Sunday, September 18, 2005

SIDEBAR: Governor Ryan saw it coming even before he took oath of office

Note: SIDEBAR is the term I use when talking about my personal experiences that relate in someway to news of the day. In news reporting, it refers to a secondary feature, usually in a "box," that highlights a facet of the primary news story. It is borrowed from the legal profession, when judges and attorneys stand to the side of the public "bar" (judge's bench) to engage in an unrecorded private discussion.

As Governor George Ryan stands ready to be tried on a number of counts of criminal activity relating to his tenure as Illinois Secretary of State, I am reminded of a prescient conversation I had with top political insider, John Glennon. It was between the time Ryan was elected and sworn in as Governor. I had invited Glennon to get a "read" on the new regime. He reported to me his most recent meeting with Ryan.

Glennon said that Ryan surprisingly seemed less than excited over the prospect of becoming governor -- an office for which he lusted for most of his adult life. It was an office that seemed lost to him when outgoing Governor Jim Thompson hand-picked Jim Edgar as the successor over the all-but-begging Ryan eight years earlier.

Glennon said that Ryan told him that now the governorship may not be worth the problems. -- that it would not be an easy or happy term in office. Ryan expected to be dogged by the truck- license-for-pay, which had almost blown his campaign against Democrat Glenn Poshard. Ironically, it was the public boost Ryan received, in the former of a disclaimer of culpability by the then-U.S. Attorney that took the wind out of Poshard's accusations of gross criminality in the Secretary of State office. Poshard turned out to be right, and the intercession of the U.S. Attorney remains an example of the coziness of past prosecutors with the most powerful political figures.

Glennon said that Ryan specifically lamented the trucker scandal as the source of his future grief. Glennon tried to offer assurances to the Governor-elect, with a hint of a question, "This issue will not hit you personally. Right?" In response, the politically savvy Governor simply shrugged his shoulders in uncertainty.

Glennon felt that the Governor-elect, with the advantage of specific knowledge and keen political skills, saw the distant possibility of scandal. In fact, he said Ryan even alluded to the possibility of a shortened stay in the Executive Mansion by saying "if" instead of "when" he completes his first term.

Now Ryan stands ready to fulfill his hinted prophesy. Accused and indicted, his trial begins. In another twist to the unending succession of indictments, Glennon also is among those indicted by the feds.

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