Saturday, August 30, 2008

Obama rose on the ashes of Jack Ryan's political career

A look back at recent history. How luck and chance plays a major role in individual's careers:

The rise of Barack Obama to become the Democratic candidate for United States President has a direct local angle that today touches on the Orland Park area that goes far beyond his political upbringing on Chicago's South Side. It has a lot to do with an individual who today plays an enormous role in forging the public opinions of the people of Orland Park through his weekly newspaper, the Orland Park Prairie. And it all happened in a very short period of time.

By all measures, Jack Ryan should have won the November 2004 election for the U.S. Senate to succeed retiring Senator Peter Fitzgerald.

In March 2004, Ryan won the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. Barack Obama, an Illinois State Senator with a controversial career -- he won his state senate seat by successfully removing his more popular rival, incumbent Alice Palmer from the ballot -- won the Democratic primary, defeating State Comptroller Dan Hynes, the son of 19th Ward Chicago powerhouse Tom Hynes.

Ryan, Harvard LAW graduate and MBA who went into medical mal-pacrtice and a partnership at the prestigious Goldmann Sachs investment firm, used his money and his political clout with the backing of the then ruling Republican National organization, to position himself for a sure win in the fall election. But three months later, Ryan was forced to resign when details of his messy divorce from Hollywood actress Jeri Ryan splashed across the front pages of newspapers across the country. The role the media played inf orcing the disclosure of the details of his divorce, and the impact of the hugely negative media coverage is believed to be one reason why Ryan expanded from law and finance to include launching a new community newspaper that he promised area politicians would not focus on controversial issues and instead would focus on positive community news.

Ironically, it was the persistance of the news media that sunk Ryan's candidacy. (Ryan had argued he would not release details of his divorce saying it would injure his son, Alex. But later, when the details were released, the focus was not on Alex but rather on the sensational side of a collapsing relationship with his ex-wife.) Had they not sued, Ryan might still be in politics and not newspaper publishing.

It took Ryan several more weeks to formally withdraw and by the end of July. With only 86 days left to the November election, the Illinois GOP could not find a credible replacement. They reached out to many high profile name candidates, including former Chicago Bear's Coach Mike Ditka, whos aid no. And they settled on the bombastic Alan Keyes, a carpertbagger who had not lived in Illinois at all, but who had a strong Republican dimplomatic career.

Keyes had no chance, and Obama easily defeated him.

Obama's mentor is Illinois Senate President Emil Jones who helped him organize the support to run for the U.S. Senate seat when no one else at the time thought it possible for a Democrat to win. That summer, to strengthen his candidacy as Ryan's was embroiled in controversy and was characterized in negative media headlines that focused on the sex scandal involving his ex-wife, Obama was invited to give the keynote speech at the July 2004 Democratic Primary convention where John Kerry won the party's nomination for president.

The point is, Barack Obama is now the Democratic candidate for president in a large part because of Jack Ryan's personal political tragedy; and the Orland Park Prairie was created, also, in a large part because of Ryan's experience with the biased and negative mainstream mainly downtown news media (print, radio and TV) ... in a way, supporters of Obama should thank Ryan and Orland Park residents should thank him too. The OPP is a great Good News community newspaper. We don't have enough of them. (Does every paper have to expose government corruption, waste and mismanagement?)

-- Ray Hanania

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