Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obama and the Godfather

It's True, I Have A Lot Of Friends In Politics

COURIC: What is your favorite movie of all time?

Obama: Oh, I think it would have to be the Godfather. One and two. Three not so much. So--so--but that--that saga I love that movie.

One of the very first posts I wrote on this site, six years ago, was titled "Everything I Needed To Learn I Learned From The Godfather." I'd seen the movie when I was young, but it wasn't until I was middle aged, with a decade or so in politics behind me, that I really got the Machiavellian machinations and political parallels.

So now we have a fun tool with which to analyze the new administration.

You're out, Tom: Vilsack was reportedly a frontrunner for Secretary of Agriculture but apparently is not a wartime consigliere.

The line we keep hearing, in the context of Joe Lieberman forgiven and Hillary Clinton at State, is "Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer." Michael Corleone was speaking of Hyman Roth, a thinly disguised Meyer Lansky, when he said those words.

But remember what happened to Roth at the airport, after uttering the immortal last words, "I came home to vote in the presidential election because they wouldn't give me an absentee ballot"? Look at the fate of enemies outside the Corleone family and traitors within. Barzini, Tattaglia, Roth... Paulie, Carlo, Tessio... eventually "keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer" shifts to "I knew it was you, Fredo, you broke my heart."
COURIC: Do you have a favorite scene?

Obama: Love--love those movies. I--you know--so many of them. I think my favorite has to be --you know, the opening scene of the first Godfather where, you know, the opening scene of the first Godfather where the caretaker (sic) comes in and, you know, Marlon Brando is sitting there and he's saying "you disrespected me. You know and now you want a favor." You know it sets the tone for the whole movie. Now there--

COURIC: And all hell breaks lose, right?

Obama: Yeah, right. I mean there's this combination of old world gentility and you know, ritual with this savagery underneath. It's all about family.

Obama seems to have Michael Corleone's cool and calculation, and his patience of waiting till just the right moment, if not his murderous ruthlessness.

But just as Michael had enforcers Al Neri and Rocco Lampone, Obama has Rahm Emanuel,who once took the famous "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes" Sicilian message too literally and sent a pollster a dead fish.

He also has a consigliere, in Joe Biden, whose own ambitions are off the table. Tom Hagen was ineligible to succeed the Don because of his non-Sicilian birth, and Michael chose a consigliere who was, by virtue of age, also out of the loop of succession and thus freer to give homest advice: "Who's a better consigliere than my father?" Barack, of course, was essentially fatherless, but Biden could play a paternal type of role.

The Don's "Never tell anyone outside the Family what you're thinking again" advice to Sonny sums up Obama's attitude toward leaks. The Don also said of Sonny: "A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man." And Obama takes it to heart, guarding his personal time as best he can.

Sonny Corleone was a bad don because he let his temper get in the way. Obama won't make that mistake. He knows, as Virgil Solozzo knew, that "blood is a big expense." But if I were Joe Lieberman, I wouldn't go fishing with Al Neri.

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