I’m sure by now you’ve heard about and perhaps are considering reading John Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened.” A behind-the-scenes insight into the goings on at the White House as run by president Trump, Bolton paints our illustrious president as a one-of-a-kind individual, whose sole purpose and goal right now is not the health and welfare of our nation, but rather, staying in office for another term.
When you watch or listen to President Trump speak, you have to pretty much take it all with a grain of salt. According to him, the only reason there is an uptick in the coronavirus numbers in our country is because of increased testing. He actually said that “smaller testing” would help the U.S. show fewer cases. No kidding. It more and more falls to those around him to explain, dismiss or otherwise clarify presidential statements like that because on the surface, they appear to make our president seem … well … less than presidential.
Admire him or not, Donald John Trump has to be one of the most fascinating characters ever to hold the highest office in the land. The questing is, how did Donald Trump become Donald Trump? From whence came his over-the-top personality, his callousness and his seeming inability to be honest and straightforward with the American public — or any public for that matter? Well, I think I may have a clue.
If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you watch the TV documentary, “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” During his formative years as the son of a billionaire New York developer, Donald Trump was taken in hand and guided by Cohn, who had made his bones as a young assistant U.S. attorney and whose claim to fame was the prosecution and conviction of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for espionage in the early 1950s. In that case, Cohn later admitted to a number of conversations with the trial judge outside of the presence of the Rosenberg lawyers — a serious ethical breach. And a hint of things to come.
Subsequently, Cohn was actually in court as a defendant as much as he was a prosecutor — indicted four times on charges ranging from extortion and blackmail to bribery, conspiracy, securities fraud and obstruction of justice. He was however, acquitted in each instance — and with each acquittal, he behaved more and more as if he were somehow a super-patriot who was above the law. This was the Cohn who became Trump’s mentor.
Cohn’s approach to criticism and accusation was steadfast. No matter how damning the evidence against you, always claim victory — never admit defeat and always attack your accuser. Lie and keep lying until your detractors give up. Trump took that advice to heart from his first connection to Cohn. The late columnist Liz Smith once wrote: “Donald Trump lost his moral compass when he made an alliance with Roy Cohn.”
Cohn died in 1986 at age 59. But even in death he adhered to his policy of lying through it all. When he became too ill to hide it any longer, he announced he was dying of liver cancer. In truth, Cohn died of AIDS, but by then, he had fully indoctrinated Donald Trump into the art of being “The Donald”. And now, The Donald is our president and runs the room where it all happens.
Frank V. Furino is a former TV writer/producer, a current board member of SafeHouse of the Desert and faculty member of the local Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.