“He may be an SOB, but at least he’s our SOB.”
That’s a famous quote attributed to FDR, who was allegedly speaking of a certain Latin American dictator. I’ve thought of it as I’ve watched our president’s supporters eviscerate Michael Cohen, who was once Donald Trump’s SOB.
There’s a big difference in the analogy, however. FDR knew that the tinhorn dictator (often reported as either Anastasio Somoza or Rafael Trujillo) was a scoundrel; he didn’t need the dictator to betray him to expose his nefariousness. Michael Cohen, to the contrary, has been a man of obvious low character from the beginning. We all should have seen it.
Back in February 2016, I wrote an article for The American Spectator titled, “Trump and the Vulgarians at the GOP Gate.” It was a piece tough on Donald Trump that many dear readers haven’t forgiven me for, calling me everything from a village idiot to a “[bleeping] moron” (no doubt an excellent judgment). To some readers, I remain unforgiven even as I’ve done penance by since writing largely on the sins of liberalism and of Donald Trump’s enemies. My particular concern expressed in that piece, however, was some of the unsavory characters that Trump had surrounded himself with and relied upon. Some were political sell-outs, hit-men, bullies — individuals of very low character, trampling and smearing anyone in the way. As a case in point, I highlighted a fellow named Michael Cohen.
What had really pushed me over the edge was an exchange I had caught on Sean Hannity’s radio show one Friday afternoon that February. It was the height of the GOP primary battle. The obnoxious voice I heard was a Trump campaign guy, Michael Cohen, who was touted as Trump’s right-hand man, his “wingman,” almost like a son to Donald Trump. There he was: aggressive, insulting, rude — tearing into the spokespersons for Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who did their best to react in a civil way, trying not to be pulled into Cohen’s gutter.
Michel Cohen was unhinged. And who was he unleashing himself upon? He was trashing two good conservatives with bright futures in the movement and in the Republican Party. He was lambasting them because they were opposing his boss. I winced as I listened.
“Nobody wants them,” sneered Cohen, speaking of Cruz and Rubio, two men with lifetime American Conservative Union rankings of 100% and 98% (respectively). The Trump spokesman let loose his classic scorched-earth rhetoric. I was worried that Cohen’s language was so over the top that he could so damage Cruz and Rubio that they might never win their Senate seats again let alone beat Hillary if they got the nomination.
I had never heard anything like it. It wasn’t the typical give-and-take jousting you hear among party rivals during primaries. This was a thick-New York-accented vulgarian, spouting vitriol and nonsense.
Ronald Reagan’s “11th Commandment” was “Thou Shall Not Speak Ill of Another Republican.” Here was Cohen violating that principle in spades. Actually, in a way, Cohen wasn’t violating it at all, given that he wasn’t a Republican, let alone a conservative. As I noted in my column, Trump’s wingman was a lifetime Democrat who voted for Barack Obama, was a chum of Ted Kennedy, and had campaigned in 1988 for Michael Dukakis.
That’s what made the fusillade by the attacker even worse.
As I listened, I begged Sean Hannity, yelling at my radio, to stop this smear artist. “Sean, please! Please! Don’t let this guy get away with this! This is outrageous.”
Sean didn’t stop him. He gave the full floor to Cohen.
Now, here we are in 2019, and Michael Cohen is on his way to prison, and a long line of supporters of President Trump who cheered on Cohen when the lifetime liberal was torching conservatives have now turned fully against Cohen. He’s no longer Trump’s boy but Trump’s rat.
The reality is that this was always a bad guy. And when he was Donald Trump’s wingman during the campaign, or his spear-thrower, he had a toxic effect. Trump’s staff today at the White House is angelic by comparison, full of anti-Cohens. I know many of them. They are principled conservatives, not Democrat turncoats. They are charitable and kind, not mean-spirited and uncivil. They seek to bring out the best in Donald Trump, not incite the worst. They’ve helped him make great court picks and even become an ardent defender of religious liberty and unborn human life — something Michael Cohen had utterly no interest in. If you had told me in 2015 that Donald Trump would be a president solidly committed to the cause of religious freedom and the sanctity and dignity of human life, I would have told you to stop smoking pot. But such wonders can happen when presidents are surrounded by people committed to bringing out the best rather than the worst.
As for Michael Cohen, he has now retreated to the Democrats again. Now he’s the Democrats’ SOB. In 2016, he wielded the knife with delight at his boss’s opponents. Today he turns the blade toward his erstwhile boss, and he cuts loose a stream of nasty accusations against Donald Trump rather than against the likes of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. He does so with a platform much larger than Sean Hannity’s radio show.
He may prove to be the president’s Brutus.
“He may be an SOB,” one can imagine a grinning Jerry Nadler or Chuck Schumer saying of Cohen, “but at least he’s now our SOB.”
What remains to be seen is whether Michael Cohen’s antics and damage in 2016 will remain largely affixed to himself in a prison cell or will ultimately take down the president who once counted on him as a loyalist.