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Jack Ryan, a Wilmette native, is an infuriating overachiever. He comes from a privileged family -- although he avoids admitting that by saying his parents "never discussed money with me." He attended New Trier High School, and later graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth, got both an MBA and Law degree from Harvard, and then married a knockout actress, Jeri Ryan of Boston Public/Star Trek Voyager fame (they're now divorced). Not only all of this, but Ryan is six foot three with broad shoulders, good looks that draw comparisons to JFK, and a grin with as many teeth as his bank account has zeros.

That is, a lot. Ryan is worth between $32,000,000 and $96,000,000, a fact that he has tried to downplay by really plugging the fact that he abandoned his position at Goldman-Sachs to teach at Hales Franciscan High School, a predominately black Catholic school on the city's far South Side. This little ruse has fooled very few people in the city: teaching at a Catholic school, where students must come from families that can afford tuition, isn't exactly like teaching at CPS, which gets the poorest and most disaffected children. Not only that, but it mustn't be hard to dedicate your time to teaching when you have 32,000,000 to 96,000,000 friends waiting for you when you get home.

Still, Ryan has a strong lead over the other Republican Senate hopefuls, some polls indicating as much as a 3-to-1 lead over his nearest competitor (by some polls, State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger; by others, gruffly likable retired Air Force Major General John Borling). His enormous war chest, early jump, and suburban appeal make him appear almost unbeatable, specifically in the Republican Primary. His only weaknesses seem to be a complete and utter lack of any significant political experience, his supposed selfish interests, and the fact that he is held in general disdain by many in the Illinois Republican organization.

One Chicago Republican, who lives in a ward whose GOP committee has endorsed Ryan and speaking on condition of anonymity, told RotSC that a lot of Republicans resent Ryan because of his smarminess and na´vetÚ.

"He doesn't quite fit the look of an Illinois Republican. He's almost too Republican. A lot of people think he won't know how to play ball, like [Congressman Dennis J.] Hastert, for example."

Despite his earnest charm, Ryan is an awkward speaker, taken to the type of weak rhetorical devices favored by over-the-top high school debaters. At the NAACP-sponsored debate in October, Ryan was the butt of jokes by both the Democrat and Republican speakers, who poked fun at his stilted speaking style and scatterbrained repetition. At one point, when asked about the enforcement of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Ryan said that every family had a right to "warm clothes, good food," and generally struggled through his responses. In his closing speech, Ryan tried a juvenile rhetorical trick, repeating the phrase, "not right now," over and over again. It became so awkward the audience began to giggle and Ryan sputtered on through embarrassed smiles. When former CPS chief Gery Chico, who received some sideways swipes from Ryan on his record in that office, went to the podium, he said, "Thank you, NAACP, right now," and got a huge laugh as Ryan blanched.

Illinois' Republican Party is different from the national Republican Party in their willingness to work with the powerful Democratic Organization, and their general moderation. Illinois is considered a moderate state and many of the hard-line Republican social appeals that work elsewhere generally fail here: the feeling is that if Ryan wins the election, he will lose the support of many swing voters. Not only this, but Ryan hasn't shown an ability to work the statewide Republican organization, which is necessary since it is much less monolithic than the Democrats', which draws its power from Cook County.

Conservative pundit George Will has endorsed Ryan, while rightly pointing out that African-Americans in Cook County cannot be swayed to vote for a Republican, no matter how "black friendly" his record might be.

Is Ryan's record really friendly to African-Americans, though? Just because he teaches at a black Catholic school? Whatever pretension Ryan has towards winning some of the black vote, the whole "tough inner city educator" thing is mostly for the benefit of middle class whites in the collar counties (DuPage, Will, Lake, and Kankakee, predominately). His stance on the issues, including affirmative action, is strictly National Republican, which will seriously cripple him in the general election.

He is stridently pro-life and vehemently pro-gun rights. These two issues by themselves will do him serious damage in Chicago, the near suburbs, and Democratic pockets downstate, including Peoria, East St. Louis, and Champaign-Urbana. Not only this, but his ability to make policy on education and health care may have a financial conflict-of-interest.

In a column in the Sun-Times, Lynn Sweet pointed out that Ryan has held several paying positions during his supposedly altruistic tenure at Hales Franciscan. One of them was as a board member and major shareholder of a publicly-traded health insurance firm. Perhaps Ryan should point that out, in full disclosure. One of Ryan's major themes is education, and his statements that education begins "in the home" is especially ironic considering he owns considerable stake in K-12 Inc., a company based in McLean, Va., that provides supplies for, what else, home-schooling. His stake in these companies are between $750,000 and $1,500,000, with much more locked up in various types of options.

