George Ryan turns 76 on Wednesday. Should he manage to survive the physical and mental strain of being an inmate of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, he will be 79 turning on 80 when he is scheduled for release (ironically enough, on Independence Day of 2013).
Not that any of this means a thing to those people whose partisanship makes them detest Ryan to the point where the only thing that will appease them is the word that he died while in prison.
OF COURSE, THOSE cranks will then resort to complaining that Ryan likely will get some sort of private burial, instead of just some sort of pauper’s grave in a prison burial ground. In short, I don’t think there’s anything that will ever appease the people who are so bitter that all they want to think about in conjunction with Ryan’s name is pain and suffering.
This is a sentiment I have long felt. A part of me has always felt that the people who most get outraged about Ryan are lacking something in their own lives, so they take it out on him.
And that is what they did en masse, with a pair of reports this week that put Ryan (a.k.a., inmate number 16627-424) back in the news – which as far as I’m concerned makes him much more worthy of mention here than any of the babble spouted out Friday by golfer Tiger Woods.
First, columnist Mike Sneed reiterated what those people who have paid close attention already knew – one-time first lady Lura Lynn Ryan is seriously ill. That actually has the Ryan family stepping up efforts to try to get some sort of clemency for George, who remains at the federal prison near Terre Haute, Ind.
THEY SEEM TO think that Barack Obama has more of a sense of compassion (Obama was the state senator from the Hyde Park neighborhood when Ryan was governor) than did George W. Bush, who seemed to view rejecting pardon requests as the part of the job he enjoyed the most (that, and throwing out the “first pitch” at professional baseball games).
Although there are those legal observers who note that Obama has become so obsessed with the big issues such as health care reform that he hasn’t done anything to grant clemency for anyone in the federal corrections system.
Lura Lynn has actually had a brief meeting with the president, where Obama apparently said the kind of polite statements one makes when they want to appear sympathetic but don’t want to commit themselves to anything.
The other story involves Ryan’s pension from his more than three decades of public service.
RYAN’S ATTORNEYS (INCLUDING another former governor, James R. Thompson) had argued he was still entitled to part of his government pension – totalling about $70,000 annually (it would have been more than double that had Ryan never been convicted of a felony). The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday rejected that concept overwhelmingly.
Of the seven justices, only Anne Burke dissented from the ruling that was written by a DuPage County Republican (although most people like to remember Bob Thomas more as a one-time Chicago Bear from back in the era before their ’86 Super Bowl appearance when the Bears stunk).
All of this material has brought out the hard-hearted partisans. Even the court ruling, with some people noting that Justice Burke is the wife of Chicago alderman Edward Burke (leading to jokes about how her husband will someday suffer Ryan’s fate – although no one can say what he has done that would warrant a criminal conviction).
Perhaps it is a stretch that Ryan should get any pension following a public corruption conviction. I realize the spirit of the law would say he shouldn’t. But there is a part of me that thinks Thompson found a legitimate loophole in the law, and the court has decided to not care.
THEY’RE WILLING TO ignore the letter of the law in order to achieve the outcome that they realize the hard-hearted people will demand. That concept bothers me more than anything that Ryan himself is alleged to have done (which mostly amounts to looking the other way when learning that his low-level secretary of state staffers were soliciting bribes from unqualified motorists).
Then again, how serious should we take the health conditions of Ryan’s wife?
I have no problem with his release, because I think his time served (just over two years; 28 months, to be exact in the way that the feds themselves think of prison terms) has been an adequate prison term. I can think of a lot of government officials convicted of corruption charges who have served less time and in better conditions.
Ryan didn’t get the minimum-security “Oxford education” in Wisconsin. He got his time at a work camp that helps service a maximum-security prison that also holds the “death row” for federal offenses.
CONSIDERING THAT HE’S broken and broke and his family realizes that a pardon is out of the question (they’re just asking for a commutation to “time served”), I don’t see what is lost by letting him go free. Although I noticed the anonymous buffoon who used an Internet comment section to say that if Ryan’s children really cared about their mother’s health, they’d take care of her themselves, rather than try asking for their father’s release.
As far as I’m concerned, that release is a compassionate thing to do. Even if you’re hard-hearted enough to feel no compassion for Ryan, consider that letting him go would mean he would disappear from the system and likely wither away.
It is the continued dragging out of his prison sentence and all the appeals to presidential officials that will keep him name continually popping up in the news.
EDITOR’S NOTES: The Chicago Sun-Times seems most responsible for resurrecting George Ryan’s name (http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/2058647,ryan-pension-supreme-021910.article) into (http://www.suntimes.com/news/sneed/2056287,CST-NWS-ryan18.article) the news this week.
Is it a pipe dream of the Ryan family that Barack Obama will be any more sympathetic than George W. Bush (http://www.theagitator.com/2010/02/11/obamas-pardon-drought-continues/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+radleybalko+%28The+Agitator%29) when it comes to considering clemency petitions for Ryan?
I will confess that my opinion of Ryan hasn’t changed significantly (http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2003/01/12/Analysis-Death-row-dead-kids-for-Ryan/UPI-35281042388100/) since the day in 2003 that he left the Illinois state government payroll.