With James Comey, the former FBI director, publicly suggesting that President Donald Trump reminds him of a mob boss, I thought to myself, what a great opportunity to further exploit my Sicilian heritage. I could even seize the opportunity to reference my classic Sicilian mother, that 4-foot-11-inch, 85-year-old, shoe-throwing matriarch.
Then Trump borrowed a line from "The Godfather" and offered the North Korean dictator “protection," and I thought, bingo! Not that I want to offer Kim Jung Un advice, but when a mob boss offers you protection, you take it, or else. Of course Kim should know mob tactics: He had his own “Fredo” moment when he (allegedly) had his brother killed in Malaysia in 2017.
As a Sicilian who’s made a career in the waste management business and has watched all of the "Godfather" movies at least once, I've surely got more experience with the mob than Comey. Or so you might assume. But that's probably not the case. If anybody has to be an expert on organized crime, it's an FBI director who lived, studied, investigated and prosecuted those people.
Truth be told, when my parents came to America, they moved to an Anglo neighborhood. I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t even speak Italian.
So when Comey says our president’s behavior reminds him of a mob boss, I listen. Sure, Comey might be compromised because Trump fired him, is part of the “deep state” or just wants to sell books, but let’s set that aside and consider what he’s saying.
Consider how the mob operated in Sicily. My father came to America from post-World War II Sicily partly because of the mob. Italy was trying to rebuild from the war and various factions were vying for control. One faction was the mob. Pop was educated, talented, brilliant — he knew seven languages — but in 1954 he left Sicily, even after being offered important jobs that were steppingstones to powerful positions in government.
In America, he started as a grocery store clerk. He did well but took that significant “demotion” partly to avoid being compromised. His best friend from Sicily, similarly gifted, remained in Italy, became a senator, and one day was found dead, a victim of suicide, the likely result of too many “compromises.”
Here, we have a president who demands loyalty, faces investigation for possible collusion with Russia and is the subject of reports of compromising information. To my Trump-supporting friends: We should be concerned about this, and rather than knee-jerk defensive responses to supposedly anti-Trump bias, we should consider who we are.
We conservatives — yes, I said it, I’m a conservative, today — love the Constitution. Not long ago, we were angry at liberals for interpreting the Constitution so loosely. We were afraid our Founding Fathers' intent was being skewed and wanted a return to a stricter interpretation of the Constitution. Today, we constitutionalists seem to be accepting of a man who demands loyalty to person rather than fealty to the Constitution.
When Department of Justice and FBI personnel are doing their constitutional duty and investigating top officials, even the president, we should be confident we have a system that allows this investigation and protects the individual’s constitutional rights, including the president’s.
The mob had historic ability to corrupt in Italy. Here, our Constitution and separation of powers protects us, if we let it. We should desire the truth, regardless of outcome. Collusion or no collusion? Criminal behavior or not? That’s not for the guy being investigated to determine, or obstruct, or for the media to adjudicate, but for our imperfect justice system to ascertain. It’s our constitutional way and we conservatives love the Constitution. Remember?
It's one reason my family left Italy. To be in a country where the rule of law is stronger than the cult of the mob and “family” loyalty. To my friends drawn into this loyalty and defend Trump no matter what, remember who you are. Our Constitution is more important than any person.
Thankfully, my parents made the move to a land where personal loyalty was subordinate to the law of the land.
Having removed himself from these compromising situations and the potential of harm from the mob in Italy, Pop discovered the real threat was my beautiful, charming, sweetly accented Sicilian mother, who more than once landed that thrown shoe, figuratively and literally, square on my father’s forehead for assorted crimes committed. For unwise jokes as well. And he had a lot of unwise jokes (I got that from him). He lived to a ripe old age of 89 and died recently with his wife of 65 years holding his hand.
My mom is still alive, and more than likely will take exception to her son’s constitutionally protected expression of free speech and land that figurative shoe on my forehead. If I wind up with concrete galoshes at the bottom of the Kern River, don’t blame the mob. Mom did it. That’s the Italian way.
Thank God in America we have a Constitution to guide us, not Sicilian matriarchs, Italian mob bosses or New York billionaires.