Column: Michael Cohen found his inner Nancy Pelosi. Will other Trump loyalists follow?
Swearing disloyalty to President Trump has debuted as a dramatic set piece for 2019. Ideally, this disloyalty-swearing aria is performed in Milanese street style: Armani sunglasses and a dashing mid-weight boule-shaped burnt orange coat from Max Mara.
On Tuesday, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi wore this ensemble for a victory stroll, having called Trump’s universe of bluffs in an Oval Office improv show before a White House press pool audience.
Also present in the president’s sanctum sanctorum were bemused-but-firm Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and deer-in-the-headlights Vice President Mike Pence.
May those — in the electorate, the Congress and the West Wing alike — who have been blinded like Cohen once was, open their eyes.
Schumer’s marked deference to Pelosi, as well as the way he elicited a full-throated shutdown threat from Trump, won him praise in a supporting role. But it was Pelosi who stole the show, and Pence’s look of utter stultification made it clear she’d vanquished him too, a proxy for Trump’s remaining loyalists.
By lying at a jackhammer pace and volume, Trump brings shame on his apologists. Now, whenever they so much as grunt in his defense, they also forfeit their last crumbs of dignity.
Of Pelosi’s many steely rejoinders to the president, the best — to my ear — was “then go do it.” This was her rebuke to Trump when he blustered that he could get his wall fantasia passed in the House in “two seconds.”
“Go do it,” she reiterated.
Trump offered that he was resolved to shut down the government if he didn’t get his big rock candy wall. He said he’d accept the blame — “take the mantle.” Some seconds passed. The House, of course, passed nothing. The threat of a Trump-branded shutdown hung in the air as the quartet adjourned.
Trump says his base would revolt if he were impeached. That he would unleash fire and fury on North Korea if it didn’t bend to his ironless will. That, most preposterously, he would somehow jail his bogeywoman, Hillary Clinton.
Of course, the president doesn’t keep his promises; the world knows that. But he doesn’t keep his threats either.
Pelosi’s bedrock confidence was gorgeous. She knows beyond doubt that Trump is chronically overplaying his hand, which seems increasingly to contain nothing but a royal straight of indictments.
She told Trump: “You will not win” on the wall. She said of his claims: “That is devoid, frankly, of fact.”
These are words — you’re a loser and a liar — that many less brave soldiers of our state have uttered only behind his back. (Looking at you, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.)
On Instagram, Max Mara, the Italian fashion house, announced it was reissuing the Pelosi coat, which, according to its marketing copy, “represents lasting values and projects both personal strength and glamour.”
(Pelosi, whose mother was born in Campobasso, Italy — the knife-making capital of the world — is the first Italian American to lead a major party in Congress.)
Michael Cohen didn’t make anything like Pelosi’s fashion splash when he took his own stroll — a perp walk, not a victory lap — this week. Poor fellow. The only garment that’s going to be associated with him, in the three-year prison sentence he received Wednesday for covering up Trump’s crimes, is a poly-cotton jumpsuit.
But he had his moments of triumph too. He has now said again and again that Trump ordered him to break campaign finance laws, overseeing the payoff of two of his nude model mistresses (allegedly), whose testimony, he knew, could hurt his chances at the presidency.
Shifty as Cohen still looks, he seems to feel authentic relief at having finally, finally defied Trump. On “Good Morning America” on Friday, when George Stephanopoulos asked Cohen how he felt about his sentence, he said: “Like I have my freedom back.”
He didn’t exactly seem free. His eyes — framed in the broken capillaries and violet half-moons of a man who’s been doing more crying than sleeping — could have used some Armani shades.
But at least he was getting it straight as Pelosi had: Trump is an inveterate liar. And he shouldn’t impress or intimidate anyone anymore.
In so many words in his court filings, and directly on TV, Cohen finally spoke the words his concerned family must have been longing to hear: “I am done being loyal to President Trump.” At last, for heaven’s sake.
In his broken, jail-bound way, Cohen has provided the opening lines for a narrative that might help other Trump loyalists make a coherent exit from the Trump syndicate. Why men who hadn’t been knocked unconscious or chloroformed ever let Trump put their heads in vises, we may never know.
When Stephanopoulos asked Cohen, “Do you know why you were loyal to him at the beginning?” Cohen didn’t have an answer. He didn’t have a script. He seemed stuck, silent as Pence, in some sclerotic, traumatized part of his brain.
“No,” he said. “No.” All he could come up with is that it was “blind loyalty.”
Let’s call the antidote finding your inner Pelosi. And may those — in the electorate, the Congress and the West Wing alike — who have been blinded like Cohen once was, open their eyes. It shouldn’t take the prospect of prison time to get you to liberate yourself from catastrophic, Cohen-scale delusions.
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