THE NEW REPUBLIC: But in the case of his trip to South Philly, Giuliani’s choice showed more than a willingness to pander to a guy he not so long ago might have rebuked. It also brought up another common knock against the man who foisted Bernie Kerik on the nation: He’s a lousy judge of character. On the surface, Giuliani’s camp likely saw Vento as an example of the outer-borough sort he once wooed as mayor. Before he put up his English-only sign, Vento’s most prominent political statement came in outfitting Geno’s staffers in t-shirts calling for Mumia Abu-Jamaal’s execution. In interviews, Vento has maintained that his own ancestors were disadvantaged because no one ever forced them to learn English on arrival from Italy. A veteran big-city pol like Giuliani might well have admired his ability to waltz from white ethnic griping to high-minded public policy reasoning. A little staff work, though, ought to have demonstrated that Vento was more than just another simple restaurateur with his mind helpfully focused on integrating non-English speaking immigrants into the modern U.S. economy. They might, for instance, have simply checked out his arm, which has a tattoo of the confederate flag. Vento says it’s an homage to the old cartoon character Johnny Yuma, the rebel. He must have liked that show a lot, because he also had the flag on several of the Harley-Davidsons he keeps across the street from his restaurant.
Imagine the outrage if some Southern conservative — Trent Lott, say — had made a pilgrimage to an unapologetically rebel-flagged sort like Vento. But Giuliani, whose New York background serves as a surprisingly effective shield against the charges of intolerance that once punctuated his mayoral administration, managed to make the trip looking less like an actual bigot than a shameless panderer. And once he got there, he lived up to it. “Whenever I’m at Geno’s, I order in English,” Giuliani told a local TV reporter. If he’s lucky, GOP voters in South Carolina caught glimpses of Vento’s tattoos as the pair mugged for cameras. MORE
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RUDY GOES TO JOEY’S: Click For Slideshow
[Photos by JONATHAN VALANIA]