That Oatmeal Might be Rat Poison, But Tastes Like Cream to Goo-Goos: Some Thoughts on 'The Combine' and Who's Pouring the Cream
The Quaker Oats Man, Illinois Corporate Shill Tom Roeser had a great piece about the lad who set the table, Petey Fitzgerald, when George Ryan was convicted back in April. Old Roeser who delights in others' misfortune - especially local game that spit out the Oats Ball - is especially truculant concerning the "The Combine." My favorite is his sniffing about poor Phil Gramm - a world class piece of slime. The List, The Squealing, The Lincoln Library, Quaker Oats Corp., Halliburton, Enron, and the 'deep-thinkers' have some root in Old Tom's mentoring of Petey Fitzgerald. For those Progressive souls made swooning by politics by politicians, the cats pouring the cream to you might like to eat some mice. Exemplum Gratia!
'The first bad luck of the draw had been the election in 1998 (the same year that George Ryan won governor) of Peter Fitzgerald as U. S. Senator. Never were two Republicans farther apart in philosophy and practice than George Ryan and Peter Fitzgerald. Ryan has a blow-torch temper, stalking, angry and demonstrative; Fitzgerald is calm, studied, soft-spoken and to some even naïve. Ryan is an old-line pol to whom philosophy means nothing; Fitzgerald is the brilliant, reclusive philosophical conservative scion of a multi-millionaire banker-a graduate of Dartmouth and Harvard Law who studied in Greece and speaks the language fluently. He’s learned in the law, in business, in ethics and the classics (Latin and Greek) who disdains politics-as-usual. From the day Peter Fitzgerald served in Springfield as a reform state senator, he was at odds with the Republican secretary of state. As Senator, Fitzgerald blocked a lot of Governor Ryan’s initiatives and refused to act as a subsidies bearer for the state. He blocked Ryan’s plan to get federal funding for the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum because Ryan wanted to use the Library as a patronage dump for his favorites. Ryan never slept an untroubled night in the mansion as governor with the feds on his tail. He thought he could fix it with either Lazar or another Democratic prosecutor-and, friend of Daley as he was, he probably could. Nevertheless, he started to re-craft his image to appeal to a future jury pool. He switched from being a death penalty advocate to vigorous opponent who granted clemency to all prisoners on death row which gained him huge publicity from the liberal media (for which he sought the Nobel Prize). Since African Americans dominated death row, Ryan calculated he would make gains with any blacks on the jury. One large group remaining was Hispanic. Ryan became a darling of liberaldom nationally by going to Cuba, meeting with Fidel Castro in Cuba, urging the U. S. to change its views on the Communist dictator. To please Daley, he switched overnight from an opponent of O’Hare expansion to a firm supporter of it. A former pro-lifer, he vetoed a pro-life bill to win favor with pro-choicers, being totally a re-born liberal; he now supported gay rights, too. The Combine was happy with Republican Ryan. All that had to happen next was the election of a Democratic president in 2000. To ensure the Democrats would carry Illinois and further ingratiate himself with Daley, Gov. Ryan backed a man who was a long-shot candidate for the GOP nomination. A long-shot candidate but a very good man: Texas Senator Phil Gramm, superb on economic issues but afflicted with a cracker barrel Georgia-born accent and a neck that extended out of his collar like a turtle’s which marred his presentation (but there were those who liked him, including me). Even there, Ryan’s venality came through: he couldn’t resist scuttling around, talking to Gramm’s managers about being paid from Gramm’s campaign fund: this as governor, an incredible craven gesture, and seeing that some family members were paid, as well. This greed was another part of his un-doing. The records showed Ryan didn’t do anything whatever for the money he received and the sinecure ended up as part of the indictment. Gramm, a private citizen, came in to testify that he was amazed to find out later that Ryan was paid. In bold terms, Gramm said that there’s a difference between being truly in love or being paid for love, calling Ryan a “prostitute” off-stage following his testimony. Always exploding from the short-fuse, Ryan struck back with an ill-considered public denunciation before