Monday, May 24, 2004

Updated May 25, 2004 at 5:00 am

Discussing Public Policy Issues with Jack Ryan,
Republican candidate for the U. S. Senate:

The War, Terrorism, Libya, Israel, North Korea, the Free Market, the Great Society, Market failures, Government failures, Helping the least fortunate in society, Empowering individuals, Empowering institutions, Capital Gains Taxes, Supply side and Transparency
Jeff Berkowitz: ...[You were at] Goldman, Sachs, for 10-11 years, as an associate and then you became a partner in 1996?

Jack Ryan: Yes, 15 years [total] at Goldman Sachs and I became a partner in '96 and, as you know, I left [in 2000] to teach high school [at Hales Franciscan on the South side of Chicago]

Berkowitz: [You were a ] colleague of [now New Jersey U. S. Senator] Jon Corzine?

Ryan: Well, colleague is a bit of an overstatement; he was about three levels ahead of me. But, he made me a partner at Goldman Sachs.

Berkowitz: He did. And, you thanked him for that.

Ryan: I thanked him for that. he is trying to do everything he can do to make sure I am not a partner of his in the U. S. Senate.
Jeff Berkowitz: As we sit here on May 23... how is it going [in Iraq]? Would you say that the War, the military action in Iraq is going as well as we expected [it would], about as we expected, or worse?

Jack Ryan: Well, in some ways it is going very well; in some ways, not so well, as you know. The ways it is going very well are (1) Saddam Hussein is removed from power- an obvious tyrant who was threatening peace in the middle east and had, in the past; we also have the second order ramifications of our involvement: Colonel Qadafi suddenly says after we capture Saddam Hussein-- "Oh, maybe you want to come in and look at my nuclear weapons program [in Libya]." And, suddenly we have other regimes saying maybe we should try to cooperate-- North Korea gets involved in negotiations with six countries that they are now speaking with about their nuclear program. And, so not only was it a success in terms of removing a tyrant from power, but also the reverberations have been very successful in terms of trying to get other rogue regimes to join the international community, so in that way it is a success. The way it is not a success, as you know, is all of the turmoil we are having since we declared victory almost a year ago—with the destabilization of the Iraqi government and not really near term possibility, it seems, of a less violent, stable country.

Berkowitz: Well, No. 1, your opponent opposed this war from the get go…Barack Obama has argued that there was no imminent danger, that we should have worked with other countries, that we should have worked multi-laterally, that we should have contained Saddam Hussein. What do you say to that?

Ryan: I think it is a very risky proposition; We found this [out] on 9/11. [it is a] very risky proposition to wait until something is imminent. When would we have stopped the terrorists under that theory who attacked us on 9/11? What we learned from 9/11 is better [to] be proactive, better there than here, better now than later…and remember the first rule of government is to make sure that we keep our children and our families safe from harm…
Berkowitz: …You are a supporter of Israel?

Ryan: I am a big supporter of Israel. They are our only ally in the Middle East that we can really depend upon. [They are] the only democracy in the Middle East. And, we found out, first hand, after 9/11, what the Israelis deal with every single month- we found out first hand what they are up against. And, so we have got to stand by our friend-- Israel. And, they are in the forefront in this War on Terror—sadly enough, they are our forward ally in this War on Terror—so we have got to support them.

Berkowitz: Can we be, as we often liked to say in the past, an honest broker of peace in the Middle East, if we say, as you have, that you are a strong supporter of Israel? Does that mean that we can’t broker a peace there; we can’t be in a sense, disinterested? Neutral?

Ryan: Well, I think we have to keep trying to be a broker for peace. That is our responsibility as a powerful nation in this world…

Berkowitz: Now, you support the Wall, some people refer to it as a fence, some as a security wall, that Israel has [erected] and is erecting; primarily, I think, tracking the post-1967 War borders, you support that?

