Chris Christie is a blunt, no-nonsense New Jersey Republican who may have a rendezvous with presidential destiny.
Ideologically nimble and politically adroit, he represents the best and the brightest hope for a tired and tea party-besotted GOP.
In working to restore order and a sense of normalcy to the devastated Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy, Christie was unafraid to excoriate congressional Republicans — including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — for failing to pass a hurricane relief bill.
Yet Time magazine recently depicted this well-regarded governor as "The Boss" aka Tony Soprano's understudy.
Though Christie took umbrage to Time's cover slur while on the Don Imus radio talk show, he has often tolerated and sometimes encouraged such anti-Italian caricatures.
The fault, then, lies not simply in our scribes, but also in the heart of the governor of the Garden State.
In delivering the keynote address to the 2012 Republican National Convention, Christie borrowed a page from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's odious "Godfather" playbook: "Now I am the son of an Irish father and a Sicilian mother. My dad, who I'm blessed to have here with me tonight, is gregarious, outgoing and lovable. My mom, who I lost eight years ago, was the enforcer."
Before this appearance on the national stage, Christie had struck a menacing mobster-like tone at a Mitt Romney campaign rally in West Des Moines, Iowa: "You people disappoint me on Tuesday, you don't do what you're supposed to do for Mitt Romney, I will be back Jersey-style."
In addition to evoking David Chase & Co., this puerile attempt at humor impugned the birthplace of U.S. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito.
Bill O'Reilly of Fox News fame recently noted that the star-struck Christie now seems to revel in the corpulent capo persona he once decried.
Contrast Christie's boorishness with the dignity and decorum of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Italian-American.
Cuomo's Italic roots run deep. He takes immense pride in the august Italian jurisprudential tradition — and in the blood, sweat and toil of his immigrant grandparents.
And Cuomo well remembers the scurrilous invective hurled at his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, when the latter mulled a presidential bid more than two decades ago.
As a proponent of across-the-board educational reforms to raise New York's intellectual capital, Andrew Cuomo has worked with his sister, Margaret Cuomo — and the Italian government — to reinvigorate the study of Dante Alighieri's mother tongue in the Empire State.
One wonders if Christie is as cognizant of his heritage as Cuomo is. Or if Christie is aware of the sad history of anti-Italian intolerance in America.
The scions of Italy were present at the creation of our Republic. George Washington was hailed far and wide as the American Cincinnatus. And the Society of the Cincinnati became this country's first patriotic organization. Filippo Mazzei, a friend of Thomas Jefferson's, pioneered the notion that "all men are created equal" in the Virginia Gazette in 1774.
But from the New Orleans massacre of 1891 to the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti to the internment of Italians as enemy aliens during World War II to today's ubiquitous media defamation, Italian-Americans have endured ostracism, prejudice, discrimination and mass lynchings in the land of Columbus, Caboto, da Verrazzano, Vespucci, Tonti, Chino and Malaspina.
A few years back, Christie scolded Steve Kroft of "60 Minutes" for echoing some union leaders' charges that the Garden State governor runs New Jersey like Tony Soprano ran his gang: "Well, as an Italian-American, I take great offense to that."
Christie should return to this earlier righteous indignation — and learn to more fully embrace his storied roots.
For the tide in the affairs of such a man may well lead on to presidential fortune.
Rosario A. Iaconis is chairman of the Italic Institute of America and an adjunct professor of political science at Briarcliffe College.