November 17, 2019

Imagining a Roy M. Cohn Presidency

by Hal Gershowitz

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Ever wonder what it would have been like had Roy M. Cohn ever become President of the United States?

Nah, neither have we, but President Trump’s slash-and-destroy attack against former Ambassador Maria Yovanovitch was pure Roy M. Cohn. It was exactly what Roy Cohn would have advised. For a moment, it was as though the ghost of Cohn had ascended to the Oval Office. Roy M. Cohn, a dwindling number of our readers may recall, was the vicious, disbarred protégé of the late, infamous, Senator Joseph McCarthy. Roy Cohn has, with good reason, been reviled by almost everyone who ever studied him, or had the misfortune of crossing paths with him—with the notable exceptions of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, and, of course, President Donald J. Trump.

In fact, President Trump’s, now standard, slash-and-destroy tactic aimed at just about anyone who opposes him, or who he thinks stands in his way (think the late Senator John McCain, or Gold-star parent Khizr Khan, or journalists Charles Krauthammer or Megan Kelly or General James Mattis or former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, etc., etc.) is precisely how Roy Cohn conducted his career, and, reportedly advised his friend Donald Trump to conduct his.

Roy Cohn made no bones about it. Cohn, when he was alive, and DonaldTrump were a mutual admiration society. Cohn’s signature strategy of viciously and personally attacking opponents has become President Trump’s predictable response to anyone who dares confront him or whom he deems an opponent or an enemy.

Now comes American diplomat and former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.  By any reasonable measure, Ambassador Yovanovitch is among the most admirable members of the United States Foreign Service. She comes from a well-respected family that fled both Communist and Nazi treachery and has, herself, represented America in some of the most challenging and, sometimes, dangerous areas of the world including, Somalia, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and, most recently Ukraine.

Ambassador Yovanovitch was unceremoniously fired from her post in Kiev by President Trump because Rudy Giuliani and two self-dealing, now indicted, Giuliani pals, Lev Parmas and Igor Fruman, both apparently recruited from central casting, wanted her out of the way. There is no plausible justification that we can find for this exercise in stupidity.

Why would they want her out of the way? Probably because she would not participate in President Trump’s campaign strategy to coerce Ukraine’s newly elected President, Volodymyr Zelensky, into launching an investigation into Trump’s presidential opponent, Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. They wanted her gone and President Trump fired her clumsily and rather ignorantly. President Trump, in an astounding tweet while Ambassador Yovanovitch was testifying earlier this week, inferred that she was responsible for the continued mess that is Somalia and the mess that was Ukraine. His tweet was so inane, and frankly, so childish and so embarrassing that it warrants no elaboration. It made one valid point. The President can fire anyone, and so he did. He referred to her in his telephone call with President Zelensky as “bad news” and, ominously, told the Ukranian President that “she was going to go through some things.”

All of this embarrassing foolishness is the result of a bad idea gone bad. We’re not so sure that impeachment is the best course of action for dealing with the President’s rather transparent attempt to coerce a foreign head-of-state into launching an investigation into a political opponent. Impeachment, or more accurately, conviction, is almost certain to fail in the Senate. A failed impeachment attempt can, history teaches, redound to the benefit of the accused in a presidential election. Should that occur and President Trump win re-election in the electoral college, Democrats will be self-flagellating and Republicans will be gloating for years to come.

Frankly, we find the President’s firing of Ambassador Yovanovitch, and his subsequent twitter attack against her, as disturbing as the pressure he applied to Ukrainian President Zelensky. The pressure (some say the bribe) with respect to President Zelensky was crude and crass to be sure, but the attack—the attempted destruction of Ambassador Yovanovitch’s reputation for no reason other than to manufacture a political campaign issue, was thoroughly vicious, thoroughly unwarranted and thoroughly Roy Cohn.

Some will say, “oh, that’s just Trump being Trump—no big deal. Well, no, that’s really Trump being Cohn, and that is a big deal.

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

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10 responses to “Imagining a Roy M. Cohn Presidency”

  1. sprover says:

    “WHERE’S MY ROY COHN?” is a documentary on the life of Roy Cohen. It provides a chilling reminder of how chillingly accurate is this current essay.
    It is currently in limited release.

  2. Perry Green says:

    Trump is constantly reminding us he is the “Boss” rather than
    POTUS. Devoid of finding a suitable Democrat he perhaps will
    be re-elected even with his NY style of governing. I, myself voted for him last time and will do so again. I just cannot imagine
    voting for a platform candidate with too many Socialist ideals.

  3. M M Kaback MD says:

    Please reopen my prior message re: Google the following, “traits of a sociopath “…..if the shoe fits, HE’S wearing it!

    On a different note, my deepest condolences to the Porter family. I have wonderful memories of interacting with Steve and his wife. He always had a new and hilarious joke to tell. When serious conversation occurred (on occasion) he was remarkably erudite and informed. I know how much you admired and loved him. I share a little bit of that as well.