Ryan: I do support the Wall. Because, the Israelis didn’t put that wall up. The terrorists didn’t put that wall up. If there weren’t constant terrorist attacks from the other side of that wall, there would be no need for a fence. And, imagine here in Illinois if we had people coming in from Indiana, blowing up our cities and our towns and our children and our schools, we would certainly put a wall up, so we have got to have a wall. And, that wall can come down—as soon as the cycle-- not the cycle-- the culture of terror stops on the other side of the wall, the wall can come down…
Berkowitz: …Barack Obama argues…and this is something where I think there is common ground between the two of you—he says that the free market is the most effective mechanism ever invented to create wealth…but, he says that he is concerned that Republicans—President Bush and to the extent that you follow this—he would say that you folks may let people slip through the cracks when there are market failures, so first, do you agree with Barack Obama that there are some free market failures?

Ryan: Well, there probably- there are free market failures occasionally, but, this is why this race will be so interesting, Jeff. Because, I think, where people have fallen through the cracks is the failure of the [Lyndon Johnson, et al?] Great Society programs of the last 35 years. What will be so interesting about this race is that you have two candidates saying, “We have a plan, or a policy or ideas for those who have been left behind, the least fortunate in society, and my understanding of Mr. Obama is that he wants to tweak some of the Great Society programs. But, what I have been doing on the south side [of Chicago], the west side of Chicago, East St. Louis, Peoria, Rockford, Cairo- I have been saying look around your communities after 35 years- after 35 years of the Great Society programs.

Berkowitz: So, you say—

Ryan: Are they [the communities] safer? Are the schools better? Are the job opportunities greater? If the answers to those questions are no, give someone else a chance. And, most people who look at it objectively say things aren’t better than they were 35 years ago. And, so, my idea is- take those resources—I give Democrats high marks for good intentions—but take those resources and empower people, not institutions.

Berkowitz: So, you are a member of the Empowerment Wing of the Republican Party, right?

Ryan: Right. Let’s go to individuals, families and give them the resources so that they can find the right housing for themselves, the right school for themselves, the right training project for themselves and not give the money to institutions that have been somewhat callous to those who have been left behind.

Berkowitz: …You certainly agree with Barack [Obama] that the free market is the most effective mechanism ever invented to create wealth? You two agree on that, right?

Ryan: I do, but it is easy to mouth those words-- but watch what someone does.

Berkowitz: So, you are suggesting that you don’t think that Barack Obama really does have a belief in and wants to implement uses of the free market? Is that your allegation?

Ryan: Well, I think so, based on what he has said- you know he is criticizing my saying that we should eliminate the capital gains tax- which in a capitalist economy, now why would you want to tax capital in a capitalist economy? Capital is the lifeblood of a capitalist economy. Democrats and Republicans want to tax cigarettes to get less smoking. They want to tax—

Berkowitz: But, you have to have some taxes, right? And, Barack Obama would say- he would say—and he has said this- that you are fiscally irresponsible because you want to lower the capital gains tax to zero and [I believe] he would say that you need some revenue from some sources and you are not disputing that. If you are going to have some government, you do[ need some tax revenue], right?

Ryan: Yes, you do—

Berkowitz: So, the question is-should you not tax-- there are other things you would tax, not capital gains, is that your point?

Ryan: Right, because I think that shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the free economy that he says that he supports because actually if you remove the capital gains tax—it is a net revenue producer for the country. Why? There are more businesses, more expansion of businesses, more entrepreneurs--- all those companies and corporations pay corporate income tax. There are more employees as these businesses expand; that means there is more income tax…

Berkowitz: So, this is a supply side argument and you would say, as you lower taxes, you get… growth in the economy and therefore a growth in tax revenue and not a decrease in tax revenue.

Ryan: When you tax something, you get less of it and less capital is the wrong thing to want in a capitalist economy.
Berkowitz: … the sealed records. You have been transparent in terms of your financial records.

Ryan: Yes

Berkowitz: You have been transparent in terms of your divorce case.

Ryan: Right.

Berkowitz: But, when it comes to child custody records, you have said you don’t want those documents released. The hint is, the allegation is they [those child custody records] don’t relate simply to your child, but do relate to things that would be embarrassing to you.

