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The Secret of the Trump Administration: They Are All Fredo

The Godfather analogy has broken.

Over the last couple of days, it’s been a trend to compare Donald Trump Jr. to Fredo Corleone, the black sheep in The Godfather’s Corleone family, who’s revealed to have had a hand in the attempted hit on Michael’s life in Part II. In fact, according to The Daily Beast, Junior’s nickname within the Trump campaign was Fredo, given how they constantly had to clean up after him. And just as Fredo outs himself as a traitor, Junior did the same thing last week, leaking the emails that proved he took the meeting at Trump Tower last June to get dirt on Hillary from the Russians.

This is, as film critic Sam Adams put it in Slate, “unfair to Fredo,” since Fredo’s not as bad a guy as Junior. Fredo never killed elephants for pleasure — when Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone is shot in the first film, he can’t even handle a gun without dropping it. He just wanted respect, as he says in one of the most famous moments in the second film, acted to perfection by the quintissential actor’s actor, John Cazale:

The comparison has also ruined the “Who Are the Trumps in The Godfather game,” because when I played this game a few weeks ago, Junior was Sonny and Eric was Fredo, given Junior’s hot-headedness and Eric’s utter uselessness. They can’t both be Fredo now, can they? (No way is Eric Sonny.) Well, here’s the problem: everyone in the Trump family is Fredo. Because of this, the entire Godfather analogy falls apart.

Ivanka, whose cold nature and ability to fool the press into thinking she’s “the good one” should make her a Michael, still boneheadedly tweets about champagne popsicles and tries to give pathetic lifestyle advice. She may be a better liar than her brothers, but to those who are paying close attention, she’s only in this to sell her brand. Fredo? Yes, but maybe the better comparison is to Gwyneth Paltrow.

Jared Kushner, who should be this administration’s Tom Hagen, its adopted outsider who does its dirty work, neglected to mention on his security formthat he was in on the Russian meeting this June. Hard to imagine Hagen ever pulling such a move — easy to imagine Fredo doing it. (But if Kushner’s kicked out for this, it’ll be like Robert Duvall not being in the third movie, so maybe this analogy still stands.)

Eric is still Fredo because nobody fucking likes him.

Donald, of course, should be Vito Corleone, the grand patriarch who sets an example for his children, but Vito, despite his ruthlessness in attaining power, doesn’t wield it maliciously. His loyalty to his allies and his desire for his children not to enter his business set him apart from the unscrupulous reality TV villain who’s holding the country hostage because he demands we respect him. And Vito would never have to say “I’m like, a smart person” — which is eerily close to what Fredo says to Michael.

What about the rest of this administration? Is there a Clemenza somewhere to take out enemies without leaving a trace? A Tessio secretly waiting to betray them? Hell, is there even an Andy Garcia who can take the reins, as painful an analogy as that is for me to make? Unfortunately, no. Though they’re all better being compared to the supporting casts of Veep and Arrested Development, they’re all Fredos too. None of them — Spicer, Kellyann Conway, Priebus — can lie without tying themselves in knots or contradicting themselves a moment later. Remember the moment when Fredo outs himself as the traitor in Part II? Watch the way he lies to save face, and then forgets to cover his tracks a moment later:

So, need I say more? Everyone in this whole criminal enterprise are all in over their heads, unable to keep track of all their lies, and will insult, bully, or sell each other up the river in order to hold on to whatever sliver of power they’ve been promised.

And one last word from those of us who worked really hard to make these Godfather character analogies work: you broke our hearts.