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The [Wednesday] Papers

Mayor Richard M. Daley played the media for fools yesterday by holding a day-long series of 10-minute one-on-one "interviews" that guaranteed distribution of his carefully planned talking points in the guise of news without having to actually submit himself to actual questioning.

This is because the mayor holds you in contempt. He doesn't think his business - the city's business - is any of your business.

I'm relieved to report that not everyone played Daley's game. The mayor's usually reliable courtier Fran Spielman wrote this this morning:

"Mayor Daley bobbed and weaved to avoid questions posed by the city hiring scandal Tuesday, even as he made himself available for a parade of 10-minute interviews.

"Throughout the day reporters lined up at the mayor's campaign headquarters for one-on-ones with Daley. But when it came time for answers about the scandal that culminated in the conviction of his former patronage chief and three other high-ranking city officials, Daley was less than forthcoming.

"The mayor who prides himself on being a master of detail was asked how he could have been oblivious to the fact that city hiring and promotions were being rigged.

"'You have asked me that question a thousand times and I've given you the same answer. I'm not going to keep repeating,' Daley said."

Of course, the problem is that the same answer Daley keeps giving is to not answer the question.

Unfortunately, the Sun-Times buried Spielman's report in a gutter on page 12 under the headline "Daley: Casino 'Not On Our Priority List.'"

Yeah, I know.

Why not "DALEY KNOWS NOTHING!" on the front page, with an inset of Sgt. Schultz?

The Tribune put its report - in which the mayor simultaneously claimed to be "the most accessible public official you ever met in the country" with a defense of the quickie interview format that prevents reporters from actually conducting interviews - on the front of its metro section. Headline: "Daley Does Fast Waltz With Press."

"Bill Cameron, a reporter for WLS radio, said while he appreciated Daley giving the gift of time, it was clearly an effort by the mayor to deliver a campaign message 'that he was fighting corruption and never benefited from any of it,'" the Tribune reported.

"He wouldn't even conceded that he has benefited politically by the work of those who have been prosecuted," Cameron told the Trib. "He not only said to me that he's not worried about what may be coming to him from the feds, because he did nothing wrong, but that he didn't know what was going on and he didn't benefit from any of it. But of course he did."

Tough questions were in short supply, though. For all the vaunted myths of a tough Chicago press, Daley got off easy in his interviews with other media outlets, including some that tried to play them off as "exclusives" in which "the mayor opened up." Even his interview with Chicago Tonight's Elizabeth Brackett, who I generally like, quickly descended into a puff job - even as the mayor appeared typically angry, defensive, guilty, squirrelly, and unable to look his questioner in the eye.

While Brackett asked about corruption at the top of the interview, she proceeded to let the mayor off the hook. If you're going to ask questions like what is the city's biggest challenge, and do you plan to oversee the Olympics when you retire, and what did you learn from your wife's fight with cancer, well, you might as well just ask the mayor's office to fax over a press release.

A sampling:

- Will you debate your opponents? "I think I was more accessible as state's attorney and mayor than any public official in the nation. I meet the press three or four times a week." I'll file that one under Unanswered.

- Does the low number of nominating petitions you filed indicate weakness? Bob and weave.

- On City Hall hiring fraud: "I'm not going to get into that. That's being decided now presently."

- On Robert Sorich: "Again, that will be handled by the courts." Do you think the judge and jury were wrong, Mr. Mayor? Unasked, unanswered.

- Sending the wrong message? "I said that before, I've been on the record on that. I've answered every question appropriately."

- On schools and housing: Pablum

- On race relations: "It's getting better and better. This city is coming together. When I got elected, I brought people together.

- Biggest challenge for the city? "To have America understand that education is the divide, and do something about it." No, I haven't mismatched the question and answer.

- Do you want your son to be the next mayor? "No, no. They lead their own careers and will make their own decisions."

- Why the Olympics? "For the city to really look at the Olympics as an opportunity to showcase a city that is transforming. No other city is transforming the way we are, in the nation, in the world."

Question Time
We can all think of better questions to ask than those, even if given only ten minutes. But with just ten minutes, a reporter ought to have a strategy. Mine might be to go into the interview with just one question. For example, who hired Angelo Torres? No, really, mayor, just tell me right now. You don't know? You still haven't found out? How can you not want to know? So it's not important for you to know. Why? But what if citizens want to know? Why don't you just call someone right now and find out and we won't ask again. Deal?

Or maybe: Why after 17 years in office do minorities only get 9 percent of city contracts? Or perhaps: Do you really think those who supported the big-box ordinance are racist?

Mr. Available
Is Richard M. Daley really the most accessible public official in the nation? Only if accessible means he makes himself available several times a week in order to not answer any questions but still keep himself and his political message in the news.

He's certainly the most inaccessible mayor of any city I've lived in, and maybe even any city I've visited. His press conferences, like these 10-minute "interviews," are cleverly designed facets of his message team's very successful strategy to manipulate the media. He always finds time, by the way, to sit down for with creampuffs from national news organizations who guarantee good press.

So, yes. It depends on what you mean by accessible.

Should we look at his whole record, though? Yes. Because you can't separate corruption, scandal, and crime from his whole record. It's not as if corruption only happens in the Department of Corruption and the rest of his record is clean. Corruption is part and parcel of how the Daley Administration does business, from city hiring to building inspections to O'Hare expansion to doling out city contracts to building parks and parking garages.

So yes, by all means, let's look at his whole record.

Chip off the Old Blockhead
The Todd Stroger fiasco occurred at the behest of or with the blessing of the mayor. The scheme was completed yesterday when Daley appointed the daughter of Bill Beavers to the city council.

Daley said he was "very proud" of his choice, the Tribune reports.

"I started from the ground up and I worked my way up," Darcel Beavers said, according to the Sun-Times's report. "There's no nepotism."

If being your father's chief of staff constitutes working from the ground up and getting appointed to your father's old job in a political maneuver orchestrated by your father doesn't constitute nepotism. Then, yes, Darcel Beavers is absolutely right.

Call of the Year
"Devin Hester, you are ridiculous!"

- WBBM-AM's Jeff Joniak (via David Haugh in the Trib)

Devin vs. Denny
Devin Hester vs. Denny Hastert.

Sure seemed like all the news was missing from the Sun-Times today.

"ESPN had Jim Belushi in the booth during Monday night's Bears-Rams game. Apparently, Brian Doyle-Murray was unavailable."

-'s Pete McEntegart (via Quick Hits)

The Beachwood Tip Line: Now in sour cream and onion.


Posted on December 13, 2006

MUSIC - Lyric Opera Strike Settled.
POLITICS - USA Today's Op-Ed Disaster.
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BOOKS - Chicago Book Haul: The Dial.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: West Town Blues.

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