Ryan: Um-hum.

Berkowitz: Where does that stand and how are you going to address it. How are you going to get that issue off the table or will it dog you from here until November 2nd?

Ryan: Well, a referee was appointed in California [by the judge in the case; California is the venue for the Ryan divorce and the venue where the Chicago Tribune has filed a petition with the Court to unseal the child custody records] to go through those documents. People were saying- get a third party to go through those [documents] and those things that pertain only to you-release them; those things that pertain to or affect my son, keep those sealed. And, the referee in California is going through those [documents] right now. I suspect any day now there will be a recommendation as to the release of those custody documents- as you mentioned, I have released my divorce records, tax returns, financial assets—

Berkowitz: The judge will make a decision on the basis of that recommendation [by the referee]. Will you adhere to it or would you appeal it?

Ryan: No, I’d adhere to it.

Berkowitz: You’d adhere to it. Quickly over to social issues.

Ryan: And, by the way, we have said as fast as possible. Our—

Berkowitz: You want to get that done?

Ryan: Yeah, our encouragement to the Judge was, “Great, do it as fast as possible. Just protect my nine year old son.”

Berkowitz: Are you concerned maybe the Democrats, not Barack Obama, other {Obama] supporters have those records, even though they are now sealed and they will come out a week before the [November 2] election and then you will have to deal with it then?

Ryan: No, because the judge is going to release all of those things that pertain to me so—

Berkowitz: I know, but if he doesn’t release some other things—is there a hint that could be a problem in the last week [of the campaign] even though you are adhering to the law here?

Ryan: I don’ t think so.

Berkowitz: You don’t think so. Okay, social issues. Gays, guns and God, as they say…
Republican U. S. Senate Candidate Jack Ryan, interviewed on “Public Affairs,” filmed on May 23, 2004; The above is a partial transcript of the show that will be cablecast in the North Shore and Northwest suburbs of Chicago on Comcast Cable Ch 19 or Ch. 35 [depending on the location] during the Week of May 31 and that will be cablecast through-out the City of Chicago on Monday night, June 7 at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21.
Jeff Berkowitz, the Host and Producer of the cable television show "Public Affairs," can be reached at

Updated May 24, 2:10 am.

A "Public Affairs," Double Header, so to speak, airing tonight, Monday night, May 24, from 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm on Cable Ch. 21 through-out the City of Chicago. First up, at 8:00 pm, tonight, is a special airing with State Board of Education Member and leader in the Coalition for Jobs, Growth and Prosperity, Ron Gidwitz, debating and discussing the issues with show host and legal recruiter Jeff Berkowitz. The show with Ron Gidwitz is described at the May 11, 13, 15 and 17 blog entries, below.

Then, at 8:30 pm, tonight, on Cable Ch. 21 is The Fire Next Time: Follow the Money and the Mikva Commission Report [coming out in June?]. Did the Mikva Commission avoid the Clout issue? Do Claypool and the other County Board Reformers have the right stuff to handle the County Building fire issues in the right way?

Is Forrest Claypool doing a "Cool Hand Luke," and speaking carefully and responsibly, below, about the Fire at the 69 West Washington Cook County Government Building that killed six Cook County employees last fall?, Or, is he avoiding questions that Cook County Board members should be confronting, if not asking, even before the Board Members get the Mikva Commission Report?

Jeff Berkowitz asks, among other questions, if this is a case where we need a truly Independent Counsel with the power to issue subpoenas and convene a Grand Jury. Well, do we? Can you expect State's Attorney Devine to investigate public corruption in Cook County Government, or in City of Chicago Government? To my knowledge, Devine has not shown much inclination to do so, nor has Attorney General Madigan. The U. S. Attorney for the Northern District, Patrick Fitzgerald, seems to have his hands full. So, who would have the power or the inclination to appoint an independent counsel, with power of subpoena and grand jury, to investigate the potential public corruption behind the County Building Fire. Where are the goo goos when we need one? Yet another case of liberal hypocrisy? We ask, you decide.

