They’re cheering Trump in Atlanta, cheering him in Monroe, La.

This is the world of TV that Neil Postman warned about in Amusing Ourselves to Death, now taken over the whole American brain and nervous system, our national politics. The system now seems to have no memory, not even of the TV drama we saw 10 months ago. My memory ain’t so good any more either, and spending time with my father, whose memory gears are totally stripped, makes me wonder if I remember correctly that scene on CNN back in February.

Michael Cohen and Elijah Cummings caricatures by DonkeyHotey

That was when Michael Cohen, Trump’s “fixer” for 12 years, came clean in sworn testimony before the House Oversight Committee chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings. Cohen was a broken man, the very image at the heart of the gospel, confessed and empty and ready to begin to be a full human for the first time, humble, in tears, bearing witness. And Cummings was up there on the dais, the son of sharecroppers and a black Baptist, looking like a preacher, judging but sympathetic.

“If we as a nation did not give people an opportunity after they made mistakes to change their lives, a whole lot of people would not do very well,” Cummings said. He seemed to be rising to that heroic level that Sen. Sam Ervin of North Carolina attained during the Watergate hearings. “We are better than this,” he said. “We really are. As a country, we are so much better than this.”

Cohen sat silently listening to this sermon, and began to cry.

Cohen is spending three years in a federal prison now, forgotten. Elijah Cummings is dead, and seems forgotten.

Republicans now have joined hands to defend Trump against this impeachment inquiry. They are doing, in their own fashion, what Cohen warned them that he had done for so many years.

“Everybody’s job at the Trump organization is to protect Mr. Trump,” Cohen said.

“Every day, most of us knew, we were coming in, and we were going to lie for him. And that became the norm.”

Every day, the Republican have their talking points, their defenses for Trump. Back in February, against the dramatic scene that played out between Cohen and Cummings, their  defense was that Cohen admitted he had lied, over and over, so why should we believe him now?

That’s an interesting catch. If someone who has lied and lied and lied for his boss wants to come clean, what can he do? Confess. But he’s a liar. So his confession must be a lie.

“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” [Yossarian] observed. “It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.


Michael Cohen and Elijah Cummings caricatures by DonkeyHotey via Flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.

Doug Cumming

Doug Cumming

Doug Cumming worked for newspapers and magazines in Raleigh, Providence and Atlanta for 26 years before getting a Ph.D. in mass communication at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2002. Since then, he has taught at Loyola University in New Orleans and Washington & Lee University, where he is now a tenured associate professor of journalism. His first book, "The Southern Press: Literary Legacies and the Challenge of Modernity," has been published by Northwestern University Press. His father, Joe Cumming, was the Atlanta bureau chief for Newsweek magazine during the years of the Civil Rights movement.