Dick Durbin, Illinois' senior U.S. Senator, a 25-year Democrat member of Congress, and the national co-chairman of the Obama presidential campaign. And the Ryan is none other than George Ryan, the disgraced former Republican governor sentenced to 6.5 years of breaking big rocks into little ones for operating a taxpayer-funded den of thieves as Secretary of State and then as Governor.
Before Thanksgiving Durbin, dipped his toe into the political currents, following it up yesterday by doing a cannonball right into the middle of the soup, releasing a letter he sent to the President requesting George Ryan's prison sentence be commuted.
With apologies to Travis Tritt, fresh off re-election to his third term in the U.S. Senate by Illinois' masochistic electorate, Durbin's feeling ten feet tall and bulletproof.
And why shouldn't he?
He certainly need not worry about shots fired from Republicans. Former Republican Governor Jim Thompson, Ryan's defense attorney (pro bono, because, hey, we're all friends here), was quick to lavish praise on Durbin. Former Republican Governor Jim Edgar also leaned that way saying, "George Ryan's paid a pretty big price…I'm not sure that a few more years (in prison) is all that much more punishment to him."
Gee, Governor Edgar, you know who else paid a "pretty big price"? The nine people, including six children, killed by drivers who obtained their licenses illegally from George Ryan's office. I would love to get their input on those "few more years" but, well, they are dead.
For it is the views of the victims-not those of George Ryan and his apologists-that are relevant here. Those victims include the taxpayers of Illinois, all of whom were defrauded.
What statement of contrition do these men of letters from Illinois' ruling party present to the victims for consideration? "His conscience is as clear as his mind," Ryan's wife told the Chicago Sun-Times. "If he had it to do over-and I've heard him say this-he would govern the same way as he did before."
If George Ryan's conscience is clear, than he is not asking himself the right questions. I for one think his current residence is the ideal place for further introspection. He can take all the time he needs.
The federal government's Operation Safe Road investigation in which Ryan was ultimately snared also produced corruption convictions against some 75 other individuals.
75 federal felony convictions of associates and subordinates. Nine individuals in the ground, an unintended but very real consequence of the corruption that took place on his watch. And George Ryan is a man with no regrets. Not a single lesson learned. Yet, Durbin, Thompson, and Edgar are all ready to sign Ryan's walking papers.
In Illinois, it's not that establishment Republicans and Democrats are too cozy; it's that they are indistinguishable-and unrepentant.