Likability's labor lost

Some politicians love to be feared. Others seek love from their peasants. But the wise politician knows it's best to be liked.

Not loved, liked. Love and fear are about passion, and passion can break bad. Like is different. Just think on the last presidential election. The economy was, and is, in the garbage can; too many people were, and are, without work. But people liked Obama more than they liked the other guy. And Obama won re-election.

Oddly enough, the last mayor of Chicago possessed this quality for years. Rich Daley sold the city by the pound, wasting the city's treasure on deals for his cronies, selling Chicago into virtual bankruptcy. But people liked him.

He shrugged, he made faces, said goofy things about rats in your sandwich and whether his shorts were properly "scrootened." He played the bumbler like some clumsy Mayor Columbo.

And they liked him for it. Until finally, the corruption all around him caught up with him. Up until then, all the accounts in his Likability Bank were full.

The Rahmfather's Likability Bank is almost in receivership. He never had much there to begin with. So he doesn't have much to waste.

I like him personally. In private, he's funny and smart, and he loves the city. But this is about the public man, and publicly, the Rahmfather has opted to cultivate an air of ruthless competence.

So his public persona may compel him not to worry about secretly taping reporters. But that kind of thing depletes the Likability Bank big time. Any rookie alderman would have told him that, and this, too:

Every mayoral administration eventually suffers a crisis, which I'm told is a terrible thing to waste. Somebody at City Hall says something or does something stupid. Somebody always gets caught reaching into the cookie jar. Bad things happen.

And mayors start whining that reporters won't give them a decent break. But by then, it's too late. Because by then, with the Likability Bank empty, political whining is just desperate noise.

You might call it much ado about nothing.

jskass@tribune.com

twitter @John_Kass

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