Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Personal Aside: The Man Who Emptied Death Row. George Ryans Motivation? Why Bring That Up?
My radio show Sunday was an anomaly. It featured the author of a book that has not yet been published, entitled The Man Who Emptied Death Row. Since neither Russ Stewart nor I could read the book, we had to make do with the author, a man named Jim Merriner about whom if you want to use the phrase tight-lipped, it would be appropriate. I take it that Merriner, who had been a political writer for the Sun-Times, would understand thata biographer should attribute motivation to action and decisions. But Merriner steadfastly refused to examine the motivation Ryan had for emptying death row except for the one he cited when his trial came due.
George Ryan said he had killed a man, Merriner said, referring to a convict who was led to the death penalty without Ryans interference. And he wasnt going to be responsible for that kind of thing again. Well, then, what about his other drastic changes of heart coincident with his trial where it would be important for the jury pool to understand how liberal George had become. And my gosh did he ever turn left in the blink of an eye. Emptying death row (committing the inmates there to life imprisonment) would be a natural for the jury pool. But just to be safewell, what about abortion rights (a 180 from his last campaign), gay rights (another 180), going to Cuba to salute Fidel Castro and urge the embargo against Cuba be lifted? And the lesser things: a 180 on expansion of OHare and what have I forgotten? But Merriner is not that kind of writer. Hes not interested in his subjects motivation. Maybe that lack of interest is why hes not at the Sun-Times anymore.
We turned to other topics on the broadcast. What did he think of Patti Blagojevichs taking an $80,000 fund-raising job with the Chicago Christian Industrial League when he husband is in charge of conferring the grants? Merriner had no comment. You see, hes not judgmental. And how Hillary Clinton rolled Barack Obama to land front and center at the Dem convention which was supposed to be Obamas show? Not much comment there, either. Only the Obama version.
Well Merriner got his book plugged, not that it will do any good since nobody can buy it now. He will be speaking at the City Club about it soon and I challenge you to ask this biographer of George Ryan for the reason he emptied death row you will get the answer that he did it because it was the right thing to do.
It strikes me that even though the man who doesnt bother to look at biographical subjects motivation Merriner just might have a motive in writing the book which will be out in September. George W. Bushs term will end in a few months and a book about Georges good points might sway the presidentalthough Merriner says it is unlikely. For some years now I had some questions about Merriners motivations, however. He wrote an authorized book on the history of the City Club which was in galley form when I asked then demanded to see it. Was very glad I did. I was the heavy in Merriners book that almost slipped by unnoticed by the board of directors being pushed for speedy publication at the behest of one director. You better believe I exercised my right of blue-penciling stuff concerning me.
I never forgot that little episode which is why I invited him to be on my show as sort of a little payback. There has probably not been a reporter or commentator at the Sun-Times who was in perfect lip-synch with the left than Merriner if you make an exception for Carol Marin who is so left she is a publicitorand I do she doing a column last week saying that authorities say there is nothing to worry about for Obamas failure to close the deal on the electorate. Merriner echoed that view on the radio with us. Marin was quoting David Axelrod. Oh, did Axelrod say that? Well then its all right. Did she expect he would say, Jeez, Carol, weve goofed, were worried, this thing is going to the bow-wows?
I dont care if the show was boring (it was when an author refuses to discuss motivation) it was worth it to see Merriner squirm under the hot lights. He wont get those questions at the City Club with the questions written on cards and passed to the front where the tough ones can be skipped, you damn betcha.