Over the course of his brief political career, Donald Trump’s tactics have been generously called “thuggish.” His puffed-up bravado and thinly veiled, clumsy threats directed at opponents are like cheap imitations of the mobster characters of classic cinema. As a citizen it is, to say the least, embarrassing. Recently, The New York Times launched a thorough investigation into why the President regularly acts and talks like someone in a straight-to-DVD gangster movie, besides the obvious reason—he’s dumb and thinks it sounds cool.
To understand where his paisano vocabulary comes from, the Times says, you must remember the kind of guys Donald Trump came up idolizing. Growing up the son of a wealthy real estate mogul in the outer-boroughs, Trump had firsthand knowledge of the kind of political muscling that went on in the smokey backrooms of city’s social clubs. His heroes weren’t just the iconic mobsters that would later appear in Goodfellas or Casino, but rather the real-life guys those characters were based on.
Later, Trump was influenced by his friendship with former Joseph McCarthy crony, successful mob lawyer, and all around ghoul, Roy Cohn. Through Cohn, Trump learned the tactics and language of sleazy two-bit gangsters and began surrounding himself with fellow wannabes like Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Rudy Giuliani. The common thread among all these men seemed to be their fetishistic attitude towards organized crime—despite their public condemnation of its participants—and a terrible taste in suits. Never one for subtlety, Trump’s adoration for this aesthetic and lifestyle is immediately obvious to everyone he meets.
“I thought of the New York Mafia social clubs, an image from my days as a Manhattan federal prosecutor in the 1980s and 1990s,” James Comey writes in his recent book A Higher Loyalty, describing his first meeting with Trump at Trump Tower prior to the 2016 election. “Looking back, it wasn’t as odd or dramatic as I thought at the time.”
But, Comey is being a bit dramatic. Despite what he would want us to believe, we have to remember that Donald Trump isn’t a mob boss. He just wishes he was. He’s a guy who misquotes Goodfellas and professes the importance of “loyalty” while stabbing you in the back. He’s a guy who probably thinks the best scene in The Godfather is when Carlo beats the crap out of Connie. Perhaps most embarrassing, as Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio tells the Times, “he thinks other people understand the Guys And Dolls dialogue the way he does. He doesn’t realize in 2018 that it sounds ridiculous.”
You can read the Times’ full report here.
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