Friday, January 7, 2011

Political spouses have unique bond

One is sick and most likely dying, and would like to have her husband at her side.
While this plea failed, ...

The other died with her husband at her side, but apparently wanted to show the world she was severing her tie to her spouse.

WE’RE TALKING ABOUT Lura Lynn Ryan and Elizabeth Edwards, whose one thing in common is that they met in their lives a very young man and married him, then went along for the career ride as that man’s political aspirations powered the engine.

In the case of Ryan, we’re talking about how she became the first lady of Illinois, while Edwards was the spouse of a U.S. senator whom, had a couple of factors gone differently, would have been first lady of the United States.

Edwards, as those of us following the news reports know, died recently from cancer. Her last years of life were spent fighting her condition, while showing signs of dignity in the process.

Ryan is now undergoing her own illness, suffering from cancer throughout her body and lung problems and is now in an intensive care unit at a hospital in her hometown of Kankakee. Depending on whom one wants to listen to, Ryan has anywhere from “weeks” to “days” to live.

THE 76-YEAR-old woman is approaching the end of her life, and her wish is that she could have her husband at her side to provide a mental jolt.

Of course, her husband, former Gov. George Ryan, can’t just show up at the hospital after work, or take a few days off. He remains an inmate at the work camp that is part of the maximum-security federal correctional center in Terre Haute, Ind. He still has just under 2 ½ years to serve on his prison sentence before he can be released.
... will this plea succeed?

In short, it would take a true miracle for Lura Lynn Ryan to live long enough to be at her husband’s side when he is released from prison.

An appeal is now working its way through the Court of Appeals to get some of the convictions dismissed – enough that his time already served would be considered sufficient and he could be released now. But criminal appeals tend to work at their own pace. Nobody is going to speed things up because of anyone’s health – no matter how mortal.

WHICH IS WHY Ryan’s attorneys (including former Gov. James R. Thompson) are now trying to get Ryan a temporary release from prison so he can be at his wife’s side at the moment she passes away. One motion literally calls for him to be transferred to the Kankakee County Jail, where he would spend his time while not at the hospital with his wife.

No word on whether he’d be allowed to remain for the funeral, or whether he’d be whisked back to Terre Haute once his wife passes. Ultimately, it is up to the warden in Terre Haute whether or not George Ryan is permitted this move, and that warden does not have to give any public explanation for his decision – whichever way it turns out.

Of course, the hard-core Ryan critics are showing their callousness by insisting that he be deprived of even this moment. Which makes me think some people have a twisted sense of criminal punishment and rehabilitation.

Personally, I would think that Ryan being an inmate in Kankakee County’s jail would be the most humiliating experience for him – since he was once THE local political big shot. It would be the ultimate evidence of how far he’s fallen, and people who have known him their entire lives would get to see his decline.

EDWARDS: Supportive, until after the end
THEN, THERE IS the case of Elizabeth Edwards, whose husband, John, rose to the ranks of U.S. senator from North Carolina and was the vice presidential running mate in 2004 with Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. He tried running his own presidential bids in ’04 and 2008.

But ultimately, his undoing was infidelity with a campaign worker. He got caught when the worker had his child. Elizabeth stood by John’s side publicly in life. Even after they formally separated last year, she kept the criticism to a minimum.

But when her will was made public this week, we learned that she made last-minute changes less than a week before death. She cut her husband out.

Her property and wealth (including some real estate holdings and a trust whose contents cannot be disclosed) go to the surviving children.

THE RYANS AND Edwardses have some things in common. Lura Lynn met George when the two were in high school, and their married life together is more than a half-century. Which makes it all the more logical that she would want him nearby at the end.

After all, the Edwardses met while  the two were in law school and their marriage lasted a third of a century. Despite the problems and the split, even John Edwards saw to it that he was by his wife’s side in her final days of life.

All it really means is that George Ryan would like to have the same final perk as did John Edwards. It’s not the most unreasonable request to make.


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