firstname.lastname@example.org (Mike Royko) (02/03/90)
MIKE ROYKO If I were a bookie, I'd offer odds of at least 5-to-1 that Jesse Jackson won't run for mayor of Washington, D.C. I haven't talked to him about his plans, nor do I have any inside information. But there is one thing I know about Jackson. He's smart. Let me correct that. There's one other thing I know about Jackson. He lives to talk. He looks at a defenseless ear the way William Perry eyes a roast chicken. And there is not a subject that Jackson cannot talk about, whether he knows anything or not. However, his favorite topics are those that are of majestic, grand, national or global importance. So what's he going to say if, as Mayor Jackson, someone yells: ``Hey, why the hell didn't they pick up my garbage this week?'' Garbage is not the most majestic of subjects. But garbage is what being a mayor is about. And street lights, sewers, curbs, cracked sidewalks, and how fast the cops and firemen get from here to there or there to here. The last thing a mayor needs is the gift of oratory. Even worse, the compulsion to say whatever pops into his mind. The most successful mayor of modern times was Chicago's Richard J. Daley. He was at his oratorical peak when saying: ``The wunnerful people of dis wunnerful city.'' I remember when he exhorted a group of young Democrats to put aside their differences and unite in the coming campaign. He dipped into history and shouted: ``It's like George Washington told his men when he was crossin' duh Delaware. Let's all get in duh boat!'' But who cared the way he talked? Not the voters. He knew what everyone in city government was doing -- feloniously or otherwise. His idea of fun reading was to pore over a massive budget or a stack of contracts. In contrast, one of the most talkative mayors in modern times was Ed Koch, in New York. He talked so much that the voters of New York finally said, in effect, ``Shuddup and g'by.'' No, being a mayor is a nuts-and-bolts job. Sure, there are grand plans to be made. Let's tear this old thing down and put that new thing up. Let's turn this into a shining city on a hill. It can be great fun, unveiling architectural renderings of a domed stadium or a hospital complex. But when the fun is over, you have to sit down at your desk, get out the calculator and figure out where the money is going to come from. The gift of oratory is wasted when you tell a voter packing a mortgage and tuition payments that he has to cough up more this year. It also doesn't do you much good when unions come in and say: ``This ain't enough.'' I doubt if the rhyme-happy Jackson would satisfy a union boss by saying: ``It is rough, not being enough, so can we deal on the cuff?'' No, if anyone in public life would be miscast as a mayor, it's Jesse Jackson. Even Sonny Bono makes more sense being the mayor of Palm Springs. He can get by saying: ``Frankie, you're a beautiful person and a wonderful human being.'' But Palm Springs doesn't have crackheads sprawled within tripping distance of the White House. What's Mayor Jesse going to do about that? Hoist them to their feet and say: ``You (ital) are (end ital) somebody!'' No, after one term, he'd be a beaten man. Washington's many poor would still be poor. The dopers would still be doping. The press would be asking: ``What about the homeless rate, the homicide rate, the overdose rate, the tax rate, and how come the garbage wasn't picked up yesterday?'' Telling the press, ``Ah, but you must consider those problems in the context of the entire universe,'' just won't cut it. So that's why Jackson is pushing the idea of making the District of Columbia a state. Then he could have the job he is perfectly suited for -- U.S. senator. A senator doesn't really have to do anything but talk. And they don't have to do that if they aren't in the mood. Senators have aides who do all the mundane chores, from answering letters to drafting legislation to hustling campaign contributions. So all a senator has to do is make sure he looks awake and sober when the C-Span cameras are on him. There are those who say statehood for D.C. is ridiculous, and maybe it is, but I'm in favor of it. If it doesn't happen, and Jackson can't become a senator, then he's going to run for president again. And again and again. And as President Bush might put it: ``Ears-wise, I'm not sure I can take much more of that oratory thing.'' (C) 1990 BY THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.