Michael Cohen’s Lesson

They’re cheering Trump in Atlanta, cheering him in Monroe, La.

This is the world of TV that Neil Postman warned about in Amusing Ourselves to Death, now taken over the whole American brain and nervous system, our national politics. The system now seems to have no memory, not even of the TV drama we saw 10 months ago. Mine isn’t so good any more, and spending time with Daddy, whose memory gears are totally stripped, makes me wonder if I remember correctly that scene on CNN back in February.

That was when Michael Cohen, Trump’s “fixer” for 12 years, came clean in sworn testimony before the House Oversight Committee chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings. Cohen was a broken man, the very image at the heart of the gospel, confessed and empty and ready to begin to be a full human again, humble, in tears, bearing witness. And Cummings was up there on the dais, the son of sharecroppers and a black Baptist, looking like a preacher, judging but sympathetic.

“If we as a nation did not give people an opportunity after they made mistakes to change their lives, a whole lot of people would not do very well,” Cummings said. He seemed to be rising to that heroic level that Sen. Sam Ervin of North Carolina attainded during the Watergate hearings. “We are better than this,” he said. “We really are. As a country, we are so much better than this.”

Cohen sat silently listening to this sermon, and began to cry.

Cohen is spending three years in a federal prison now, forgotten. Elijah Cummings is dead, and seems forgotten.

Republicans now have joined hands to defend Trump against this impeachment inquiry. They are doing, in their own fashion, what Cohen warned them that he had done for so many years.

“Everybody’s job at the Trump organization is to protect Mr. Trump,” Cohen said.

“Every day, most of us knew, we were coming in, and we were going to lie for him. And that became the norm.”

Every day, the Republicans have their talking points, their defenses for Trump. Back in February, against the dramatic scene that played out between Cohen and Cummings, their  defense was that Cohen admitted he had lied, over and over, so why should we believe him now?

That’s an interesting catch. If someone who has lied and lied and lied for his boss wants to come clean, what can he do? Confess. But he’s a liar. So his confession must be a lie.

“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” [Yossarian] observed. “It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.

[This was first published Nov. 12 in the online “Like the Dew: A Progressive Journal of Culture & Politics.” Caricatures by DonkeyHotey via Flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.]

About Doug Cumming

Writer, W&L journalism professor emeritus
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