— People are smarter than they used to be.
— "We're not Beirut on the Lake."
— "We're not the laughingstock of the country."
Regarding statement #1, he has a point: way more people have taken advantage of higher education than during Daley I, and know how to use computers and other electronic devices with greater efficiency. But as for #2 and #3: um.
Some might say that local politics in recent years have been worse than the Beirut period, when more than half the council banded together behind Fast Eddie Vrdolyak to block anything then-Mayor Harold Washington tried to accomplish. The current crop of aldermen includes 19 Daley appointees who have largely supported his objectives, which makes organizing a successful opposition fairly impossible. Lockstep politics isn't any more democratic than intransigence.
Speaking of conflict, let's not forget the civil war-like conditions that afflict various neighborhoods across the city, where people are gunned down with regularity. Residents of the city's most dangerous areas probably feel like they live in Beirut (the 1980s version that Chicago's nickname refers to; the civil war actually ended in 1990).
Also, we kind of are the laughingstock of the nation, thanks to the Rod Blagojevich Traveling Road Show and now the Tribune "sluts" scandal. True, these situations don't involve city government proper. But they've earned Chicago plenty of media coverage in the past couple years, and it hasn't been flattering.