Of course George Ryan is guilty. The question is, does it make any difference? Ryan joins former governors Joseph Duncan, Joel Aldrich Matteson, Lennington Small, William Stratton, Otto Kerner, and Dan Walker in his legal troubles - the others didn't get caught. Clearly Ryan broke the law, but when he says he was just playing the game the way it's always been played in Illinois, he's just speaking the plain truth. Republicans, Democrats, or Whigs, rewarding political favors with jobs, contracts, or public largesse has been the way of things in this state for its entire history.
And Ryan was as good as you're going to get from a Republican Governor. His Illinois First infrastructure project replaced hundreds of miles of crumbling roads and bridges and vastly improved public tranportation in Chicago. And his courageous change of heart over the death penalty was an important example for the country and probably spared innocent men from execution. But most of the crimes he was convicted of were committed back when he was Secretary of State, before he ever became Governor. Did knowledge of his guilt haunt his days in power like some depressing, heavy-handed Greek tragedy? Or was he too self-deluded to admit to himself he'd done wrong, or as they say in these parts, "gone too far?"
Who knows? But what I do know is, this is hardly the last act of the play. We have another election coming up this fall, and considering the candidates are Governor Rod Blagojevich and Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, both of whom are haunted by similar ghosts, I'm guessing the culture of you know what will go on for at least four more years.