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Thomas Micchelli, “Roy Cohn” (2018), graphite of paper, 6 x 5.25 inches (courtesy of the artist)

The midterm election marks a turning point. It was not a split decision; the Senate’s momentary Republican majority is the result of a fluke in the electoral map. With the Democratic takeover of the House, the obscenities of the Trump regime will meet their first constitutiosnal check.

But committee gavels and subpoena powers can’t stop the continuing corruption of the judiciary, or prevent the perversion of executive authority, or cure a diseased body politic.

If the poison that has been leaching into the nation’s bloodstream since the 1950s can be given a name, it would be Roy Cohn. With his monumental talents as a manipulator, cheat, and liar, Cohn became the quintessential fixer whose shamelessness, malevolence, and hypocrisy are matched only by the improbable rise of his protégé, Donald Trump.

As a young Assistant US Attorney in New York, a job he landed through his father’s connections, Cohn boasted of helping to secure the death penalty in the espionage trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Moving to Washington on the recommendation of J. Edgar Hoover, he was hired by Senator Joseph McCarthy to serve as chief counsel for the infamous Army-McCarthy hearings on Communist infiltration in the State Department. A closeted homosexual, he became an architect of the Lavender Scare, which led to the ban on gays in the federal government. After McCarthy’s sham investigations ended in disgrace, Cohn moved back to New York, where he reinvented himself as a high-flying socialite and high-priced mob lawyer. In 1986, he was disbarred for egregiously unethical behavior; weeks later, he died penniless of AIDS, though he denied until the end that he had the disease.

“Where’s my Roy Cohn?”

The historic midterm turnout, reflecting permanent demographic shifts, has decisively rejected the dank nationalism, cosseted corruption, and heinous racism of the president and his henchmen. But it’s just a beginning. This week has also shown that Trump will not sink quietly into his own hollowness. The damage he is capable of wreaking as he grasps at the wind, howling for his protector, is incalculable. But whatever chaos is to come, one thing is certain: Roy Cohn is dead.

* * *

Editor’s Note: With the change in the political climate, Drawing in a Time of Fear & Lies will downshift from its current weekly schedule, reappearing whenever a voice needs to be heard.

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Thomas Micchelli

Thomas Micchelli is an artist, writer, and co-editor of Hyperallergic Weekend.

6 replies on “The Ghost of Roy Cohn”

  1. John PODESTA could play Roy COHEN and President [REDACTED] could be whats-his..the Hollywood guy..Baldwin..maybe Hanks >on broadway> but the Clintons, speaking of Ghosts and Caligula…
    Who could possibly play the clintons?

    1. *Checks user’s profile*
      “The 911 attacks were a global state terror operation permitted by the administr…”
      Nuff said

  2. I think it’s interesting that no one ever mentions Andy Warhol’s very close friendship with Roy Cohn.

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