A partial transcript of our show with Forrest Claypool, Cook County Commissioner, is included below. The show is airing through-out the City of Chicago tonight, Monday night at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21.

Jeff Berkowitz: ...Did Clout kill six people?

Forrest Claypool: ...I would not want to be in the position to ... even try to speculate without letting this process take place...

Berkowitz: ...He [Patrick Murphy] said this then, it was last November [on our show] and I don't think anything has been said [since then] to change it, he said they were told during the fire drills [at 69 West Washington] "go to the nearest stairwell, they will be smokefree and you can live up to four hours." That obviously wasn't the case, right?

Claypool: Right.

Berkowitz: That obviously wasn't the case that they could live up to four hours there[in the stairwells]. They were told [that], apparently. I don't think anyone has challenged that. So, is this a case of obvious negligence on [the part of] building management and of the [Chicago] Fire Department?

Claypool: Well, there may again, again, with something of great, not only of loss of life, but they are going to have trememdous legal ramifications for the taxpayers of Cook County when this is all said and done, it would be irresponsible of me to speculate on anything--

Berkowitz: Because this would be an admission against interest [and therefore admissible against Cook County as a hearsay exception to the rules of Evidence in any trials on this matter?]

Claypool: Well, it is not just that; it is not just that. I just think that we don't have all of the facts. That's why we have the [Mikva] Commission. Obviously, there are issues of management that are going to be put under a bright spotlight here...we want a factual, documented report and to find out what really happened, rather than you know the kind of rumor and speculation that's taking place.

Berkowitz: Well, here are a few things, one of the criticisms, it appears to be valid, that Patrick Murphy made--is that the [Mikva] Commission is not looking in the right areas or at least there are certain areas they are carving out and saying they won't go there. Elzie Higgonbottom, you know Elzie, right? An owner of one of the companies that was managing the building at 69 West he still Chairman of the Illinois Gaming Board?

Claypool: I believe so.

Berkowitz: He is a pretty well connected guy, right?

Claypool: [Nodding with his head]

Berkowitz: That's a yes?

Claypool: Oh sure, sure. Of course he is.

Berkowitz: And, Robert Wislow- he is the owner of the other company managing...I think he is a big time contributor [to politicians]. Higgonbottom is a big contributor. They contribute to the Mayor [of Chicago, Daley]. They contribute to the State's Attorney [of Cook County, Devine]. They contribute to the Attorney General [Lisa Madigan; they contribute to County Board President Stroger]. You understand that?

Claypool: Yes.

Berkowitz: You don't disagree with any of that. Okay. And this guy [Elzie Higgonbottom] [Elzie is in the news again tonight [May 19], saying on Chicago Tonight that "our company did a great job in managing that building [69 West Washington, the County Building where 6 people died in the fire last October]]got a contract to manage a [County]Government building, and the government poured in five or six years ago, before you were on the Board (as Cook County Guardian Patrick Murphy said), the Cook County Board poured in 22-25 million dollars. They didn't put in sprinklers, which would cost, I believe, 2-3 million dollars; they didn't put in automatic mechanism to unlock the doors, which I think Patrick Murphy said would cost nickels and dimes. They didn't have pressurized stairwells, which would be nickels and dimes. Is anybody looking at that. He [Patrick Murphy]says he has asked and that Ab Mikva [said he] not looking at that; He [Ab mikva] said that is outside his purview. So, doesn't that kick the ball back to you guys.

Forrest Claypool: I think all of the questions you raised are going to be answered by the Mikva Commission.

Jeff Berkowitz: Is that right? By the Mikva Commission [appointed by the County Board President)?

