Award-Winning Playwright Finds Trump Worse Than His Play’s Villain

Roy Marcus Cohn was the chief hatchet man for Senator Joseph McCarthy, and he went even further than the Senator in practicing thuggish and unprincipled tactics. Because of such behavior, Cohn had drawn the wrath of both right and left.

For conservatives, Cohn, with his bullying and baseless methods, damaged the cause of anti-Communism for decades. For liberals, Cohn was a Bill of Rights-shredding hypocrite; who, despite being gay, hunted down and purged the government of homosexuals.

Since his death in the 1980s, Cohn has since had a considerable after-life in popular culture. James Woods portrayed Cohn as a hyperactive fascist who used his powers to secure more romantic time with fellow staffer David Schine, then in the Army; which assured the Army-McCarthy hearings that took both he and McCarthy down.

By far the most famous depiction, however, has been his deathbed appearance in playwright Tony Kushner’s Angels in America; a Reagan-era play about the AIDS epidemic.

In the play, Kushner depicted Cohn as a hate-spouting homophobe who at the same time had for decades engaged in homosexual cruising. By far, the horrific Cohn was the takeaway character from the play.

But the playwright has found a figure who he considers so cracked and villainous that he makes Cohn look good by comparison: President Donald Trump.

Kushner is so outraged that the American people put this “borderline psychotic” into office that he intends to write a play with Trump as the central character. The play will deal with Trump before assuming the presidency in order to focus on this “seriously mental ill” character who Kushner finds worse than Cohnand even worse than the president that galvanized the playwright into writing Angels. Of the latter, Cohn said that President Ronald Reagan “was really disgusting too, but not as venal” as Trump. As for Cohn, Kushner locates the difference between the red-baiting homophobe and the “madman and crazy” Trump in the character issue:

“The difference between Trump and Cohn—for all the malevolence and disturbance Roy was capable of—is that he was also capable of genuine loyalty and an affectional constancy. People he knew and cared about he stayed loyal to for decades.”

Kushner even defended Cohn against leftist hatred toward the latter. In response to a venomous Nation magazine obituary, Kushner attacked this flagship paper for the anti-anti-communist left for being homophobic, and even causing the playwright to have sympathy for Cohn:

“It linked gay men and fascism, it talked about what Roy’s body looked like at the end of his life. I had friends in similar conditions. Up to that point I had thought of Roy as the devil; from then on I had sympathy for the devil.”

Kushner nevertheless asserts that Cohn tutored Trump (Cohn once served as a lawyer and adviser to Trump) in the “Big Lie” method pioneered by Joseph Goebbels:

“{Cohn taught Trump} to occupy a grey area of wall…What both share is McCarthy’s belief that you shouldn’t be a small, nervous liar. Make it huge, and never admit it, even if people might scream in your face it about it being a lie. In the immediate moment, bend reality around what you say. Whether you are discovered, come up with an even bigger one.”

But Cohn did not have the disconnect with reality that Trump has:

“I don’t know when Trump lies—about the size of his inauguration crowd, winning the popular vote—if he is aware of it. Maybe sometimes he is, sometimes he isn’t. I didn’t have the sense with Roy that he lost sight of where the divide between fantasy and reality lay, which Trump does I think.”

Kushner doesn’t accuse Trump of being a sincere homophobe, however. He said that Trump doesn’t have “a particular animus to gay and trans people, but he has an appalling indifference. So when it comes to people like Jeff Sessions and Betsy DeVos he doesn’t do anything when it comes to things like the rescinding of the Obama directive on trans students. Trump needs their applause, and he is particularly needy for it now.”

As with Cohn, Kushner condemns hypocrisy on the right, specifically that the behavior of the “white evangelicals” who helped put Trump into the White House:

“[Trump’s victory] showed a majority of white evangelicals did not care about the behavior of a president that doesn’t seem that Christian. Donald Trump is the antithesis of everything Jesus preached in the Sermon on the Mount.”

Ron Capshaw is a Senior Contributor to The Liberty Conservative from Midlothian, Va. His work has appeared in National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the American Spectator.

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