  4. Mike says:

    Overlooked in your commentary was whether she was fired for failing to support the President’s policies. Whether you agree with those policies or not, a leader has the right to expect that his/her subordinates will support, or not overtly undercut those policies.

    Frankly, I think one of Trump’s major failing was not cleaning house when he took office. As we are learning with the Whistle
    Blower, it appears that he was there to undermine Trump. And Yovanovitch said nothing about Ukraine’s activities when they attacked Trump during the campaign. So she got fired and it hurt her feelings. It happens all the time in the real world and it does nothing to support Trump’s impeachment.

    • Response to Mike: Actually, we did not overlook whether Ambassador Yovanovitch was fired for failing to support the President’s policies. We simply dismissed that notion out of hand after reviewing the facts in this sorry affair. Rudy Guiliani and his associates, Lev Parmas and Igor Fruman do not represent the United States and their efforts to get rid of the Ambassador had nothing to do with their assessment of United States foreign policy. It had everything do to with a 2020 election scheme. Mike regrets that President Trump didn’t clean house when he took office. Actually, he did. There were huge dismissals throughout the government, which is why there are so many “acting” office holders today. People with superb reputations like Ambassador Yovanovitch were retained. The Ambassador was, in our judgment, fired because Guiliani, Parmas, and Fruman knew she was a true professional who would object to their hijinks. Mike seems to have no issue with this ridiculous trio’s clumsy, ad hoc, interference with US foreign policy. To her credit, Ambassador Yonanovitch was obviously disturbed by it. President Trump should have been too. Impugning the integrity of the whistleblower is, at this point, baseless.

  5. Robert borns says:

    Roy Cohn was the conduit between the gangsters who controlled the ny construction unions and building material suppliers and the real estate developer owner builders. All of them kissed his ring publicly and privately because they had to. Until prosecutor then mayor Rudy put a stop to it. Measure the great turnaround in so many ways that trump has benefitet this nation and it’s people against his crude behavior and you have to vote for trump. No oral sex and lying under oath. No believing our so called intelligence service and upsetting a middle east balance of power between Iraq and Iran. No overseeing the overthrow of Libra and Egypt by our enemies. No open White House to Jew haters like Sharpton and the muslem brotherhood. The more I write the more I like trump. Robert borns

  6. judy allen says:

    Let us not forget Obama fired all his Ambassadors as soon as he was seaed …. Trump should have done the same it appears.

    While I find our President blunt and unfiltered at times. He will be getting my vote. I don’t care for socialism … matter how it is “dressed up”. Our grown children, our employees and friends are all enjoying a good economy with growing 401K’s .

    From where I sit anyone other than Trump would raise our/their taxes and we would not be giving raises, and benefits etc. and use all our money to lead us closer to Socialism. I find many Millennials/post-millennials, perhaps because of their liberal College education, to be very supportive of giving away our tax dollars to causes I do not support.

    I do not believe in free college. We have too many liberal graduates and not enough folks studying or receiving a “Trade” certification. We are now being charged for a auto Mechanic $200 Hr??? Tool and Dye folks none to be found???

    Jus sayin

  7. sheila says:

    Judy Allen: You are assuming that the far left wing of the Democratic Party represents all Democrats and will win the nomination. Look at some of the realistic Democrat candidates who are now rising in the polls: Amy Klobushar, Pete Butigieg, Joe Biden, and one whom I see as most promising, Michael Bloomberg. None of these four claiim to be “socialists”.

    Remember, many of the programs we now cherish and would be loathe to give up were considered to be “socialist”: Medicare, and Social Security, to name just two.

    Please think very carefully about your vote in 2020. Our very democracy is at stake. Listen to Fiona Hill’s opening statement at the Impeachment hearings this morning. She is a Harvard educated specialist in Russian and European affairs, and a former Director at the National Security Council. These are 8 essential minutes that may change your mind. The current Administration and its enablers are undermining our democracy and our place in global geopolitics.

  8. sheila says:

    Sorry — Buttigieg.

  9. judy allen says:

    Sheila, Of the democrat candidates…. I too, like Mayor Pete, Tulsi, Kobushar… in that order but I do not believe they have enough experience and cannot win over Trump….. who has been great for our economy.
    I do not believe President should be impeached…… Process is showing Schiff to be totally one sided and did not move the needle for me…….. I do believe that Biden and his family have used his position at every opportunity…..who really makes $50,00 Month in Washington?

    I do not believe Medicare and Social Security are socialism. I recall resenting the deductions from my check over the years as I believed that I could invest it better. Please recall the politicians have used these funds as their little slush fund,,,,beginning with Pres. Johnson and continues on…….

    Respectfully, I want as little Government involvement in my life as possible.

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