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Bill Daley faced bittersweet reality of realizing his dream was just that: Brown

9-25-98 (left right) President ClintMayor Richard Daley Commerce Sec. Bill Daley watch listen as Jenner School 6th grader GinBorner introduces

9-25-98, (left to right) President Clinton, Mayor Richard Daley, Commerce Sec. Bill Daley watch and listen as Jenner School 6th grader Gina Borner introduces the President to those assembled at the Jenner School 1009 n Cleveland. #98-09-436 CST/Brian Jackson

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Updated: October 19, 2013 7:27PM



There was one moment in Bill Daley’s speech Tuesday explaining his pullout from the governor’s race when his emotions got the better of his vocal cords.

“Throughout my life,” he was saying, “I’ve looked forward to serving as an elected official. But that isn’t going to be.” He got through that sentence, but choked up just as he waded into the next:

“As part of a family that has public service in its blood, a family of which I am extremely proud, I’ve always been motivated as each of them to serve.”

When asked later what brought that on, Daley brushed it off with just one word.

“Irish,” he joked.

I think it was more than that, and while I hesitate to try to psychoanalyze him, I’m going to do it anyhow.

Because I believe in that moment, Bill Daley was saying out loud something many of us must come to grips with at some point in our lives: that we’re never going to be THAT GUY, the one we might have thought we wanted to be.

In Bill Daley’s case, he’s never going to be a high-level elected official, following in the footsteps of his father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, or his big brothers, Rich and John.

At age 65, after numerous previous flirtations with public office during which he was arguably boxed in by his brothers’ successes, Bill Daley got the opportunity he had long sought and was forced to recognize his time is not going to come.

It’s not that different, I should think, than realizing you’re never going to be the editor of a great metropolitan newspaper or write the great American novel.

In Daley’s case, that’s no indication of failure. He’s served two U.S. presidents at the highest level, made millions of dollars in the business world and helped launch his brother’s political career.

But growing up in that family, he must have always wanted to take his own turn at the helm of government, perhaps even thought it was expected of him.

And in the end, he found he didn’t really have the burning desire it takes to make it happen, which many of those watching him from the sidelines had long ago deduced to be the case.

Bill Daley, you must remember, is the youngest of the seven children of Richard J. — a family in which everyone had their roles, the boys in particular.

Bill was the communicator, the family’s face to the press and public, often in a supporting role to Rich.

Bill is someone who can give as good as he gets, who can call up a reporter and administer a friendly jab or chew him out with a few well-placed off-the-record epithets.

His style and skills were transferable to the national political stage, and to the backstage where business intersects with government.

It was interesting to watch Daley mount his campaign against Gov. Pat Quinn. The ultimate political insider was suddenly campaigning as an outsider, relying on the same guerilla media tactics Quinn once needed to get attention.

Although I was skeptical of his intentions at first, Daley had started to make a believer of me that he was in the race for good. It looked from the outside like he was having fun.

But despite all his assertions to the contrary Tuesday, I never saw any reason to think he could win other than Quinn’s low popularity. I don’t think Chicagoans are in any hurry to install another Daley in power, let alone Downstate voters.

When state Sen. Kwame Raoul of Chicago chose not to make the race, that seemed to close out the last scenario under which Daley might take the Democratic nomination in a split vote.

Daley told reporters there were many reasons, no one thing, that led to his decision — and emphasized that fear of losing wasn’t one of them. Afraid or not, he had to see it was going to be an uphill fight. And we’re still waiting for another shoe to drop in the David Koschman manslaughter case, which Daley also said was not a factor in his decision.

Many had trouble accepting his explanation that he’d decided he wasn’t prepared for the “enormity” of the task ahead as both a candidate and officeholder, which you might have thought he would have figured out before getting this far.

But I can see how it could happen, how something you might have thought you wanted didn’t seem quite so important when you really focused on what it would take to get there.

We should probably be thankful he figured it out now instead of later.

Email: markbrown@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkBrownCST



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