What do Obama and the Japanese Mafia Have in Common? Not Much.

Americans love a good crime drama. Whether from books, movies, or the news, we always find ourselves enthralled with the details, on the edge of our seats. I’m guilty of this, too, I admit. We like this genre so much that it’s even begun to colour our presidential election coverage.

Me? A gangster? Fuggetaboutit!

The Japanese mafia, commonly referred to as the Yakuza, is a popular feature in our movies, recognizable for their gun-toting bravado, body covering tattoos, and severed fingers. What you might not see at the movies is the Yakuza’s inadvertent influence on American government policy and, potentially, the presidential election. A report from July 2011 by the US Department of Treasury lists the Yakuza as one of the world’s most dangerous and economically influential crime organizations worldwide. Their most serious transnational offenses include drug trafficking, prostitution, and money laundering, often through legitimate businesses with international connections. President Obama, having the foresight to recognize that the activities of international crime syndicates can be felt here at home, signed an executive order to disrupt the economic activities of such illicit organizations such as the Yakuza.

Providing support to such an organization, whether explicitly known or otherwise, has dire consequences for America; for example, cyber hacking of our national security infrastructure, the smuggling in of economic migrants (aka foreign workers, including the sex trade), and funding and/or logistical support for known or suspected terrorist networks. This Strategy‘s primary goal is “to build, balance, and integrate the tools of American power to combat transnational organized crime and related threats to national secu­rity.”  So, although the right-wing media continues to launch accusations against the president’s national security stance, it’s pretty obvious that President Obama has made national security a top priority of his administration.

Ironically, this kind of decision making has been carried out in the midst of one of the loudest and most negative media campaigns since the Bush-Kerry race in 2004. The right wing media, and Fox News in particular, espouse the idea that the president utilizes mafia-style tactics to strong arm Americans into submission. On Your World with Neil Cavuto, they referenced what they determined to be a reliable source: Vincent Curatola, the actor who played Johnny Sack in The Sopranos. Republicans really love their actors, don’t they? So, the “Chicago-style gangster” currently holing up in the White House has taken the initiative to thwart international gang activity…Romney must be the Great White Hope, right? A quick breeze through the “Issues” page at www.mittromney.com reveals that the candidate has no stance whatsoever on national security. Of course, there was plenty of (poorly written) commentary on Israel, the constitution, and the second amendment.

So, to compare the competing platforms this election season of our president and his opponent, you have on the one hand a candidate who offers in-depth and far-reaching scrutiny of international gang activity in order to protect American citizens and our governmental infrastructure. On the other hand you have a candidate who appears to be so wrong-minded about our national security needs that he cannot find room on his web page to discuss it. But in the spirit of the classic mobster movie, I think we as a voting populace have an offer we can’t refuse this election season.

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Image source: Updated News