Mayor Muntz

Bullying style lasts 20 years

In 2006, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. told the New York Times that "You can fool some of the people for 16 years - the question is whether the people want to be fooled for 20 years."

We now know the answer is Yes.

Jackson was talking about the mayoral reign of Richard M. Daley, of course. That reign marked its 20th anniversary on April 4, but almost went unnoticed amidst the hoopla of, oh, what, the Olympics, potholes and parking meters?

The Times article posited that Daley was losing his "grip" on Chicago in the face of a federal corruption probe that has since sent his former patronage director to prison. His former streets and sanitation commissioner is awaiting sentencing.

We now know Daley was never losing his grip.

Reporters, political strategists, office-holders - nearly every stripe of interested party - continue to debate why. After all, the Times noted that "corruption shadows his every step." Sorich and Sanchez are just the least of it - and just the latest in a 20-year record of an administration that even its admirers admit is bathed in the stench of pervasive fraud perpetrated against taxpayers.

But it's not that hard to understand.

“I know there are those like John Kass who would like me to decry Chicago politics more frequently, and I’ll leave that to his editorial commentary,” Barack Obama said while running for president.

When Barack Obama leaves it up to John Kass, you aren't going to get very far. It takes courage to stand up to a bully. Chicago isn't exactly a courageous kind of town. It likes to cut deals instead. Where's mine?

For some reason, the reporters discovered the anniversary on Thursday and asked Daley about it at one of his well-orchestrated press conferences actually designed to create the illusion of accessibility while not actually answering questions.

“I was surprised . . . I thought somebody would ask me a question on that,” Daley said Thursday.

Questions like: Do you have any regrets?

Not questions like: Will you finally tell us who hired Angelo Torres?

To be fair, the topic of corruption wasn't entirely ignored.

"Daley insisted that . . . scandals and the steady drumbeat of contract cronyism have not marred his tenure," the Sun-Times report noted.

“Corruption is gonna happen every day," Daley said. "That happens. That’s part of human frailty."

It's out of his control. He doesn't have a grip on the city after all. And you can't expect him to know just how people in his administration get hired, or how contracts are awarded. That's part of human frailty. The mayor is too busy micro-managing every city department to see, um, the big picture. Or is he too busy with the big picture to know the details? I keep forgetting.

Now the question is whether the people want to be fooled for another 20 years. My guess is Yes.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review that believes that the worst of human frailty can more easily be mitigated if those who benefit from it don't encouraged it.

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