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Just exactly what, or make that ‘who,’ is Bill Daley hoping to make great again?

Bill Daley was in the Sun-Times newsroom, on Sunday to discuss his mayoral run with Mark Brown. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

When Bill Daley told my colleague Mark Brown, “but to be mayor, that would be the greatest,” what exactly did he mean? The greatest for whom?

For the city of Chicago? Did Daley mean that once he is sworn in as mayor, Chicago will begin enjoying a period of greatness: more jobs, less crime, better race relations?

Make Chicago Great Again.

And if he meant that, what is he, Bill Daley, bringing to the table that will usher in this new epoch of greatness?


“Daley offered no specific solutions to the city’s most vexing problems,” Brown wrote, “saying he plans to spend much of his campaign listening to voters for their ideas.”

Ah. I see. Chicagoans are supposed to tell Daley what he should do, how he should solve Chicago’s laundry list of city-killing woes. And then, stout-hearted fellow that he is, Bill Daley will do those things, and greatness will ensue.

Or gee, could it possibly be that when Daley said “to be mayor, that would be the greatest,” he meant it would be the greatest for him? That it would great for Bill Daley, and other folks named Daley, to have another Daley in the office that two Daleys have already held for, umm, 43 of the past 63 years?

Could he really mean that?

He could.


The thing is, I like Bill Daley, and I’ll tell you why. He’s a talker. Reporters like talkers. His big brother Richie was a sealed box of Bridgeport psychopathology. I was a news reporter for every second of Rich Daley’s 22 years in office, and if he had a moment of warmth or openness, never mind charm, I missed it. Bill, on the other hand, will at least say something. The moment that sticks out in mind was when I was trailing Rahm Emanuel to write a profile for Esquire in 2014. There was some big party for the Chinese — Rich loves the Chinese — that I managed to crash.

There was Richie, whom I hadn’t spoken to since he fled into well-padded retirement. Before I could explain what I was doing —capturing the essence of his protege, Rahm, who cut his political teeth rattling a cup for Daley — the former mayor was gone, like a puppet jerked on a string. I was gazing in the direction where Daley had been, and there materialized Bill. I hurried over.

Okay, I said, no need to comment. Just let me run my general theory of Rahm past you, and you can tell me if I’m on the right track. He agreed.

“Rahm cares so much about his image, it makes him look bad,” I said.

Bill nodded gravely.

“It clouds him,” he said.

See? Candor. That’s all we newsies ask of a politician. But being unable to stop talking, or pull wires behind the scenes, and being able to run a city, are separate skills. I’d rule out a third Daley administration, except, in the Era of Trump, you can’t rule out any outcome, no matter how cracked.

Please, Toni, please. Deliver us from this. Look at how Bill Daley made his announcement, as if being mayor of Chicago was a beauty pageant. “But to be Miss Chicago again,” Tiffany giggled, “that would be the greatest.” Then make your announcement in the exact opposite fashion. Gravely, focusing on the huge problems the city is grappling with, and what you, as mayor, hope to do about them. As if the job were hard because, spoiler alert, it is hard. Rahm Emanuel isn’t running again because he failed, and he is a pretty skilled guy, or was, eight years ago.

Granted, there is something sweet about a Bill Daley candidacy. The last time he bobbed into the public eye, he was suggesting his brother write a book, a charmed notion that ignored the fact that Rich Daley has a congenital lack of candor and a complete inability to express anything more complicated than “F— you.” I suspect Bill Daley wants to become mayor to mop up the mess his brother left, a mess that eight years of Rahm’s vigorous gerbil-on-a-wheel act could not correct. That doing so is impossible, along with, please God, his actually being elected, never occurred to Bill, who can be naive that way. But it’s a noble impulse, and should be honored as such.