Rudy: Opportunist Numero Uno

“Campanilismo” is defined as blind attachment to one’s birthplace, traditions and ethic. In that spirit, members of groups like the Sons of Italy and the National Italian-American Foundation (the fifth largest “ethnic” organization in the country) will follow Rudy Giuliani to his last political breath. Others, not blinded by campanilismo see Rudy for what he really is: a duplicitous opportunist who threatens their ethnic pride.

The former NY mayor likes to say, for example, that he had four uncles who were New York policemen. The December 3 edition of Newsweek writes of another uncle, Leo D’Avanzo, described as a “…loan shark and bookie with mob connections who operated out of a bar named after” cop/uncle Vincent D’Avanzo. Vincent “acted as a front man for the bar.”

Giuliani’s dad, Harold, was a bartender there. Newsweek says he kept a baseball bat and a gun under the bar in case things got rowdy, and “[used] the bat and his fists to collect debts” for his brother-in-law. Harold “served more than a year in Sing [sic] prison for mugging the milkman.”

This family tree-- even for ethnic loyalists-- falls short of direct bloodlines to Leonardo da Vinci.

Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run for Vice-President, received little ethnic defense when it was said her father might have run numbers. Giuliani has been given impressive latitude as a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, even while questions continue to be raised-- by and the NY Times, to name just two sources—about city spending irregularities regarding the mayor’s travel to visit his then mistress/now wife Judith Nathan.

The mayor’s circle is strangely silent: Giuliani’s long memory, vindictive nature, and abhorrence for “disloyalty” are well known. Unlike Harold, Rudy doesn’t need a baseball bat to settle scores.

Even detractors of Giuliani and his party are intrigued by how desperate Republicans seems to be that they could entertain the notion of Rudy Giuliani as a pro-family, pro-life, moral majority conservative. He supported abortion rights when it was convenient: now he embraces overturning Roe. He roomed with a gay couple while divorcing Donna Hanover: now he courts the far right with anti-gay-rights rhetoric.

Rudy chose a press conference to tell Hanover, the mother of his now-estranged children, that he wanted a divorce. By comparison, Newt Gingrich’s face-to-face, “it’s over,” to his wife, then in a hospital battling cancer, makes him seem like Prince Valiant. Stereotypical Italian sensitivity and blind respect for wife and children (whatever else may be happening “on the side”) seem to have eluded Giuliani.

Still, some Italian-Americans will support Giuliani because his roots, like theirs, are in Italy’s boot. (These folks may also call Oprah’s support of Obama “clannish.”)

For some of us, however, it’s not about the vowel at the end of his name: it’s about his insincerity, secrecy, vengefulness and opportunism at the end of the day. Americans will have had enough of such things by the time they get to vote for the next president-- and eight years is a bellyful.

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Mary Ann Sorrentino

Mary Ann Sorrentino
Italy Series of articles runs Aug./Sept/Oct 2015

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