It’s too bad that Michael Mann’s latest film, Public Enemies, was more or less a flop at the box office — budgeted at $100 million, it’s grossed about $93 mil domestically, which means that Johnny Depp or no Johnny Depp, it’s not going to earn out — because if ever the time was right for a great gangster film, it’s now. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the things that make me proudest to be a Democrat is our party’s long history as a crackerjack criminal enterprise; why, just the other day in Hudson County, N.J., the feds rolled up a whole passel of pols, almost all of them Democrats, on bribery, extortion, money-laundering, and organ-trafficking charges. The new mayor of Hoboken and even a few Orthodox rabbis got caught up in the sting.
Well, Jersey has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Gangland, Inc., since the heyday of Longy Zwillman, so there’s no surprise there. Throw into the mix Arkansas, the “retirement” home of Owney Madden, who controlled a long line of jail-bound governors from his redoubt at the Southern Club and Grill in Bill Clinton’s home town of Hot Springs; Nevada, which was basically Benny Siegel’s brainchild; and Richard J. Daley’s Illinois, and you have the foundation of a real political movement, one that stands for egalitarianism, tolerance, fairness, and the Little Guy. Not to mention slavery, segregation, secularism, and sedition, but we’d rather not talk about that right now.
Still, nothing in our storied past has prepared us for this great moment — the ultimate meeting of man, faux
biography, red-diaper baby, ballerina, dumbed-down electorate, DSM-IV
, and the Chicago Machine: the presidency of His Serene Highness the Emperor Barack Hussein Obama II, Lord of the Flies and Protector of the Holy Cities of Honolulu and Chicago. What Tammany boss and veep Aaron Burr only dreamed as he shot Alexander Hamilton, what Chicago Tribune
journalist Jake Lingle dimly perceived as one of Capone’s men ventilated his double-crossing straw boater, what Frank Costello, the “Prime Minister of the Underworld,” only vaguely glimpsed as he roomed with Tammany macher
Jimmy Hines in the Drake Hotel in Chicago when our party chose Franklin D. Roosevelt as its standard-bearer during the Glorious Revolution of 1932 — all this has at last come to Technicolor fruition. (Sentencing Hines in 1939 for selling protection for Dutch Schulz’s numbers racket, the judge observed: “Instead of using his political power and influence for the well-being of the city and for the promotion of law and order and good government, he used his position for the promotion of the interests of this crowd of criminals.” Well — duh!) With the Obama Ascendancy, we are at last out and proud.
Yes, my friends, the great line of gangsters with the letter “D” after their names, from Tammany Hall to the Outfit to the Syndicate to the Combine, has now reached its apotheosis as our party controls the White House, the Congress, and, soon enough, the Supreme Court. Because, in fact, we are a gang. A syndicate. A combine. An outfit. Just don’t call us a Mob — that’s a term we’ve now reserved for all you Brooks Brothers and Ann Taylor thugs who have the audacity to show up at town-hall meetings protesting our “health care” power grab. Not since the heyday of gangland back in the 1920s and ’30s has there been such a bumper crop of corrupt politicians, shtarkers, and hoodlums with their hands on the levers of power, and it’s time to celebrate it.
So here’s my movie, a thinly veiled film à clef. I haven’t written the script yet, since I know that even if I sell the first draft, I’ll get fired and replaced either with Paul Haggis or Tony Gilroy, which is why I’m pitching it to you in the hopes that some producer sees it and gives my agent a call. I’m calling it Public Enemies II: This Time, It’s Personal.
Our dramatis personae, with casting suggestions in parentheses:
Dutch Schultz (Rahm “The Ballerina” Emanuel) — the fabled Dutchman, the last of the great Jewish gangland chieftans, was actually born Arthur Flegenheimer, but he changed his name to honor a previous Bronx thug named “Dutch Schultz.” The dreaded Rahmbo, meanwhile, is legendarily handy with a steak knife and known to send dead fish to his enemies. Emanuel is one of three brothers raised by Israeli immigrants to the United States, who changed their surname from Auerbach in honor of Rahm’s paternal uncle Emanuel, who was killed fighting the British with the terrorist organization Lehi, better known as the Stern Gang. Rahm’s father, Benjamin, fought with the Irgun, which in 1946 blew up the British headquarters in the King David Hotel, killing 91 people.