Will They Make The World An Offer It Can't Refuse?
April 28, 2008 8:28 PM   Subscribe

Pax Corleone Americana? "Can any of the candidates vying to become the next president of the United States match Michael’s cool, dispassionate courage in the face of epochal change? Will they avoid living in the comforting embrace of the past, from which both Tom and Sonny ultimately could not escape? Or will they emulate Michael’s flexibility—to preserve America’s position in a dangerous world?" The Godfather as metaphor.
posted by amyms (36 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
An interesting metaphor description of politics being like organized crime.
posted by never used baby shoes at 8:39 PM on April 28, 2008

So which of America's allies gets to be Fredo?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:43 PM on April 28, 2008

That's so on target it's scary.
posted by timsteil at 8:48 PM on April 28, 2008

Those of us in the rest of the world would really appreciate it if Americans approached foreign policy a little less like gangsters, rather than more.
posted by ssg at 8:49 PM on April 28, 2008

When the US government becomes as honourable as a Corleone, then this metaphor may be useful.
posted by pompomtom at 8:50 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Michael: "My father's no different than any other powerful man. Any man who's responsible for other people, like a Senator, or a President."
Kay: "Do you know how naive you sound?"
Michael: "Why?"
Kay: "Senators and Presidents don't have men killed."
Michael: "Oh. Who's being naive, Kay?"
posted by brevator at 8:53 PM on April 28, 2008 [25 favorites]

Also; previously.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:13 PM on April 28, 2008

Other 70s movies are also useful for drawing comparisons, The Poseidon Adventure and the China Syndrome comes to mind.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:35 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Mind the oranges Marlon!
posted by Artw at 9:51 PM on April 28, 2008

The National Interest is published by The Nixon Center.

This is my surprised face.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:09 PM on April 28, 2008

I love that France is Tessio in this metaphor.
posted by No-sword at 10:20 PM on April 28, 2008

Armitage Shanks pointed out: The National Interest is published by The Nixon Center.

Just wanted to say that my FPP is neither an endorsement nor a refutation of the article. I just thought it presented a unique angle on the presidential race, and I was curious to read others' opinions on it.
posted by amyms at 10:37 PM on April 28, 2008

Lieberman, you're my brother and I love you. But don't ever take sides against the family again. Ever.
posted by Gary at 10:57 PM on April 28, 2008 [5 favorites]

Mitchell: "Man, we totally gotta come up with an idea for that TNI article by tomorrow, or Kissinger is going to stomp a mudhole in our asses like we're Cuban diplomats."

Hulsman: "I hear you, but...come on, let's just see what's on TV..."
posted by cosmonik at 10:58 PM on April 28, 2008

Nicaragua sleeps with the fishes.
posted by felix betachat at 11:02 PM on April 28, 2008

Wikipedia on the National Interest. It's a serious realist publication.

For in order to be successful, the consigliere’s diplomacy must be conducted from a position of unparalleled strength, which the family no longer possesses.

Why? Diplomacy doesn't require "unparalleled strength".

A good example of how diplomacy works in a multipolar situation: Michael Howard describes British diplomacy prior to the First World War. Britain's traditional enemies were France and Russia. After Bismarck, Germany had failed to renew its alliance with Russia, and Russia formed an alliance with France against Germany. Britain was alarmed by the alliance between Russia and France, but regarded Germany's decision to build a powerful navy as an even greater threat (given Britain's dependence on food imports).
So Britain mended her fences with her traditional rivals [France and Russia]. In 1904 she settled her differences with France in Africa, establishing a relationship that became known as l'entente cordiale. There remained the Russian Empire, whose southward expansion towards the frontiers of India had given Victorian statesmen continual nightmares, and had led the British in 1902 to conclude their first formal alliance for nearly a century with the emerging power of Japan. Three years later Russia was defeated and brought to the verge of revolution by war with Japan, so in 1907 she was happy to conclude an agreement with Britain over the disputed borderlands of Persia and Afghanistan, thus creating a 'Triple Entente'. Beyond Europe, Britain took care to remain on friendly terms with the United States. American appetite for naval expansion had been whetted by victory over Spain in 1899 and annexation of her possessions in the Pacific, but British statesmen realized that America's immense resources meant that confrontation with her should be avoided at almost any cost. So traditional rivalries were appeased by the virtual abandonment of a British naval presence in the western hemisphere and the careful cultivation of a harmony between British and American elites based on 'Anglo-Saxon' consanguinity and shared political values.
US diplomacy has plenty of weaknesses--given the rapid turnover in the US government, it's difficult to imagine this kind of consistent policy being sustained over time--but lack of military strength isn't one of them.
posted by russilwvong at 12:44 AM on April 29, 2008

I read it as "Michelle", to which the answer is of course, no.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:25 AM on April 29, 2008

Excellent. I've always said that neocon foreign policy was driven more by myth-making and storytelling than facts. Nice of them to prove my point for me.