Still, Ryans' biggest achilles heel is his disregard for the Illinois Republican establishment. Popular former Lieutenant Governor Corinne Wood for example has expressed some apprehension about this crop of candidates, with an unspoken reference to Ryan and dairy magnate Jim Oberweis, when she said that the Republican candidates were "working too hard to prove their conservative credentials" -- a strategy that usually doesn't fly in Illinois statewide elections. If Ryan gets too more-Republican-than-thou in the primary, those words will haunt him during the general election, when they can be used against him to pull large slices of the collar counties and working-class areas downstate towards the Democratic candidate. Ryan seems woefully unaware of this fact.

For the record, Corinne Wood has thrown lukewarm, not explicit, support behind Borling, the only Republican running who supports abortion rights (and who, coincidentally, is the only Republican running who has served in the military).

Although Ryan lists plenty of endorsements on his website, many of them come from municipal Republicans: Chicago and near-suburban committeemen (which would be like bragging about the endorsement of shadows or reflections) and city council members from downstate. Unlike the Democratic Party, whose power base is urban, the Republicans draw most of their organizational power from representatives and senators in the General Assembly, many of whom have swung towards State Senator Steve Rauschenberger. If Ryan alienates too many of these men and women during the primary, their support for him in the general election will be lukewarm, and no amount of grinning can help him then.

Just the Facts:

Born: Wilmette, Illinois, 1960.

Marital Status: Divorced

Ethnicity/Race: Irish-American

Education:
B.A., Dartmouth University, Phi Beta Kappa (Summa Cum Laude)
M.B.A., Harvard Business School
Law Degree, Harvard Law

Employment:
2002-Present, Board Member, First Health Group Corp.
2001-Present, Board Member, K-12 Inc.
2000-2003, Instructor, Hales Franciscan Catholic High School
1985-2000 Investment Banker, Goldman-Sachs

Official Website: JackRyan2004.com

The Issues:

The Economy: Ryan supports Bush's tax cuts, and has implied that the State of Illinois has made incredible gains since the beginning of this year, stating, "This is not a jobless recovery -- 300,000 new jobs have been created in the past 3 months, and this recovery has just started." [Ryan press release, 12/1/03] However, there has been a net loss of 198,300 jobs since George W. Bush took office, a fact that has plagued him since he made that statement.

Healthcare: This will be a weakness for Ryan. He has offered no comprehensive healthcare policy paper, and the fact that he makes a good living as a do-nothing board member for an insurance firm will hurt him among lower-class and elderly voters.

Education: Supposedly Ryan's trump card over the other Republicans, Ryan is in support of "competitive" schooling, toeing the National Republican Party line of allowing school choice and vouchers.

Foreign Policy: Ryan supported the war against Iraq and sees nothing wrong with preemptive action to protect "the homeland." Ryan is the most pro-Israel of all the candidates, go so far as to say aid to Israel should increase, and America not interfere with Isareli efforts to "protect herself" from terrorism.

Abortion: Ryan is stridently Pro-Life, saying, "I believe in protecting life from conception to natural death. It is crucial that, as a society, we work to create a culture of respect for life."

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Comments

adam carroll / March 1, 2004 7:26 PM

I'm first intrigued by your protrayal of Ryan being "stridently pro-life" and the fact that he believes in "protecting life from conception to natural death" Does this mean he is against the death penalty?- a point you failed to even investigate, I suspect because you clearly have a serious liberal bias and didn't want to give your "target" any sort of "good" liberal press. You also appear to be not only an anti-semite, but anti-Catholic and almost RACIST, based upon your clear disdain for blacks who attend Catholic schools and try to improve their lives. The world is tired of your types. I hope you have the courage to respond.

Ramsin / March 1, 2004 11:52 PM

Right.

The quote "protecting life from conception to natural death" is directly from his website, under the issues tab and the "Abortion" heading. Obviously this does not include the death penalty or wartime, since he support preemptive wars. But you should ask him that question, not me.

As for the anti-Semite stuff, I shouldn't have to provide a resume here; suffice it say that all I said was that Ryan supports Israel. I didn't make any comment on that fact, good or bad. He supports Israel. That's a fact. I don't care whether you like that or not.

The "anti-Catholic" thing is peculiar. I cast no aspersions on Catholic Schools. They're nice; that was my point.

The school Ryan teaches at is a pretty nice school compared to the public High Schools such as Du Sable and Phillips Academy in the area; my point was simply that teaching at that school does not give him the full understanding of what it is like to teach at a deprived South Side school.

Also I'd like to apologize to The World for being My Type. I didn't know I'd grown so tiresome.

 

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