Everybody has been slamming George Ryan this week, but Kristen McQueary has another take.
It wasn’t greed or naivete or ego that brought down George Ryan.
In many ways, it was heart.
The expected reaction to the guilty verdicts is triumph. Ryan victimized “we the people.” We’re supposed to clink our glasses and feel deeply satisfied.
Why don’t I?
To me, the case is not that tidy. There was no Colonel Mustard with the revolver in the dining room. Prosecutors laced together a corruption case against Ryan that spanned many years, hundreds of conversations and a thousand interpretations. Those who testified against Ryan faced a perilous fate from the federal government, had they refused.
Even the simplest synopsis of the case raises questions in my mind: Can a corrupt man still be a good man?
This was not an elitist who flaunted wealth. He was a grandpa from Kankakee with a pudgy wife. The spoils often referenced — corporate jets, premier sports tickets, Jamaican vacations, steak dinners — don’t strike me as ostentatious. He was the governor of a major state. Your average state lawmaker is privy to the same recompense, and congressmen, more.
One of the personal checks shown to jurors as part of the “spoils” was a $1,000 boost for his daughter. One of his kids apparently married a bum who liked to gamble, and so Ryan helped them when he could. What father wouldn’t?
Ryan’s co-defendant, Larry Warner, insisted on paying for the band at Ryan’s daughter’s wedding. There were vacations among friends in Jamaica.
Think of your own life and the people with whom you would surround yourself if elected governor: I’d sure like my best friend from high school, now an attorney, to provide trusted counsel. What if she owned a timeshare in Mexico? Would I have to pay her for my room-and-board? It seems a bit absurd.
Read the whole thing.