television, blasting Gramm in front of the Dirksen courthouse, trying to tie him and his wife Wendy to the Enron scandal since Wendy was on the board (although linkage of the Gramms is tenuous and today he is being mentioned as the next secretary of the treasury) while the ex-governor’s lawyers winced. The legendary Ryan blow-torch temper had to let off steam. When Ryan bellowed out against Gramm, I am told that his lawyer Dan Webb decided the ex-governor could not be trusted to testify in his own behalf: he could only last at most 20 minutes before he’d blow a gasket. After Gramm’s campaign faded and George W. Bush won the nomination, Ryan insisted on running the Bush presidential campaign in Illinois in 2000 by virtue of his being governor-designing it, many believe, to lose. Certainly there was no Bush presence in Illinois. Indeed, Ryan did an extraordinary thing on election day itself: arranging a meeting during that day with Daley, pretending that it was on a policy matter…and prior to the polls closing, congratulating Daley lavishly for carrying Illinois for Gore. Now all Gore had to do was win the whole enchilada. Well, as we know, he won more popular votes but lost in the Supreme Court to Bush. And Bush’s election as president was the second bad luck of the draw for George Ryan. The third bad luck of the draw was the appointment of Patrick Fitzgerald as U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois because of the recommendation of Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (no relation). I well remember dining next to William Bauer, former chief judge of the local U. S. Court of Appeals. A gifted man, he is at turns witty and unfathomable. He started Jim Thompson on his career when Bauer was U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. He made Thompson his first assistant. Bauer convicted Otto Kerner with Thompson’s help. Then Bauer went to the District Court and Thompson took over the job. Why, asked Bauer with great emotion, did Peter Fitzgerald convince Bush to name an outsider, Patrick Fitzgerald, as U. S. Attorney here? An insult to the local bar. I asked him this: Did you know that the last local D. A., Scott Lazar, was planning to go to China on a vacation with Mayor Richard M. Daley when the trip was called off because of 9/11? Did the Judge think that was too cozy? Yes, Bauer said. He was astounded at the news. I believe him. Anyhow, Peter Fitzgerald believed an outsider was indispensable to get a clean sweep of corruption here. He was massively turned off by Ryan and the governor’s determination to be boss. Ryan was up to his old tricks with the aid of his friend Denny Hastert: he tried to cash in on the state’s Lincoln museum by filling it with patronage hires. Fitzgerald took to the Senate floor to filibuster against it. Hastert tried to interfere in the naming of a prosecutor only to be told to butt out by Peter Fitzgerald. Then Fitzgerald began to interview only prosecutors from outside Illinois, a fresh departure from the old home-town prosecutor game the Combine plays. After Patrick Fitzgerald was confirmed, it was only a matter of time. Whether it was that Senator Peter Fitzgerald wanted to stay home with his wife and son, it was also true that the Combine wouldn’t back him for reelection. Judy Baar Topinka became State GOP Chairman and incredibly declined to endorse him, an incumbent, scandal-free, highly regarded Republican Senator for reelection in 2004. Peter Fitzgerald then declined to run again: a great loss when this young man threw in the cards. But Peter Fitzgerald has won just the same. It took time: eight years of painstaking work for Patrick Fitzgerald to nail down the Ryan case, but he did it. Throughout those years Ryan’s relations with Daley blossomed and Ryan’s hope grew that John Kerry might win the presidency in 2004 and appoint a new prosecutor. No such luck. The conviction of George Ryan is more than of a man but of the old-line play-for- pay political alliance between Democrats and Republicans. To shore up the Combine’s defense, Jim Thompson, architect of the scandal-tarred alliance, devoted the resources of his law firm to Ryan’s defense for free. It didn’t work. Now the one who will begin to lose sleep is Richard M. Daley. Among others. The question as mentioned above is whether or not Patrick Fitzgerald wants to follow through with a total slam-dunk: for the stuff of future convictions is there. *************** In the meantime, a gubernatorial election is being waged this