Chicago may be home to two of the nation’s most eloquent people — President Obama and Oprah Winfrey — but when it comes to the articulateness of everyday politicians, yes it can’t.
In the city that has had a Mayor Daley for so long people think it is the name of the office–who’s your Mayor Daley they ask — tree is still the number that comes after two and orientate is a treasured verb.
Look at Mayor Richard M. Daley — the person not the office.
While his father Richard J. Daley is remembered for proclaiming that “we shall reach greater and greater platitudes of achievement,” and assuring the public after the 1968 Democratic National Convention violence that, “The policeman isn’t there to create disorder; the policeman is there to preserve disorder,” Richard M. Daley, our current mayor, also has conversational belly flops under his belt.
Like the misunderestimating former President George W. Bush, Daley will change verbs, tenses, subjects, moods and even his mind–his voice ever rising with Vegas-like glissandos until he is an actual soprano — until reporters run out of tape or have to go file.
When asked in the 1990′s if the General Assembly would approve a domed stadium near the convention facility McCormick Place, Daley replied “I don’t think they can do it. Maybe the governor can. Maybe there’s something down his sleeve. I want to look down there. I look down there a lot. There’s nothing down there.”
Asked about the national debt, he said about the federal government, “Standard and Poor’s or Moody should grade them just like me. Otherwise we’re saying to our parent corporation, ‘Do anything you want.’ What happens is a parent corporation does it, and then we all follow. They’re in debt; we go in debt. Who cares? And that’s what is wrong with America.”
Of course when it comes to rogue pronouns and verbs and circumlocutions that never end up where they started, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and Daley seem separated — vocally — at birth.
Who can forget her response to the charge from Senator John McCain’s staffers when she was the Vice Presidential candidate, that she didn’t know if Africa were a country or a continent?
“So, no, I think that if there are allegations based on questions or comments that I made in debate prep about Nafta, and about the continent versus the country when we talk about Africa there, then those were taken out of context,” she said according to the New York Times. “And that’s cruel and it’s mean-spirited, it’s unprofessional, and those guys are jerks, if they came away with it taking things out of context and then tried to spread something on national news. It is not fair and not right.”
How can there be a “continent versus the country” question when there is no country Africa? Even the movie Bruno knows that. And who is “we” when “we talk about Africa there”? Is she trying to spread blame for her mistake? And why Africa “there”? Is that like calling South America “down there”?
Then there’s Palin’s meandering Checkers speech about the clothes she did or didn’t receive.
“There is no clothes audit, except for when the belly of the plane got cleaned out, all the piles of the clothes that they had in there, they wanted me at my house to go through it and box things up and send it,” she said according to the Times. “There’s no attorneys coming up, and there’s no need for it or anything else. But that’ll be nice to have that chapter closed because, as I said from Day 1, I never have asked for anything. I’m not, I’m not keeping anything either.”
Why is “There is no clothes audit” in the present tense and “when the belly of the plane got cleaned out” past tense? Is the “they” who had items in the plane the same “they” who told Palin to box things up? Wouldn’t boxed up things be “them” not “it”?
Isn’t “wanted me at my house to go through”? — saying awkwardly the words?
Of course no one expects Palin — or Daley for that matter — to be a natural born orator like President Obama whose books, Dreams From My Father and the Audacity of Hope continue to be bestsellers. But if anything, Palin is a worse speaker since writing, or dictating, her bestseller Going Rogue.
“We have to ramp up industry here in America, and of course reduce the federal debt, quit piling on and growing more,” she told Rush Limbaugh this month on his radio show — “quit growing more” not intended.
“I have common sense, and I have, I believe, the values that are reflective of so many American values,” she told Bill O’Reilly, gearing up, perhaps, for the cause of unemployment being lack of jobs and other platitudes of oratorical achievement.