Monday, October 14, 2019

Where's My Roy Cohn?

When you see Matt Tyrnauer’s biopic Where’s My Roy Cohn? you may want to keep Machiavelli’s The Prince, Lao Tzu’s The Art of War and The Godfather in the back of your head. About the last, one of the movie’s points is that Roy Cohn was Trump’s godfather and provided the chrysalis of ruthlessness that informs the value- free politics of our current president.“Situationist ethics” is one of the phrases that's bandied about in the film, in reference to Cohn’s no holds bars form of representation in which the primary mode of defense was an attack. Cohn was the godfather to the mafia as well and succeeded in getting John Gotti a two year sentence for murder. However, as the movie shows, one of Cohn’s fortes was to form a bridge between the worlds of legitimate and illegitimate business. Yet like his protégé, Donald Trump, Cohn had his share of failures too. He brought down Fifth Avenue Coach Lines and Lionel trains. Remember Cohn was McCarthy’s counsel and right hand man and if the G. David Shine matter really catalyzed the Army/McCarthy hearings, as the film implies, then it was Cohn who provided the fuse for the Wisconsin senator's downfall. One of the most interesting vignettes of the film  has to do with the construction of Trump tower. Many builders were turning from the use of concrete, which was controlled by the mob, to structural steel. But Trump’s eponymous structure was constructed with concrete due to Cohn’s underworld connections. 200 undocumented Polish workers, whose wages would eventually be the subject of a legal suit, comprised the workforce responsible for the initial demolition of Bonwit Teller which previously occupied the site. “If I could have pulled the switch. I would have done it myself,” Cohn is quoted as saying about the Rosenberg executions. He also lived by Aristotle Onassis’s maxim, “you can never be too tan or too rich.” Part of his sociopathy might be attributed to his mother Dora who doted over her only child. At the family seder she preempted the answer to the “why is this night different from all other nights?” question by answering, “because the maid is dead in the kitchen"—which she was. Dora wasn’t going to stop the proceedings for anyone.

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