Now which Godfather was it where Michael gets raptured...?
posted by fleetmouse at 5:49 AM on April 29, 2008

Not that I disagree with the article (although it's a little black-and-white -- I think most Democratic "negotiators" are advocating sticks as well as carrots) --

But isn't the point of The Godfather that Michael loses his soul, and destroys the family in saving it?
posted by PlusDistance at 7:28 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

And, like Michael, will Americans have an entitled, patriarchal, and unrealistic need to control the fertility (Kay) and sexual conduct (Mary) of "their" women?
posted by jfwlucy at 7:36 AM on April 29, 2008

The whole point of the Godfather (as far as the Michael Corleone character is concerned) is that Michael is a moral failure - that even within the violent and amoral world of the mob family, he failed to learn his father's lessons in loyalty, and love, and suffered and lost everything but empty power as a result.
posted by stenseng at 8:20 AM on April 29, 2008 [3 favorites]

You broke my heart, Hillary. You broke my heart.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:39 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Except that Michael volunteered to fight in World War II, this is an interesting read.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:58 AM on April 29, 2008

I enjoyed reading that, thank you.
posted by hexxed at 9:10 AM on April 29, 2008

For an article from a conservative think tank, that was actually quite insightful. The idea that the American empire and the Mafia are fundamentally similar in certain respects is very much true; even the idea of liberals as not opponents, but counselors and negotiators of imperialism is really spot on. I'm not referring to the people who vote for Democrats, but to Democratic politicians themselves — for the most part, people who support them should understand that they're supporting the consiglieri types and not genuine anti-imperialists of any stripe. The problem with the article is its acceptance of this situation, and the look for a non-solution. Michael Corleone, in this situation, becomes something of a myth. The problem isn't to find the "perfect mobster" but to get rid of the Mafia altogether.
posted by graymouser at 9:20 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Why? Diplomacy doesn't require "unparalleled strength".
It does if your idea of 'diplomacy' is telling everyone what to do, and adding them to the Axis of Evil if they don't.
posted by verb at 9:23 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

American politics at the beginning the 21st Century: hoped for Serpico, got Scarface, now willing to settle for Michael Corleone.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:41 AM on April 29, 2008 [4 favorites]

I'd rather see Al Pacino in the White House, personally.
posted by spirit72 at 10:02 AM on April 29, 2008

I see it as an argument against the twin roots of virtually all political evil: sentimentality, and a willingness to indulge it.
posted by MattD at 11:22 AM on April 29, 2008

Personally, I dislike the "Michael is the best way to go" metaphor for modern American politics for the same reason that several people have already mentioned: he's a moral failure, intent on maintaining an empire and nothing more. One of the big clashes between Vito and Michael (or the old school mafia and the new school mafia in general) was that Vito refused to sell drugs because they were immoral, but Michael recognized that they couldn't stay in power if they didn't. So they got into the drug game and stayed in power. His ultimate plan to get them out of the mess they were in was to go deeper into another uglier mess.

Because I'm definitely a Hagen myself you might want to take this with a grain of salt, but the idea of calling Michael's "let's start selling drugs" plan a good road map for America's future bothers me. It implies that any action is going to be justified as long as it perpetuates the American empire for another ten minutes. Yes, we should alternate between strength and negotiation because generally the best outcomes follow from balanced beginnings, but a balanced use of strength and negotiation in the pursuit of a flawed goal will still lead to ugly results.
posted by Kiablokirk at 11:33 AM on April 29, 2008 [3 favorites]

I'd rather see Al Pacino in the White House, personally.

Why'd we get mixed up with Bush?
Because he's got a GRRREAT ASS! And you've got your head all the way up it!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:36 AM on April 29, 2008

His ultimate plan to get them out of the mess they were in was to go deeper into another uglier mess.

Good point, but like the linked article itself, it doesn't take the metaphor far enough. The self-justifying metaphor machine of evil axes and surges that has replaced "the reality-based community" in American statecraft is best understood at a metatextual level - not as one of the protagonists in The Godfather but as the director of the entire cinematic trilogy.

America, to be blunt, is in its Godfather III phase - so deep inside the echo chamber of its own production that it can't see the mess the whole movie's in, can't see how badly the current installment pales next to its magnificent predecessors. America is trying desparately to cast second-rate imitators as stars in a redemptive drama that no one off-set is going to buy anyway. (In Hillary and McCain, we thus confront the Sofia Coppola and Andy Garcia of American politics, and I'm sure the fact that Diane Keaton and Al Pacino now make formulaic schlock underscores my point in a way I can't quite put my finger on.)

I'm inclined to suggest that Obama is a sort of Tarantino figure in all this - talks a great game, looks pretty slick doing it, no one's sure yet though whether the final product will actually reinvent the genre or simply cobble together a bunch of retread ideas artfully enough to pass for a Renaissance until the rest of Hollywood gets its shit together again.

Still waiting on that, actually . . . I'm way overextended here . . . Coen/Coen in 2012? Clooney for Senate? . . . Wait, got it: David Chase and David Simon make the jump to the big screen in 2016 and cinema is reborn! That's right: HBO is the salvation of American pop culturestatecraft. You read it here first.
posted by gompa at 12:24 PM on April 29, 2008 [6 favorites]

Gompa, you win.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:26 PM on April 29, 2008

gompa: Does that make Kucinich David Lynch?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:23 AM on April 30, 2008

shakespearian, if I am reading Gompa's post correctly, then I think that makes David Lynch Kucinich. ;)
posted by snwod at 11:36 PM on April 30, 2008

posted by Flex1970 at 9:37 AM on May 2, 2008

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