Daley caught babbling, then babbling some more...

We're not usually big fans of Oprah, since most of her nostrums are shallow. But this week on Oprah radio, Chicago's inimitable Richard M. Daley, our mayor, was clearly present, and the whole world can now listen to him.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (center, tall with blue shirt) and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (second from right, short, with blue shirt) both closed their eyes during Duncan's reading of his scripted text at the October 7, 2009, City Hall press conference on 'youth violence' in Chicago. The two people looking on are Alderman Roberto Maldonado (left, whose ward is more than 20 miles from the site of the Derrion Albert murder, but who was brought to the event to provide the diverse backdrop Daley demands when the TV cameras are on) and Daley's Press Secretary Jacqueline Heard (right). Heard, who usually stands some distance from the mayor during media events, was at his side the whole time as nervous Chicago rulers tried to avoid serious questions about the segregation, drug gangs, and poverty that provide the challenge at most Chicago public high schools while Daley's corporate 'school reform' nostrums make things worse. Substance caption and photo by George N. Schmidt. As anyone with a sense of humor knows, one of the keys to seeing Chicago as it really is comes when a reporter can force Richard M. Daley off his carefully rehearsed scripts and into the never never land of the man's mind. Any press conference that can get Daley to ad lib is fun, even if it's never going to be aired.

Several years ago, Daley was doing a media event at Mitchell school (on the north side) about how test scores had gone "up" again. (Generally, Daley will do the media event when he can be sure he can report the scores have gone "up"; avoiding any public comment is they are flat or "down"). In the course of the event, one of the reporters asked Daley about drug sales in the communities, including the community around Mitchell school. The reason for the question was that the feds had just indicted a bunch of city workers at the Navy Pier Water Filtration Plant who were operating a heroin smuggling ring, using city facilities for some of their work.

Daley's answer was priceless. "There's drugs everywhere..." he began and then rambled on, as if in the city with an imperial mayor a bunch of major drug dealers working out of a prominent city facility on city time was nothing to be concerned about.

Any time Daley starts talking about the city's drug gangs, of course, he will avoid directing reporters to the precincts that turn out the largest votes for today's version of the Daley Machine on any election day. A Substance estimate: about half the city's 50 wards are seriously compromised by the city's largest gangs. Whether that takes place on election day or at other times, the reality at the street level is easy to see and track. Why there haven't been more arrests with the connection is a mystery only fans of "The Wire" can speculate about.

At the October 7, 2009, City Hall press conference, featuring Arne Duncan and Eric Holder, Daley's people, as we've reported, were completely in control. They even managed to keep Jesse Jackson out of the press conference room, while filling their background scene with a bunch of un-indicted alderman, half of whom had no idea why they'd been shuttled from the second floor of City Hall to the fifth for the media event.

Daley dodged the bullets that day.

But now he's been forced to go on Oprah Radio, and even though he faced some generally puffball questions, he did a Daley for the whole world to hear.

Don't miss it

Will Oprah TV be next? We can only hope.


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