Never forget, it wasn’t Eliot Ness who got Al Capone.
It was “G-Men” of another kind: government bureaucrats, with help from Capone’s personal accountant, men such as Treasury Agent Frank Wilson; U.S. Attorneys George E.Q. Johnson, Jacob Grossman and Samuel Clawson; and U.S. Judge James H. Wilkerson.
Bloodthirsty and brazen, Capone remains infamous 100 years after he transformed the streets of Chicago into a killing field. He owned Chicago and nearby Cicero, taking them hostage through bribery and murder.
Capone flourished in an era in which desperate and disaffected Americans saw gangsters as “Robin Hoods.” He purchased public goodwill through soup kitchens and answered the demand for bootleg liquor, gambling, murder-for-hire and God knows what else.
He’s the reason we can’t have Tommy guns.
Yet Capone’s image is such that communities actually boast about having even the most tenuous connection to him, including our own, where stories still circulate about Canton being one of his stomping grounds.
It’s part of the reason why honest and conventional law enforcement couldn’t keep him in their clutches. Not even ordering the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was enough to put him away; in fact, it only enhanced his popularity.
Fast forward to 2019 and what writer Molly Jong-Fast calls “Hellscape Bingo,” where we’re being told that people who are flouting the law with impunity are heroes and those who have served their country admirably and with honor are the traitors and scoundrels.
Last week, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham disparaged former Ukraine Ambassador Bill Taylor as “a radical, unelected bureaucrat” following Taylor’s testimony before a bipartisan congressional committee on the Ukraine scandal.
Are there no mirrors in the West Wing ladies’ rooms?
Taylor, a West point graduate, Vietnam veteran and alumnus of the famed 101st Airborne Division, has served Democratic and Republican administrations since 1984.
He’s about as radical as Mueslix.
America has endured, not because of those we elect - officeholders come and go - but because of public servants such as Taylor, who wholly dedicate themselves to the betterment of this country, often for decades.
The reason this country has not come undone is because of people who have deemed America is worth serving, often doing so in far-off places. They’re the ones who keep watch while the rest of us are sleeping.
It thrives because of Marie Yovanovitch, an immigrant, career diplomat and a former ambassador to Ukraine who now also has been smeared by this current administration.
America works because of people such as the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, who envisioned a country that would enable a sharecropper’s son to lie in state beneath the Capitol Rotunda.
The greater good
It was nameless, unelected bureaucrats who finally put a stop to Capone.
People who think the law is for suckers never see it coming. Capone assumed everyone was like him, that justice was transactional. Judge Wilkerson begged to differ, informing Capone: “It is time for somebody to impress upon the defendant that it is utterly impossible to bargain with a federal court.”
Who really knows why Edward O’Hare, Capone’s lawyer, finally grew a conscience. He was a devout Catholic who sought dispensation from the Vatican so he could marry his second wife in the church. Perhaps it dawned on him that no amount of money was worth the mayhem and bloodshed. Perhaps he wanted to be seen as heroic like his friend, Charles Lindbergh, or maybe he just decided that being a stand-up guy for a murdering sociopath wasn’t worth it.
O’Hare was shot and killed in 1939, a week before Capone’s release from prison. No one was ever charged. He couldn’t have foreseen his name would be redeemed by his son, Edward Jr., who earned a Medal of Honor as a Navy aviator during World War II. O’Hare International Airport is named in his honor.
Sometimes, it seems as though people who flout the law never have to answer for it. They openly mock and despise those who view service to this country as a mission worth fulfilling. They can’t fathom there are people in government who aren’t looking to get rich or famous; who embrace public service for the greater good, and for the love of country.
But as long as such people exist, justice will prevail.
China, you see, has become a cash cow for the NBA. The Chinese are wild about the game, particularly after native son NBA Hall of Famer Yao Ming and American Jeremy Lin became league stars.
Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.