“Understand, Mr. President, in the Movies Real Mobsters Plot Against Their Capos.”
I had an interesting dream last night, hours after surfing YouTube and rewatching Adam Schiff’s opening statement for the September 26, 2019 House Intelligence Committee whistleblower hearings. Proceeding to deliver a thinly-veiled “parody” of President Trump’s call to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, Schiff set the stage. You can key the words than inspired Team Trump’s ire towards Schiff below, from 4:15–5:15.
“It reads like a classic organized crime shakedown,” Schiff said. “Shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words, this is the essence of what the president communicates: We’ve been very good to your country, very good. No other country has done as much as we have. But you know what? I don’t see much reciprocity here. I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you though. And I’m going to say this only seven times so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand. Lots of it. On this and on that. I’m going to put you in touch with people, not just any people, I am going to put you in touch with the attorney general of the United States, my Attorney General Bill Barr. He’s got the whole weight of the American law enforcement behind him. And I’m going to put you in touch with Rudy. You’re going to love him. Trust me. You know what I’m asking. And so I’m only going to say this a few more times. In a few more ways. And by the way, don’t call me again. I’ll call you when you’ve done what I asked.”
Schiff then added: “This is in sum and character what the president was trying to communicate with the president of Ukraine. It would be funny if it wasn’t such a graphic betrayal of the president’s oath of office. But as it does represent a real betrayal, there’s nothing the president says here that is in America’s interest after all.”
My ensuing dream was a suspicious conversation between Trump and his “personal attorney,” Rudy Giuliani. (Yes, you know things are bad when this ongoing national nightmare seeps into sleeping hours.) The conversation went something like this:
Giuliani: “Repeat back to me what we discussed.”
Trump: “You said Mr. President, in the movies, real mobsters plot against their capos … Rudy, movies are fiction — ”
Giuliani: “Remember what I asked you to say …”
Trump: (pause) “We’ve been very good to your country, very good.”
Giuliani: “That’s it.”
Trump: “No other country has done as much as we have. But you know what? I don’t see much reciprocity here …”
In other words, Schiff’s “parody” indeed occurred, as he described, in real life. It all began as firm advice given to the president by Giuliani. According to my reverie, anyway.
I woke up, and couldn’t shake the thought that the unquestioned loyalty Trump seeks may now lead to a third presidential impeachment, following Andrew Johnson’s and Bill Clinton’s. Today, Giuliani is being distanced.
Another enemy in the making?
At least Nixon had the common sense to resign when things became too heated.
Regardless, Adam Schiff has since become, to Trump and his base, Public Enemy №1. Surely, a whole new set of complications was about to ensue.
A Brief History of Public Enemies:
So what makes one a public enemy?
Understand this is but another example of how Trump holds loyalty close, and the souls of his sycophants closer. If you cross him, you are branded for life.
As you watch this unprecedented display from June of 2017, consider Jeff Sessions, Reince Priebus, John Kelly, Nikki Haley and several others here are no longer part of his cabinet. Some remain on good terms; some, not so much.
Some double jeopardy risk in the long run? To be determined.
Regardless, as a reminder, to 2017’s most soul-sucking moment …
Loyalty is a virtue, it appears, on all sides … for as long as it’s convenient.
To our models …
Al Capone (1899–1947), the original “Public Enemy №1,” was said to have gunned down dozens of people himself and ordered the killings of hundreds more. In the spring of 1929, Capone learned of a plot that three of his closest associates were set to betray him. As portrayed in director Brian De Palma’s 1987 classic, Capone (Robert De Niro, in the film) invited them to a banquet. They ate and drank in a Bacchanalian feast, when Capone’s bodyguards, without warning, tied them to their chairs. Capone then took a baseball bat and battered the three of them to bloody pulps. When he finished, he shot the three men in the head for good measure, before ordering their bodies to be dumped out of town.
