As I watched Michael Cohen testify before the House Oversight Committee, I heard the voices of my late parents:
“A fixer for Donald Trump whose last name is Cohen. First Roy Cohn with H.U.A.C. and now this…What has being Jewish in America come to?”
“This is a shonda for the goyim!”
“Another Cohen has betrayed the ideals of the priestly class.”
“The ghosts of Richard Nixon, Roy Cohn, and Joe McCarthy still walk the earth.”
“Cross-nailed and in the cross hairs for helping America elect a fascist by keeping his secrets. Only now, when he’s going to jail, this man has regrets?”
When I was growing up, my father, a sixth grade teacher and ex-soldier (U.S. Army Captain, World War II) always recommended books for me to read. There was “Shogun”, “Marjorie Morningstar”, and perhaps most importantly, “The Godfather.” As I didn’t see the award-winning films until many years later (and, thus, was unaware of the need to leave guns and take the cannoli”), it was my good fortune to have Mario Puzo’s wonderful novel for moral guidance in other areas. As a parent, political scientist, and public education advocate, I’d recommend “The Godfather” be taught in our high schools and university Political Science courses. Aren’t young people in the process of deciding which individuals and ideals deserve their love and loyalty? Doesn’t this novel merit a place beside “Democracy in America” and “The Prince?”
Listening to Michael Cohen’s testimony, I remember from “The Godfather” about how Don Vito Corleone paid for his adopted son Tom Hagen (later his “Consigliori”) to attend law school, and stated that “a lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.” When Michael Cohen spoke about his ten years of experience working for the Trump Organization, his words underscored the concept of “Cosa Nostra”, “Our World”, and the idea that extreme wealth and power could create a protected sphere for personal enrichment beyond the arm of the law. The revelation that Michael Cohen had lied to the First Lady on behalf of the President, reminded me about the dispatch of Tom Hagen to New Hampshire, in a successful attempt at persuading Don Michael Corleone’s estranged wife, Kay Adams Corleone, to return to New York. As Chairman Elijah Cummings acknowledged that Michael Cohen would be considered “a rat” for telling the truth about the president, I noted how a criminal loyalty oath/code of silence, the social construct of “Omerta`”, had become deeply embedded in our political life. When Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings spoke prophetically about the innocent people harmed by the actions of Michael Cohen, particularly his family, I recalled the plight of Mario Puzo’s vulnerable female characters.
In “The Godfather”, Michael Corleone flees to Sicily after executing a corrupt police captain and a drug kingpin who sought to assassinate his father, The Don. After Michael disappears, there’s a memorable conversation between his mother and Kay Adams, his (then) abandoned girlfriend from New Hampshire. When Kay’s visit to the Corleone family compound in Long Beach concludes, Mrs. Corleone kisses her on the cheek in farewell and advises:
“You forget about Mikey, he no the man for you anymore.”
Kay Adams now knows the truth: Michael Corleone, the handsome young man from Dartmouth College that she loved and trusted, is a murderer. In Mario Puzo’s words, she “has been told by the most unimpeachable source: his mother.”
Last week, we were told the truth about President Trump – the liar, con man, racist, and crook – from the person best situated to know the full magnitude of his despicable, illicit glory. So, America: No more excuses from House Republicans, Senate Republicans, or FOX apologists. When it comes to Michael Cohen, we need to listen to his warnings about presidential character, especially about the dangers of autocracy. As for my fellow citizens who voted for Donald Trump and genuinely hoped that he would make America a better country: It’s time to join forces with your friends and neighbors and send him on his way before 2020. Resignation? Impeachment? Elba? He’s not the man for you anymore.