Enough With The Trump-Capone Analogy

Between Dr. A being out of town and the arrival of full-tilt New Orleans summer, I’ve spent more time on social media than usual since the Trump indictment. The level of discourse is not high. I was even tempted to argue with strangers over their lazy usage of the Trump-Capone analogy.

You know the drill: The cases against Trump are like the Feds getting Capone for tax evasion. There’s a kernel of truth in the comparison BUT it’s overdrawn, especially regarding the purloined papers case. That’s some serious shit. Check out paragraph 3:

The classified documents TRUMP kept in his boxes included information regarding both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation to a foreign attack. The unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of the United States military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence collection methods.

Repeat after me: That’s some serious shit.

At the risk of sounding like Logan Roy, people who think that this case is not serious are not serious people.

I grew up during the Cold War, so I understand the importance of national security secrets, especially documents that end up at the White House. Apparently, the Indicted Impeached Insult Comedian was too busy helping dear old dad discriminate against Black tenants to pay attention at the peak of the Cold War.

The Capone analogy is oversimplified and based on myth, not facts. People keep repeating: Eliot Ness brought Al Capone down. That’s the myth propagated by the guy who co-wrote Ness’ memoir, Oscar Fraley. To say that Fraley embellished the story in The Untouchables is an understatement.

Team Ness *helped* prepare the Capone tax case but their focus was on his violation of Prohibition laws. When it came time to charge Capone with a federal crime, Prohibition was wildly unpopular, so the decision was made to indict on tax charges and to keep the booze case in reserve. It was not necessary. Capone was convicted.

I’d long known that Eliot Ness’ reputation was inflated by the teevee series The Untouchables. I recently read a great book by Daniel Stashower, American Demon. It focuses on Ness’ time as Cleveland’s public safety director and the investigation into the still unsolved Torso Murders. How’s that for a catchy nickname?

Stashower also discusses the myth of Eliot Ness and the Untouchables. Ness reluctantly went along with Oscar Fraley’s take on his Chicago days. It’s the Liberty Valance corollary transferred to the streets of Chicago:

That’s the real Eliot Ness side-by-side with Robert Stack who played him on teevee. Holy Separated At Birth Casting Edition, Batman.

I stole the featured image from a must-read piece by Andrew Ward at Medium: Trump versus Capone. He made a comprehensive comparison of the two criminals. Ward used the Hayes Scale to determine who was more psychopathic: Pennywise or Scarface.

Here’s how the Hayes Scale works:

In order to indicate whether a subject is psychopathic, the scale employs 20 questions, each of which is ranked on a 3-point scale: 0 if it doesn’t apply, 1 if it somewhat applies, and 2 if it definitely applies. All twenty scores are then added, with a potential score of from 0 to 40. By the standards of the Hayes Scale, anyone who scores 30 or above is, at least potentially, a psychopath.

The final score: Trump 34, Capone 27. That makes the Kaiser of Chaos 7 points more psychopathic than the legendary gangster. Capone had more redeeming characteristics than the Kaiser of Chaos. Anyone surprised? I thought not.

Al Capone’s tax case was some serious shit. It formed the template for many future investigations into organized crime. In the immortal words of William Goldman from the movie All The President’s Men:

The next time someone tells you that the purloined papers case is small beer first quote Logan Roy:

Then tell them there’s more to come. Prosecutors are preparing even more serious charges against the Indicted Impeached Insult Comedian. The taboo is broken: former presidents are no longer above the law.

Repeat after me: The purloined papers case is some serious shit. Enough with the Trump-Capone analogy.

The last word goes to Procol Harum: