Wednesday, January 30, 2013

EXTRA: Ryan released, sort of. His reputation is still on trial

“He has paid a severe price. The loss of his wife and brother while he was in the penitentiary, the loss of his pension, his office, his good name and 5 ½ years of imprisonment. Now near 80 years old, that is a significant punishment.”

Former Gov. James R. Thompson, speaking about former Gov. George Ryan


RYAN: His freedom will infuriate some
Why do I suspect that Gov. Thompson, now a high-priced attorney who has devoted a significant amount of his professional life in recent years trying to cleanse the reputation of his one-time running mate, is going to take more than his share of ridicule for that comment he espoused Wednesday morning?

Not that Thompson isn’t correct when it comes to the life of George Ryan, who has spent five-plus years in a federal corrections center, but was released to a half-way house in Chicago early Wednesday.

THE EARLINESS OF the hour of release was done most likely to avoid the circus of television cameras trying to capture the exact moment of release from prison for posterity.

So instead, what we’re going to get to see all day on television is the moment that Ryan surrendered himself Wednesday morning to the half-way house, a Salvation Army-type facility that is supposed to help prison inmates adapt back to life on the outside -- although Ryan himself was later released the same day; which is likely the ultimate evidence that he is NOT a hardened criminal element the way some people want to believe.

Of course, there will be those who will note that the official release date for Ryan is July 4, and they’re going to wish that he could spend every possible second in a prison cell.

There also will be others who will complain that even that date is too early for Ryan’s release. In short, there are some people who are just determined to be malcontents when the name of “George Ryan” is mentioned.

THOSE PEOPLE ARE the ones that Thompson was trying to get through to when he made his comment – which was the only spoken word Wednesday morning, since Ryan insisted on walking into the half-way house, accompanied by son George H., Jr., without saying  a word on his own behalf.

That’s probably to be expected. I don’t expect Ryan to be all that talkative in the near future. Certainly not as much as his gruff-spoken style when he was governor – where I secretly suspect he enjoyed the public attention that would swarm around him even though he would throw out the “grouchy grandpa” routine.

I write this particular commentary now to put myself on the record, of sorts, in opposition to all of the political trash talk that we’re going to read and hear on Wednesday and in future days.

For I’m sure there are those who will devote significant amounts of time to trying to ensure that Ryan’s reputation is never rehabilitated.

THEY HAVE THEIR own reasons, most of which I suspect are politically partisan, for needing Ryan to be the arch-villain of their lives. Even though I’d like to believe most people will see through this and grow tired of constantly being reminded how “venal” the former governor is.

Because no matter what the bulk of us believe about Ryan or his actions or whether they crossed over the line into criminal behavior, I’d really like to believe that we have our own lives to worry about.

And that the people who are going to persist in trashing George Ryan are probably telling us more about what is lacking in their own lives, rather than anything that is flawed about Ryan.


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