Monday, September 4, 2006

Media flunks the match game


I'll say this as gently as I can -- the Illinois news media needs to do better.

What am I talking about? The media's analytical skills when it comes to the George Ryan saga.

This week, the former Governor could be sentenced by a federal judge, and, if the past is any guide, the news media will spend as much or more of its time asking Judy Baar Topinka whether she believes the news will hurt her.

Sure, Topinka is a Republican, just like George. And they once danced the polka together. Those associations pale in comparison to the deep and significant similarities between George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich.

George Ryan's governorship collapsed under the weight of corruption investigations and then indictments in his former Secretary of State's office. Rod Blagojevich's governorship is on the verge of a similar collapse as U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and state prosecutors have nine separate corruption investigations underway and bombshell indictments as soon as this week.

It is one of the most stunning ironies in Illinois political history that Rod Blagojevich, elected because he said he wouldn't be like George Ryan, is giving Patrick Fitzgerald the rare opportunity to take down two consecutive governors from the same state.

In 2002, Jim Ryan used to say Rod Blagojevich was just George Ryan with better hair -- an old time politician in a blow-dried package. That was four years ago. That analysis looks a lot more precise than the one from some reporters who suggest polka partners are a closer match than a pair of Public Official A's.

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