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Scrootening the wit and wisdom of Mayor Daley

Mayor Richard M. Daley pauses for moment as he answers questions about thousands city workers including aldermen mayoral Cabinet members

Mayor Richard M. Daley pauses for a moment as he answers questions about thousands of city workers, including aldermen and mayoral Cabinet members, that have avoided paying millions of dollars in fines for unpaid parking tickets and water bills Thursday, Oct. 24, 1996, at Meig's Field in Chicago. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser)

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Updated: October 16, 2011 12:17AM

“Like his father, Richard M. [Daley] is famously inept with the English language,” The New York Times Magazine noted in 1996 before going on to praise the political skills of the son, whose 1996 Democratic convention would help erase some of the stain of his father’s 1968 convention.

Chicagoans have reacted with awe at the news that their famously inarticulate mayor of the last 22 years stands to earn $50,000-a-shot for speaking engagements once he leaves office. Daley has signed on with New York’s Harry Walker Agency, which represents other big-ticket speakers.

No amount of expensive coaching from Northwestern University speech instructors over the years has been able to get the mayor to correctly pronounce “basically,” “problem,” or even “guacamole.”

The mayor has been able to hire some talented speech writers over the years and, with preparation, can passably deliver a good speech.

To his credit he has made himself available to the press on a regular basis. His most memorable quotes generally have been ad-libs he belts out when annoyed by reporters’ questions:

“The more killing and homicides you have, the more havoc it prevents.”

— Daley on the rising homicide rate. (Sept. 10. 1991)

“You go to vote for him, you raise money, gave advice. What else do you want me to do, unless I take my pants off?”

— Daley telling Crain’s Chicago Business it wasn’t his fault Democrat Neil Hartigan lost the 1990 race for governor. (March 29, 1993)

“Some of the music — you think it’s going to jump off the screen and sit right next to you at the bar.”

— Daley decrying racy music videos. (April, 1993)

“If a rat is on your sandwich, it would help to know it before. If a mouse is in your salad . . . it’s common sense.”

— Daley defending a health inspection crackdown on restaurants. (Aug. 9, 1994)

“What are they talking about? Are they worried about the moon coming out or something? It’s just a group of people — yuppies and yippies or hoppies, or whatever they call them, I don’t know.”

— Daley dismissing complaints from political activists they were harassed by police at the 1996 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

“Scrutiny? What else do you want? Do you want to take my shorts? Give me a break. How much scrutiny do you want to have? Go scrutinize yourself! I get scrootened every day, don’t worry, from each and every one of you. It doesn’t bother me.”

— Daley saying he did not fear additional press scrutiny if his brother Bill — now the president’s chief of staff — ran for governor in 2001. (Aug. 28, 2001)

“It’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. It really is silly. It’s silly, silly, silly. It is just silly. Silliness. It is silly. Completely silly. . . . You’ve been on [the Skyway]. Come on. It’s silly. . . . You know me. That is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.”

— Daley reacting to former Streets and Sanitation personnel director Jack Drumgould testifying under a grant of immunity in the federal corruption trial of Daley patronage chief Robert Sorich that Drumgould was under orders to keep the tollbooths on the Skyway fully staffed so Daley would not have to wait in traffic driving back and fourth from his beach house in Michigan. (May 31, 2006)

“If I put this up your butt, you’ll find out how effective it is. If we put a round up your, you-know. . . . [Confiscating] this gun saved many lives. It could save your life.”

— Daley mockingly threatening to sodomize a reporter with a bayonetted rifle after the reporter asked how effective the city’s gun-ban had been, given the rising homicide rate. (May 20, 2010)

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