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Will Rahm Emanuel Misunderestimate "ChicagoSpeak"?


Chicago mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel is known as a hardball player who is never off message. But in Chicago, his articulateness may be, well, disorientating.

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 - three is still the number that comes after two and orientate is a treasured verb.

Outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley's father Richard J. Daley is remembered for his promise 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."


And son Richard M. Daley is known for meandering 90-second audio bytes that change verbs, tenses, subjects, stances, moods and pitch - his voice rising with Vegas-like glissandos until he is an actual soprano - that resemble Method acting.

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."

Nor was a quote about state funding any clearer. "The state of Illinois funds those centers. We did not cut. They have cut state mental health facilities all over the state. That is state money. Underline that. S-A-T-E money. It's called state money. ..." said Hizzoner.

Of course Daley's temporal and pronoun confusion brings to mind Sarah Palin.

"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 told the New York Times about accusations of keeping campaign clothing. "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."

But Daley also invents words like the Decider in Chief. When brother Bill dropped out of the governor's race in 1991 and the press asked the mayor if he would face greater scrutiny he said, "Scrutiny? What else do you want? Do you want to take my shorts? Give me a break. ... Go scrutinize yourself! I get scrootened every day; don't worry, from each and every one of you."

The Mayor is also a fan of draw-your-own-conclusion Speak like saying, "If a rat is on your sandwich, you hope to know it before. If a mouse is on your salad, it's common sense," about a health department crackdown on restaurants. Hello?

Of course Rahm Emanuel is a native Chicagoan. And his speech will probably get more down home and shirtsleeves as he warms some bleachers at Cubs and Sox games and forgets the Beltway.

But comparisons with Daley might be brutal. In addition to replacing Richard as mayor, Emanuel was replaced by Bill Daley in the White House as Obama's new chief of staff!

Hopefully he won't be too scrootened.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist and cartoonist, who writes about public health

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