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William C. Altreuter
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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Years ago, when I was practicing in the Bronx more or less daily I used to regularly have dreams in which Roy Cohn was a frequent character. I really don't know to this day how Cohn took up residence in my subconscious, but there he was, seldom a lead character, but always in the background. I researched him, trying to figure out where he'd gotten in-- as it happened the Bronx is one of those places where there is seldom as much as three degrees of separation. Remo Acito, for whom I worked at the time, told me once that he'd done some small favor for Cohn, appearing in court to seek an adjournment, or some such, maybe in connection with the Lionel Train case? Cohn, as was his way, had tried to return the favor, but Remo declined- "I thought it was best to stay away from it," he said, and of course he was right.

And now he is back, although I suppose he never really left. Naturally he represented Donald Trump- the two belong together, like apple pie and ice cream. Now that the commentators have gotten their minds around the idea of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee it has become fashionable to speak of him as the inevitable culmination of something or other. Lots of people think Trump is the end result of Nixon's Southern Strategy, for example, and certainly that racial demagoguery is part of what I think is going on here-- but I think it goes deeper. Cohn embodied a peculiar dark side of American culture, probably extending back to Aaron Burr; the notion that in America any deal you can make is a deal you can profit from, and the best deal is the one where the other side takes all the risk. If that sounds familiar it's because you have been following this election. 

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