Plunging into Michael Cohen’s book, “Disloyal,” I’m more intrigued by the account of his self-seduction than any of his politically-charged disclosures, at least so far. Besides, the really smarmy stuff will be scrapped over & gnawed on by all the big media dogs.
Instead, I was more struck by passages like this:
To an outsider, my attraction to Trump—or as I described it, my “obsession”—seemed to have its roots in money and power and my lust to possess these attributes, if even only by proxy. What other explanation was there for my starstruck, moth-to-the-flame compulsion to insinuate myself with a man so transparently problematic in myriad ways?
But I knew the real answer, for me and others in Trump’s world, and eventually for a significant percentage of the citizens of the United States.
The answer, I was coming to see, included something deeper than the obvious lures of money and power, though those were crucial factors. It was physical, emotional, not quite spiritual, but a deep longing and need that Trump filled for me.
Around Trump I felt excited, alive, like he possessed the urgent and only truth, the chance for my salvation and success in life. It was only the beginning of my tenure with Trump, but this day was etched on my soul—even as I gave that soul over to the man I worshipped, a word that wasn’t too extreme to describe the devotion I was starting to feel.
Trump could have quietly exited the building through a rear entrance, or in a car from the parking lot below, but he thrived on the attention the tourists and passers-by heaped on him. What was a cheap jolt of adrenaline for Trump, and a way of showing off to his new acolyte attorney, for me represented something mystical. . . .
Wow: “It was physical, emotional, not quite spiritual, but a deep longing and need that Trump filled for me. . . . the chance for my salvation . . . this day was etched on my soul—even as I gave that soul over to the man I worshipped . . . for me [it] represented something mystical. . . .“
There’s no sex here, no mobsters, crooked pols or real estate scams, not even profanity (though some might detect more than a whiff of blasphemy).
All that lurid stuff is in the book, for sure, But this turning point passage could have just as well be from the climactic altar call of a Billy Graham crusade in Madison Square Garden as a meeting with the Titan of Trump Tower who became an all-but supernatural figure for the wannabe fixer.
And there’s more:
Cohen: One of the more unusual aspects of working for the Trump Organization was how an entire floor of the Trump Tower was turned into a Hollywood sound stage for episodes of The Apprentice.
Trump would call me, in his gruff voice, like Don Corleone, and say I should come to the set to watch the proceedings. For days on end, I would sit in the control booth witnessing the antics, part of my job description that might give you a sense of how damn fun it could be working for the Trump Organization.
Yes, Trump yelled and screamed and bullied, and I was one of his favorite targets for derision and insults, and yes, he asked the impossible and required that no one around him ask any questions or doubt his word, and yes, much of what I did was morally and legally and ethically repulsive and soulless.
But you won’t understand the full picture unless you can grasp how incredibly entertaining it was not just to watch the insane spectacle of manipulation and debasement that constituted reality television at its highest level. I was part of the action, in on the joke, the recipient of Trump’s knowing winks and grins.
If Trump was playing the world for a ship of fools, a common denominator of confidence artists all through the ages, then at least I was his first mate, or, maybe more honestly, lackey.
After one long session, Cohen followed Trump back to the ground floor of Trump Tower, where the lobby was full of tourists:
The voyage from the elevator to the revolving door onto Fifth Avenue was perhaps one hundred feet, but Trump and I had barely moved a few feet when the crowd started closing in.
I remember this like it happened yesterday. Trump glanced in my direction, gave me his devilish grin and winked at me. He motioned for me to come closer as the masses started to jostle and push to get closer. When I was right next to him he whispered, “This is what Trump is all about.” . . .
it’s a cliche now to call Trump’s following a cult, but Cohen delivers a viscerally compelling testimony of how that happened, how it consumed him at the same time he was helping build its appeal. As he puts it:
It was kind of like the old joke—and I loved old jokes; I was a member of New York’s legendary private comedians’ club, The Friars Club, and often attended their celebrity roasts—where the circus worker is shoveling elephant shit and someone asks him why he doesn’t find a better job. What, he asks, and leave show business? That was me: shoveling shit but part of the show.
Yeah. Cohen did it so well that now we’re all now part of the show.
And if we’re going to get through, just about everybody will have to wield their own shovel.