John Dillinger (1903–1934), the legendary Depression-era gangster, also called “Public Enemy №1,” valued loyalty above all else. Ana Cumpănaș was an Illinois brothel owner of Austro-Hungarian heritage who assisted the FBI in tracking down the elusive criminal, a recent john, and killing him. She ratted on him to avoid deportation and exposed his whereabouts to FBI agent Melvin Purvis. Dillinger was cornered and shot by agents on July 22, 1934, outside of Chicago’s Biograph Theater. A sad postscript to the tale is Ana was indeed deported, in 1936 to Timisoara, Romania, as the legal process had already taken hold and the decision of an appeals court was final.
The moral of this misadventure? Human beings will frequently look out for themselves and/or their loved ones first, professional associates later.
James Cagney’s fictional Tom Powers in “Public Enemy” (1931), was nonetheless based on true-life gangsters. A childhood to the grave rise of a notorious mobster who loved his mother but was seduced by a life of crime, Cagney broke out in his role, immediately becoming one of the most highly-regarded actors in the country. As directed by William Wellman, the film portrayed Tom’s rise and fall, from brash kid to unrepentant criminal. The iconic, bleak scenes in which he smashed a grapefruit in the face of his latest mistress, as played by “Frankenstein’s” Mae Clarke, of a killing in the rain, and of his own violent death, are particularly tough but classic cinematic moments.
And … when he was betrayed by his formerly loyal mentor Putty Nose, who abandoned him in a moment of need, Tom took matters into his own hands. This scene is first, below, followed by the aforementioned sequences that emphatically do not glamorize the mob lifestyle.
I’ll conclude this section with a rogue’s gallery of classic gangster movie images, included here to emphasize that mob culture just may not be the way to go when it comes to simply accepting the direction of our world leaders.
Or of one in particular. We deserve better.
As to Adam Schiff, the congressman whose office is responsible for such oversight? Stay tuned. Will the President of the United States move to try Schiff for “treason” as he’s threatened, for daring to “betray” his office? Will he continue to make baseless and meaningless threats to Schiff following an impeachment-related procedure as allowed in the rule of law? Or, will Trump sycophants elect to take matters into their own hands and blast Schiff off to the planet Mongo?
Mob Rule #1: Power First, Loyalty Second
The role of self-preservation aside, there is another trait even more revered than loyalty: power.
In “The Godfather,” film producer Jack Woltz refused a request from the Corleone family to cast Don Corleone’s godson in his new film. When Woltz awakened the following morning, he found the severed head of his prized horse in his bed.
I’ll spare you the gore.
In “The Godfather, Part II,” Fredo Corleone betrayed his brother Michael and all hell broke loose. Fredo had told his brother that he had never met with Johnny Ola, an associate of Corleone rival Hyman Roth. However, during a night of careless drinking and carousing …
Fredo broke his brother’s heart. He received the kiss of death later, sealing his fate.
When Fredo set to go fishing, one of his brother’s thugs shot him dead.
It’s a … complex lifestyle.
Don’t Mess With Marty Scorsese
I won’t get into specifics here due to space. Allow me to just jigger some memories …
Scorsese is our most avid and finest chronicler today of the gangster lifestyle, which returns us, of course, to the Dan Rather quote about Scorsese that leads into this section.
So What’s the Point?
I expect some of you who have gotten this far are, by now, furious with me.
That aside, I am clearly not the only U.S. citizen aghast at a president who runs the country like a mafia capo. From televised cabinet ass-kissing ceremonies whose members publicly pledge loyalty to a wannabe strong-arm, to real-world tragedies such as snuggling up to dictators with substantial track records in widespread human rights abuses, migrants dying in de facto concentration camps, and a unilateral betrayal of the Kurds that led to its own body count — much of which increasingly appears to be in the sole financial interests of the man who would be King — our current president is rapidly making the U.S. “Public Enemy №1" to much of the rest of the world.
Morality aside, if this continues we will most certainly lose our global standing. And our shields of protection.
Donald J. Trump has proven time and again he is loyal to no one other than himself. This is dangerous to all of us, and I for one am pulling for the success of Schiff, Pelosi and crew.
Thank you, as ever, for reading.
If you have found this article of value, feel free to recommend, share and follow me here on Medium (and I will follow you back), where I publish new stories daily on a variety of topics.
If you would like links to new stories sent directly to your inbox, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.