Wednesday, February 22, 2006

George Ryan and Carol Marin’s World

State Legislator [who didn't vote George's way]: Hello

George Ryan: Listen, you bastard. Send me back the $10,000 I gave you.

Carol Marin was strutting her stuff this evening at the position she has held now for about two months as the Queen Bee on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, at least for the first fifteen minutes or so of the program on Mondays and Wednesdays. This is kind of what passes for public policy and politics on Chicago Tonight these days.

Because Carol’s bent and expertise are really not politics [even though the Chicago Sun-Times holds her out as the replacement for the late, political columnist Steve Neal], Marin tends to do the court scene, the crime scene and the sports scene on Chicago Tonight. Her debut interview on Chicago Tonight was with Chicago Police superintendent Phil Cline, another was with a panel about the recently apprehended Joey the Clown Lombardo, two nights ago it was a discussion of the antics of Olympic Speedskater Shani Davis and tonight— a panel discussion of the news that George Ryan won’t testify in his own defense and what does it mean for the likely jury verdict in the George Ryan trial.

It was kind of a pedestrian discussion, except for Phil Rogers’ comments, as he is one of the best news people in the City.

But, there was this:
Phil Rogers:…I can tell you, he wanted to take the stand.

Carol Marin: And that’s what we always heard, that he wanted…he’s a great politician, he [George Ryan] knows how to work a crowd, he was ready to convince the jury.
George Ryan sweet talk the Jury? I don’t think so. Maybe Carol is older than I thought and older than she looks. Maybe she remembers a younger, better politician George Ryan than I ever saw. Because the George Ryan I remember running for Governor, or even Secretary of State, was no charmer of the common man or the common woman, or any regular voter, for that matter.

After all, for the last five months, we have been hearing in large part how the Secretary of State’s office was run essentially as a racketeering influenced corrupt political organization [RICO] under George, and how that office was used to transform the power of the state into money for George and his cronies and votes for George.

So, if George was a “great politician,” as Marin puts it, it was because he was a master of backroom deals and tossing the taxpayers and others’ money around—and translating those tosses into votes [Carol, talk to Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn about how George beat Pat in 1994: it sure wasn’t from George knowing how to “work a crowd,” better than Pat].

Yes, George Ryan could work a crowd. A crowd of pols, that is. So, when he gave the State of the State or the State of the Budget, there was pork for everybody, Democrats and Republicans, and George would kiss them all, as long as they would kiss George’s backside and remember who gave them the goodies when it was payback time. And, the cameras would roll and show George at the State of the State and State of the Budget being cheered on by all the pols who played ball with George. No one was more popular with the pols than George, but that ain’t “working a crowd.” More like rotund George working the Rotunda, doing his quid pro quos.

For example, the teachers’ unions loved George, but not because he knew how to work a crowd of common people or jurors. No, George knew how to work the crowd of teachers’ union bosses, they knew how to get him votes and George re-paid them when elected by putting one of theirs outside his office and giving her free reign over matters near and dear to teachers’ unions, e.g., money for teachers. George Ryan-- Work a crowd, Carol? Not the crowd we usually have in mind when we use that phrase.

Oh yeah, George knew how to get his money’s worth. And, it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t charming and it wasn’t the kind of politics that wins over a jury. For example, one legislator has told me that George sent him a $10,000 check for one of his campaigns. When the legislator voted no on a piece of legislation that George Ryan wanted but the legislator thought was not good public policy, he got a phone call the morning after the vote and according to the legislator, it went something like this:
State Legislator [who didn't vote George's way]: Hello

George Ryan: Listen, you bastard. Send me back the $10,000 I gave you.

And, no, Carol, George Ryan wasn’t kidding. Of course, he wanted his money back, a deal is a deal. Work a crowd? Sweet talk the Jury? Not really, Carol. George was better at “working you over.”

But, it isn’t just Sun-Times columnist and Chicago Tonight hostess with the mostess Carol Marin who thinks of George Ryan as a successful, charming, loveable pol. One of Marin’s Sun-Times sister colleagues wrote recently:

Some say Ryan could win over jurors just as he did voters in four statewide elections, with his grandfatherly smile and a booming, baritone voice that can come across as firm and insistent, leading some to believe he truly believes what he's saying.

They can say that, but I don’t think there are many who think George got his votes by persuading voters that it was Grandpa George who would be running the show.

One, in most races, the election is between two pols, you only have to “appear,” a little better than the other pol.

Two, as Marin’s Sun-Times colleague noted:

[George] Ryan has publicly shown an explosive anger. In his final days in the governor's office, his public approval rating having plummeted, he became outright belligerent with the media and sometimes took verbal shots at other politicians.
In one news conference, he pulled aside a reporter and shouted a profanity at him because Ryan thought he wrote an unfair story.

There you go, that’s the George Ryan we know so well.

George Ryan, a great politician, Carol? I don’t think so.
But, remember, It was only six months ago that Carol was giving Grandpa George some daughterly advice, “cop a plea to spare the Republican Party and your family some pain.” And, that was way before Carol Marin became Queen Bee at WTTW.

I wrote [See here]:

Carol, Carol: George Ryan can’t cop a plea. Try him, if you must. Convict him, if you must. Put him in jail for the rest of his life, if you must. Indeed, crucify him, if you must. But, he has his legacy. Senator Dick Durbin, his fellow Democrats and the mainstream media have seen to that. Yes, the media may turn on him over the next few weeks. But will Professor Larry Marshall, from Palo Alto, turn on George? Will Senator Durbin, while trying to defeat Supreme Court nominee Roberts [the man who Durbin thinks will undo Blackmun’s Roe] come back from Washington, DC to turn on George? I don’t think so. A deal is a deal.

Indeed, will you Carol? Will you turn on George?

And guess what. George didn’t cop a plea-- as I said he wouldn’t. And, George won’t testify. As Dirty Harry said, “A good man know his limitations.”
And, Carol Marin didn’t turn on George Ryan. Not last year. Not this year. Not ever. A deal is a deal. It’s Chicago. It’s Illinois.

Carol Marin, take a good look at George Ryan. As I told you six months ago, George is really a Democrat. But, not a very nice one. The Dems may not want him in their party, but the Republicans tell me they have no choice. George Ryan can never go back to the Republican Party. They won’t have him. It is not just the corruption. Although, that’s pretty bad. It is also the evolution, as Democrats put it with affection, to describe George Ryan flipping, after his 1998 election to Goverrnor, on virtually every public policy position, to a Democratic Position. So, what’s left for George, so to speak? Well, only the Democratic Party.

It’s so nice to bring people together. Looks like I can work a crowd, too.
Chicago Tonight airs each weekday evening from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm in the Chicago Metro area on Ch. 11. The program is re-run at 12:00 am, 1:30 am and 4:30 am.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at