year and a mayoral election will be run in 2007. The legatee of the old days of the Combine is Judy Baar Topinka, who declined to endorse Peter Fitzgerald for reelection. If she wins the governorship, that office will be in play to continue the game and do what it can to forestall trouble for Daley. Daley is determined to run for reelection unless he gets the feeling that the feds are coming so close he should conserve his energies-but he can be reelected rather easily. The huge circle of business and industries close to Daley are close to Jim Thompson and a large coterie of Demi-publicans as well. There’s a central thread which if it gets pulled…well, look out. Thus , it turns out that leaders of both parties are considering that it wouldn’t be fatal if the opposite side were to win the governorship. Here’s how some Democrats think: If Topinka were to win, she would likely ask for and get a general income tax hike which would stunt her popularity for the remainder of her term. In four years, when she would be age 66, she would decline to run again. That’s when a revitalized Democratic party could return with, let us say, a Lisa Madigan, the apple of Speaker Mike’s eye. So some Democrats reason: it would not be too bad to have Topinka win. You get rid of Rod who drives the party nuts, you get a social liberal and then get rid of her for a full-blooming liberal in four years. At the same time, there are some Republicans who reason that it is not entirely crazy to hope that Rod Blagojevich wins a second term. Topinka’s win would shut out conservatives for four years, even those non-conservatives like Ron Gidwitz who want fiscal reform. The GOP would be open to new ideas. In that way at least one party-the Republican-could conceivably be open to reconstruction along traditional lines. They reason: one more term for Blagojevich might be short-range salutary. He doesn’t seem to have many friends in his own party. After a term during which he either is forced to raise taxes or go out in ignominy with the state in terrible shape, maybe even, in a strange calibration, to a vice presidential nomination in 2008 (stranger things have happened), the public will have had such a belly-full of liberal Democrats, the state would be ready for Republicans and reform. In a sense, the galloping leather-lunged Senator-Minister James Meeks who uses his church as a political launching pad with no fear that the IRS will come, evidently, could decide everything. I doubt he’ll run-but if he does, he takes automatically a huge number of votes from Blagojevich. African Americans are not noted to stand by idly or vote for a white when one of their number-especially the dynamic kind that Meeks is-runs for a major office. Forget that many Republican social conservatives will support him because pro-life to him is different than pro-life to them. All the same, Meeks has it within his power to elect Topinka. You can bet your third to the last bottom dollar that Topinka’s people are dealing with him. Mike Madigan wants his little girl to be governor after one term: You can bet your second to the last bottom dollar that Topinka’s people are cutting a deal with Papa Madigan for his covert support for one Topinka term only. The Jim Thompson-Richard Daley combine would accept Topinka as governor. You can now bet your bottom dollar that somebody from the Combine is talking to Meeks. On the other hand, young Jesse wants to be mayor but wants more concessions from Blagojevich for the Abraham Lincoln airport in Peotone; they wouldn’t be discouraged if Meeks delivers and decides not to run for governor. A demonstrative black ally of the Jackson’s who causes the Democrats to lose the governorship doesn’t help Young Jesse’s reputation as a mayoral candidate in 2007, All of these things can’t interest George Ryan very much. You’ve heard of the old axiom “from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” In one generation-his-Ryan will have moved from the posture of extending his royal ring for caressing because he granted prestige license plates for power-brokers to actually getting down to the business of making license plates in a prison factory.Is this a great country or what?"
Getting Greater all the time Tommy! ( No thanks to Corporate Shills. ) And it ain't going anywhere! A Rat has whiskers and so does a cat, but that don't make them brothers.
N.B. - Sorry about the Cyber language glitch in the paste-up of Tom Roeser's musings. Looks like it came right outta Commie Russia.