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Jan 04, 2006

Giving Michael Corleone A Run For His Money?


If Hurricane Katrina punched some serious holes in the President's carefully constructed image, let's see what kind of punishment "Hurricane Jack" delivers to the GOP agenda after scoring a direct hit on Washington yesterday.

In his debut as the Republican's latest cataclysm, Jack Abramoff appeared positively notorious as he left Federal Court on Tuesday.  Likening the image to a scene from "The Godfather" (one of Jack's favorite movies), Maureen Dowd said that Abramoff looked "like a stocky gangster from a 40's movie in black fedora and trench coat."  Later in the day,  Eamon Javers of BusinessWeek gave an almost identical description to Margaret Warner on the PBS News Hour.

So, what's the significance of the outfit?

In a culture that depends on politics to deliver the highest form of entertainment, Abramoff is suddenly the new new thing.  The confidence man's guilty plea and the Congressional bloodletting guaranteed to follow has instantly turned Abramoff into a major icon.  As such, the packaging is central to the package -- and the intrigue.

In Dowd's piece, she refers to a WAPO article by James Grimaldi and Susan Schmidt that appeared last Thursday, December 29th, titled "The Fast Rise and Steep Fall of Jack Abramoff" (link).   Paired with the photo, the article offers an almost perfect foreshadowing.  The first paragraph reads as follows:

Jack Abramoff liked to slip into dialogue from "The Godfather" as he led his lobbying colleagues in planning their next conquest on Capitol Hill. In a favorite bit, he would mimic an ice-cold Michael Corleone facing down a crooked politician's demand for a cut of Mafia gambling profits: "Senator, you can have my answer now if you like. My offer is this: nothing."

So, does Abramoff's outfit express an image of himself as the mob kingpin?

It's hard to say.  It's just as possible Abramoff's intention was the opposite.  As an Orthodox Jew who has consistently hidden his illegal and immoral dealings behind expressions of piety and acts of religious philanthropy (link), it's possible the outfit was intended to make Mr. Abramoff look more devout.  (Among Orthodox Jews, there is a tradition of covering one's head out of respect for God, and the wearing of brimmed hats and black clothing are also customary.)

The esteemed Jewish newspaper, The Forward, lends some characterological weight to this theory.  According to the publication, Abramoff told an interviewer 'he has always worn his conservative politics and religion on his sleeve.'  To elaborate the point, the article described the lobbyist as having "accessorized" for the occasion, combining a double-breasted suit with a small black yarmulke and a tie dotted with tiny GOP elephants.

(image: Gerald Herbert/AP. January 3, 2006.  Washington. Via YahooNews.)


It's amazing what I learn here... I would have never thought of a religious connection with the way he's dressed.

Looked like Robert de Niro from "Omce Apon A Time In Am.'

The Bag's religious connection is the only explanation that makes sense. Without knowing that, Mr. A's outfit is way out of the times - looking more like a costume than protection from the weather.
A costume that draws attention to, and characterizes, his criminal behavior.

Bad image for the fat elephants running things. It won't hurt them though, they are in complete control of our government and our media. Damn shame. They'll just start another war or put Michael Jackson back in the national spotlight to divert attention away from this mess.

This is a great post - yesterday, on MSNBC, Time Russert was going on and on about his outfit (I can't remember hearing someone in his position commenting on clothing to the extent that he did ). It was like "look at those lapels!" "That must be a $2 thousand dollar coat". "The hat!"

Now, I don't believe for a minute that Russert ignorant or unaware of the dress customs of orthodox Jews; there are just two many men dressed just like Abramoff in the cities of the Northeastern corridor, particularly NYC - which is where I believe the studios of MSNBC are located.

I figured Russert's mockery of his oufit was a cheap shot, part of a new "talking point" to distance JA from the Republicans by saying he was just so sleazy that nothing he says can be trusted ... look, you can see it for yourself, a guy who dresses like that would send his own mother to jail to save his skin.

Interesting times.

Mr. BAG you've given it all away, but how informative. Tom has started his NY with a great column, reserving a special award for the man in black

The Terminator Award was given not to the governor of California (who showed every sign of being terminated this year) but to... lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Our panel believed him the year's most likely candidate to make a deal with federal prosecutors and terminate a significant part of the Republican Congress. Back before he took up his cowboy-and-Indian line of work (shuffling casino money largely into Republican coffers and taking members of Congress on golfing jaunts in Scotland), he actually produced two Hollywood movies: Red Scorpion (1989) and Red Scorpion II (1994) with the following, potentially prescient tagline: "He's a human killing machine. Taught to stalk. Trained to kill. Programmed to destroy. He's played by their rules... Until now. They think they control him. Think again

Political theater. Or, "theatre" if you are French.

Thanks for the religious angle, Micheal. I would never have guessed that; I saw a picture of him earlier and thought "A FEDORA?" What on earth?

Now I know. I wonder what Mr. Blackwell will have to say.

The BAG said: "So, does Abramoff's outfit express an image of himself as the mob kingpin? It's hard to say. It's just as possible Abramoff's intention was the opposite."

Although paradoxical to us, I'm not sure these two points of view *are* opposites to Jack Abramoff. Michael Corleone was religious too, after all, and the Godfather movies make a point of showing scenes of Roman Catholic ritual and criminal ritual happening simultaneously. Likewise, David Chase pairs the religious convictions within and criminal behavior of his characters in The Sopranos. Maybe Abramoff can also reconcile this paradox better than we or the news media can.

As for Tim Russert, I've noticed he always says something moronic when he goes off-script.