Claypool: I believe they will. Because those are factual questions you are talking about. The question is of all those things you just mentioned--should those things have gone in. Those are a product of a number of things. One, what did the Building Code require at the time. What would common sense tell you, essentially. Those issues-- experts can look at them and make conclusions--some objective; some subjective, as to whether or not they should have been done and whether or not they were legally required to be done; or whether they should have been done even if they weren't legally required to be done because of changes in technology, or as you said, because of the cost--some of those issues--and, who is responsible for those things, that's what should be determined...the County Government was the Landlord that made these decisions, obviously they are going to be the primary point of focus. But, I certainly wouldn't say just because somebody made a campaign contribution to somebody that they are not going to try to manage those buildings to protect life and health and safety. The issues of management, how they were run... the issues of what should have been done, those issues will come out.

Berkowitz: Look, there may be some things that are easier if you get 22 million dollars, and contracts for that amount-- there are some things that perhaps are easier to maybe do no work and get the money, you would agree with that, right?

Claypool: I'm sorry. State your point, again.

Berkowitz: There are some contracts for which it is easier to make a contract, do no services, get paid and virtually do nothing--

Claypool: Well--

Berkowitz: If you have to put in sprinklers, you have to do something.

Claypool: Well, obviously, those contracts, they are again in black and white. The facts are there. Do they require it or they don't require it.

Berkowitz: That's right.

Claypool: Was it done or was it not done?

Berkowitz: It wasn't done. But the question is, was it not done as a connivance between these folks with certain board members because this would be a good way to disburse 20 million dollars to benefit various people?...For that, you need a grand jury.

Claypool: Well, that is a criminal offense, obviously, if that occurred.

Berkowitz: Right, but the Mikva Commission doesn't have the right to issue subpoenas-- so they really couldn't get into this. Nor could the Governor's panel. Only the Attorney General [Lisa Madigan] could and--

Claypool: Or, the State's Attorney.

Berkowitz: She [Lisa Madigan] said she is leaving it to others [The Fire Marshall]. And, I don't know--

Claypool: Or, the State's Attorney [Dick Devine] could as well. If the State's Attorney made that judgment, I believe he would proceed.

Berkowitz: You think he would?

Claypool: Absolutely.

Berkowitz: You think he [State's Attorney Devine] is entirely independent? He is sufficiently independent? Is this a case where you need a truly Independent Counsel with-with the power to issues subpoenas, with the power to convene a grand jury?

Claypool: Well, I think--

Berkowitz: These folks [Mikva Commission and the Governor's panel] are independent but they don't have the power; the people who have the power [Madigan and Devine] may not be independent.

Claypool: Well, that may or may not be.

Berkowitz: Well, what do you think? You are the guy on the hotseat.

Claypool: Well, I will tell you what I think. I think that Dick Devine is an honorable and honest State's Attorney who would not let campaign contributions or political influence or anything else stop him from issuing criminal indictments if there was loss of life as a result of criminal behavior. That is what I believe.

Berkowitz: He [Devine] may have a conflict. I am not questioning-- he is a former guest [of this show]; I think he is a very honorable guy. But when someone has a conflict, it doesn't mean that he is not honorable-- it means that he has a conflict of interest [This is the same obvious point that 9/11 Commissioner Richard BenVeniste pretended not to know when he said-- how could 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick have a conflict of Interent, in light of what a good, honorable person she is].

Claypool: Well, I don't think these types of conflicts you are talking about would rise to the level of preventing the elected prosecutor of the County [of Cook] from pursuing criminal claims over an issue so significant that it cost the lives of these young people-- so I really don't believe that would be the case.
Berkowitz: ...Not run for it. If [County Board President] Stroger were to step down [next year], would you let your name be used as someone to be nominated and elected by the County Board as President?

Claypool: No, there are a lot more popular people on that Board than me. No, I would not.

Berkowitz: Who would that be [that you might support for County Board President]?

Claypool: [Laughter]. That is premature. I would not want to speculate on that.
Forrest Claypool, Cook County Board Member, interviewed on "Public Affairs," filmed on May 8, 2004, and as is being cablecast on "Public Affairs," and as will be cablecast through-out the City of Chicago tonight, May 24 at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21 [CANTV] on "Public Affairs."