Bush was Sonny; Obama is more like Michael

I said this as a comment back on a previous post, and liked it enough to say more prominently…

After reading that quote I cited in the WSJ about how the Obama administration is, ever so quietly, without saying anything overt, taking advantage of its stunning effectiveness in taking out bin Laden:

This month’s military strike deep inside Pakistan is already being used by U.S. officials as a negotiating tool — akin to, don’t make us do that again — with countries including Pakistan thought to harbor other terrorists. Yemen and Somalia are also potential venues, officials said, if local-government cooperation were found to be lacking…

… I got to thinking how this was similar to the effect that Bush’s invasion of Iraq had on thugs like Moamar Qaddafi — for a very brief time, before everybody around the world figured out that (given our internal dispute over that invasion) W. wasn’t likely to get the chance to do that ever again…

And then it hit me: In terms of the politics of projecting a credible threat that gets others to do what you want (an idea that I realize makes a lot of us squirm), George W. Bush was like Sonny Corleone. The blusterer, the guy you just know is going to jump in the car and come after you in a mad, blind rage if you touch his sister. The guy who doesn’t want to negotiate; he just wants Sollozzo dead. And ultimately, the guy who has trouble achieving all his goals.

Barack Obama, by contrast, is more like Michael. The clean-cut college kid who was never involved in the muscle end of the business, who held himself aloof from that, even expressed distaste for it. The guy who was supposed to be “Senator Corleone, President Corleone,” and not a wartime don. The guy who speaks softly and reasonably, and never utters a threat. The guy who takes out the heads of the other four New York families in one stunning stroke, right when you’ve forgotten about the bad blood. The guy who keeps on speaking reasonably after that, but nevertheless everybody respects him now, in the uomo di rispetto sense…

Not that, you know, I’m saying either president is a criminal. Far from it. I’m just using very familiar fictional characters in order to draw a comparison…

18 thoughts on “Bush was Sonny; Obama is more like Michael

  1. Brad

    Whew! You had me worried there a second, Tim. But I saw no mention of Sonny and Michael on that link. (Did I miss it?)

    And Kathryn — count yourself lucky. I’ve been watching the first season of “The Sopranos” lately. But there are no analogies that fit there.

    I’m holding myself back here. I could go on and on about The Godfather…

    One of these days I need to post some of the stuff that was written on my “going-away page” that my colleagues did for me when I left The State. One of the items was a mock editorial about Godfather analogies, headlined “It’s not editorial, it’s strictly metaphor.” I don’t know why they thought that would be funny…

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  2. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    Well, Brad, I’m all over Treme right now, and you need to be careful you don’t end up a Davis McAlary…..or worse, Creighton Bernette…

    although Davis has been called the Jar Jar Binks of Treme, I actually think he’s kind of sweet, in a nerdy, Nick Hornby kind of way.

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  3. Brad

    I got the Nick Hornby reference. (I also got the Lucas reference, but don’t want to acknowledge it, because it wasn’t to one of the three originals.)

    But you do see that I use the Corleones because tout le monde is familiar with the characters, right? I mean, when it comes to citing movies, you’re pretty safe — in that you’re going to communicate to a wide audience — if you cite that one. Or “The Wizard of Oz.” Or “Casablanca.” Or “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Or “High Noon.”

    In other words, I was NOT being obscure. It WOULD be obscure if I constantly engaged in Patrick O’Brian references. To force one, I could say that W. was more like Jack Aubrey, and Obama is more like Stephen Maturin. But few people would get that. And in any case, the analogy is not as good as the Sonny-Michael one.

    And if you haven’t seen the movie, I’ll lend you my DVD…

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