Above the Law
In the spring of 1930, Millicent Hearst sat beside Benito Mussolini in the Italian dictator's Alfa Romeo on a high-speed drive from Rome to the newly excavated town of Ostia. A nervous but excited Millicent pleaded for her driver to slow down. “You're breaking the law,” was the only threat she could muster up. “I am the law,” Mussolini responded. In a more tranquil setting, resting on the steep stone bleachers of a 12 B.C. amphitheater in Ostia, Millicent fell under II Duce's legendary spell. Unaccompanied by security guards, Mussolini spoke without airs to a group of fawning tourists. One stranger asked if he might take a photograph, and the Italian leader calmly obliged. Another tourist gave Mussolini a bouquet of violets, which he accepted and then gallantly handed to Millicent.
As Millicent informed her readers in an article she subsequently wrote for the Hearst newspapers, she was enthralled by Mussolini's command of his country, and she communicated her thoughts in almost romantic terms. Her view of Mussolini's dramatic flair and his executive skills was one shared by many at the time, including well-known businessmen Otto Kahn and Joseph Kennedy; Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University; and Amedeo Giannini, of the Bank of America, backer of the Hearst Corporation and Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, among others. “Mussolini is a great executive,” Millicent wrote, “a true leader of men and the great