Friday, June 25, 2004

Jack Ryan, R.I.P.
Jack Ryan has decided to hang up his quest to become a senator from Illinois. No doubt, that’s the best decision for him. He was a longshot before this and with the revelations from his divorce proceedings he would have been utterly doomed. I can only think of a few aspects of the story that are worth commenting on at this point.

The top question now is: what will the political fallout be? The Illinois Republican Party was not in very good shape before this. Had Ryan continued his race, he would have practically killed the Party. Bush is writing Illinois off, so the Senate candidate is the banner carrier for the Illinois GOP. Ryan is not merely “scandal plagued” in the typical media usage of that term. He is plagued by a singularly embarrassing scandal, the stuff of the lowest locker room humor. His humiliation would have rubbed off on the down-ticket candidates, hurting their chances. That, of course, would have been good for the Democrats. Now the GOP has to find a better candidate to run for the Senate and represent the Party at the top of the ballot (I’m sure they already have someone picked and vetted). They also need to decide what to do with that candidate; will they be content to have the candidate represent the Party with dignity and restore their name or will they actually try to win the race. The latter course will require a large infusion of campaign cash that might otherwise have gone to other races that the GOP has a better chance of winning. That, of course, will also be good for the Democrats.

The next question is the inevitable round of amateur psychology about how someone could be as monumentally stupid as Jack Ryan. I’m not talking about his sexual proclivities or him throwing away his marriage to Jeri Ryan to pursue them (though, to many men that last one qualifies him to a Stupid Male Hall of Fame). I’m still on the politics here. At the beginning of his candidacy, Ryan met with powerful Republicans, looked them in the eye, and told them there was nothing embarrassing in his divorce papers. It was more than a bold lie; it was a bold lie that was bound to be exposed. What caused him to do that: Monumental hubris? Compulsive lying? Multiple personalities? Was that the bad Jack Ryan from the bearded Spock universe? Or did he think he had some kind of deal to keep his divorce records closed?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, will he go away quietly and settle into a bitter seclusion or will he take to the talk show circuit and inflict us with pleas that we understand his tragic addiction? The future of our television viewing depends on the answer to that question.

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