Here is what Wonkette has to say.


The hat is definitely religious. What I can't get over is the way he buttoned his coat and tied the belt. He looks TERRIBLE! This photo is the biggest Glamour Don't I've ever seen. He's dressed for a snowstorm yet the woman behind him is only in a blazer. Chris Mathews called the coat a $2000 Chesterfield. . . I think it's a Burberry trench coat one size too small.

You think that maybe he's wearing a vest?
Didn't you hear the sound of thundering feet when the news came out? They ( those Reps and Sens. who took money) were running over each other to give it back and look pious.
schadenfreud is so good

Momly,thanks for the links, real drama, entertainment and soap opera stuff: WOH !!!
"Hell (truly) has no wrath like that of a woman scorned"-- William Shakespeare.

I'm not sure what the boat shoe, L.L.Bean, button down shirt with tie wearin commentators should offer on how to dress.....but maybe he is going for the Lepke Buckhalter look. He was in the Jewish mob.

Coat and hat both too small, as if bought a while ago and not recently worn and seen to need updating. I didnt know he considered himself Orthodox. It's interesting what commandments and/or mitzvahs a person chooses to break, and those he does not. Let's hope he doesn't "bear false witness". Of course, this outfit, if worn Judaically, feeds right into the repentance phase of life. If he's truely a Jew, he'll have to make restitution, and ask forgivness from those he's offended. If he was a Christian, all he'd need is to ask God to forgive him and voila! back in the good graces. Mostly, tho he just looks like a rich thug with no taste and has no idea what he looks like in a mirror.

But then today he wore a white baseball cap into court. Is that a religious accoutrement?

& figured he read the blogs...

I like the compressed lips and clenched fist. To me the clothing is simply more defensive armour...

Oh, and it's also "theatre" if you're English or Australian, BTW...

Finally, an excellent model for an Orthodox Jewish gangster character! It's not just Al Capone who always wears a hat any more.

When I first saw that photo of Abramoff, I immediately looked for the little curls by his ear. Not there.

I was surprised by how heavy he looks. In other press photos, he looks movie-star handsome. Here it looks like he's sporting a pot belly. Perhaps a risk of owning the restaurant. Anyway, he may be vain and this is the way you can cover the most territory from exposure, along with the religious reasons. The linked description of his outfit was describing what he wore to a different occasion, [you can't tell if he's wearing a suit or a yarmulke in this picture] but I'm wondering if he is wearing the elephant tie in this picture. I can't make out the detail. Kind of cheeky if he is. Wonkette says he shouldn't be wearing this outfit if he can't have someone whacked. I thought that is exactly what his business partner is accused of doing to the seller of Abramhoff's casino biz, "gangland style." So he probably is entitled to wear this.

I expect fedoras will be the next big thing in fashion, at least as seen on crime TV shows. I like fedoras. My dad wore one and he was sorry when wearing a hat went out of style. Time for a comeback, you ask me.

Today in Miami there was much made about his wearing a ball cap. If the coat seems too small, I wonder if he's wearing a flack jacket under it? Today he rushed out of the court house through a back door and ran to his waiting Town Car. The press thought he was avoiding them. I wonder if he fears a hit. Sun Cruz is a dangerous mess.

Thanks for the link to my post about Abramoff's tortuous relationship with Judaism & Jewish ethics.

I too noted Abramoff's sartorial choices in the picture. While Dowd superfically picked up on the similarity of the look to mob figures, she got it wrong as you note. He's dressed as a Modern Orthodox Jew. You'd see that basic garb anywhere you found Modern Orthodox Jews (places like Borough Park or Hancock Park). Black trench coat, black fedora. It's standard issue.

I've written my own post on this subject which is linked to this comment. I also have many posts about aspects of Jack's Jewish background.

It's amazing what I learn here... I would have never thought of a religious connection with the way he's dressed.[Posted by: ummabdulla | Jan 04, 2006 at 01:55 AM]

No kidding! Who woulda thot...?!

When I saw Abramhoff emerge from the court building all I could think was how inappropriate his dress was and that old, old song by Johnny Rivers (middle school days) - 'Secret Agent Man' began echoing in my head.

Just out of curiosity, don't religious Jewish men (not sure of the right terms - Orthodox and modern Orthodox) have beards?

Enough to make decent Jews, of all persuasions, cringe.

In the NYTimes David Brookes called his hat 'a faux hasidic homburg', which gave me a good laugh. Believe, me, that's definitely the first time BoBo made me laugh. I don't know whether the hat can properly be called a fedora. Rather a homburg because of the high crown.

Found this article in the WaPo written in May of 2005.

Some great background information.

"It was a gangland-style hit straight out of 'Goodfellas.'

A man in a BMW was driving down a quiet side street after an evening meeting at his Fort Lauderdale office when a car slowed to a stop in front of him. A second car boxed the BMW in from behind, then a dark Mustang appeared from the opposite direction. The Mustang's driver pulled alongside and pumped three hollow-point bullets into the BMW driver's chest.

The dead man was Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, a volatile 51-year-old self-made millionaire, a Greek immigrant who had started as a dishwasher in Canada and ended up in Florida, where he built an empire of restaurants, hotels and cruise ships used for offshore casino gambling."

You see, Gus once owned SunCruz Casinos (gambling cruises to nowhere), which was bought out from under him by Abramoff and another con artist named Adam Kidan. Abramoff and Kidan never actually got around to paying for this transaction.....

It's a long article but it's a great read.

For a little fun, check out
for The Top Ten Things You Never Knew about Jack Abramoff. Amazing tales.

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