Those of you with a sense of history know of the roles played by Roy Cohn (click for the Wikipedia link) in the 1950s Red Scare, acting as adviser and infante terriblé for the red-baiting anti-communist crusade led by Senator Joseph McCarthy. What you may not know, but should, is that his evil legacy has been passed down to us through Donald Trump.
Monday’s New York Daily News opinion page contains an article by Arthur Browne entitled “The devil in Donald: How the ghost of ‘evil’ Roy Cohn lives on inside Trump“. Robert Reich cited that article in his own post concerning Trump’s public disdain for the courts and for judges who dare to disagree with him, commenting: “To understand Trump’s strategy, you have to understand his mentor, Roy Cohn, who trained Trump to abuse the legal system, intimidate opponents with personal smears, issue big lies repeatedly to confuse the public, and manipulate the press.”
The Donald Trump – Roy Cohn connection is not, in fact, news. As I noted in my comment today to Reich’s post, The New York Times and other papers were writing about the Trump-Cohn connection back in June 2016. See the June 20 New York Times article by Jonathan Mahler and Matt Flegenheimer titled ” What Donald Trump Learned From Joseph McCarthy’s Right-Hand Man.”
I found it appalling during the primary and election campaigns that the obvious influence of Cohn on Trump was not pounced on by Trump’s opponents and by the press. I have posted on the issue several times but it can’t be pointed out too often. As the cited articles make clear, and as was no secret to those who experienced Cohn first-hand, Cohn wrote the book for the sort of unprincipled sleaze that Trump has embraced – no lie was too shameful, no tactic too despicable as long as it worked. As red-baiting assistant to Joe McCarthy, Cohn began his career destroying the lives of decent men. He carried on his career as a powerful and feared attorney for decades in New York until he was finally disbarred. And, as best I can tell, he taught Trump everything he knows. The real question is how did these facts never take hold in the public consciousness and in the media? How could Trump, replicating the Cohn tactics in the public eye, have gone on to receive a single vote? That he did and that he continues to command a legion of supporters is both an American tragedy and an American shame.