In New York Magazine’s April 30-May 13, 2018 issue, Frank Rich writes about Roy Cohn, a corrupt, cynical, vicious man, and Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer, whose rise was nonetheless greased by New York establishment. Rich provides a look at his ascent and the Vichy Democrats and Republicans who enabled it, as well as the swamp at home that may need draining. Rich shared additional thoughts on Cohn, his relationship to Trump, and the genesis of Rich’s story with Press Room:
Roy Cohn had tumbled halfway into obscurity when the playwright Tony Kushner resurrected him as one of the great villains of the American stage in Angels in America in the early 1990s. In Angels and in history, Cohn has been known for two things: As Joe McCarthy’s sidekick in character assassination in early 1950s Washington and as a gay homophobe who died of AIDS some three decades later. In 2016, of course, Cohn was back in the headlines for a third feat of notoriety: he had been Donald Trump’s mentor in New York business and society in the 70s and 80s. Though much has been written about how Cohn taught Trump how to cheat, connive, and bully, it wasn’t until I saw Cohn again on stage in the new revival of Angels that I appreciated there was a less examined question raised by their symbiosis: How did men as outrageous as both Cohn and Trump flourish and gain power in New York for decades despite their vicious, even criminal, careers? Might there be Deplorables responsible who are not necessarily working-class, conservative, or even Republican, but are instead card-carrying elites in liberal Democratic Manhattan? That is the riddle I wanted to solve, and the story I was compelled to tell.