Remember the Cretan liar paradox? Epimenides the Cretan says ‘All Cretans are liars.’ But if it is true that all Cretans are liars, then his statement must be false. But if it is false, then Epimenides is telling the truth.
So, Epimenides is both truthful and a liar. Ouch.
There are solutions to this paradox—for example, to say that ‘all Cretans are liars’ does not entail that they all lie all the time — but what are we to make of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, emphasis on the word ‘former’?
Cohen is being measured for his orange jumpsuit in preparation for his sojourn in the Big House as a guest of the government. His tort? Lying to Congress.
But now hear this: he has just gone before Congress to deliver a statement apologizing for lying to Congress and, cross his heart and hope to die, unloading the raw, unvarnished truth about his former boss, D. Trump, so help him God.
He’s sorry he lied to Congress, to the American people, when he defended his former boss.
But now that he is slated for prison, he has come back to tell the plain truth about the low-down no-good guy he used to work for.
Oh, and Mr Cohen loves his wife and daughter. He wants us to know that. He’s really, really sorry he let them down. He’s not perfect. He knows that. [Cue the violins.]
But Donald Trump: he’s the really bad man. Michael Cohen was ‘mesmerized’ by his Svengali-like spell. He couldn’t help himself. Donald Trump drew him into his orbit and dazzled him, a spider luring an insect to his doom.
Really, it was all Donald Trump’s fault. From the very beginning, Cohen said — telling the truth, this time, really — Donald Trump based his campaign for the presidency on ‘a platform of hate and intolerance.’ Somehow, Michael Cohen got hold of the Bill Kristol-Max Boot deck of cards. He played them all in his new statement, one after the next:
- Donald Trump is a racist.
- Donald Trump is a conman.
- Donald Trump is a cheat.
The President doesn’t care about the American people, Cohen said. All he ever wanted was to enhance his ‘brand’: ‘The campaign — for him — was always a marketing opportunity.’
That’s not all. ‘Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation – only to market himself and to build his wealth and power.’
No one has had the temerity to ask Cohen why, if that were true, the President’s net worth has declined by more than $1 billion while the the US economy is on fire, the market is booming, unemployment is at historic lows, and small businesses are multiplying like mushrooms.
Throughout this pathetic statement, Michael Cohen whines for sympathy, for understanding, for ‘redemption,’ while heaping abuse on the man who employed him for more than a decade. He has no proof of any collusion between Donald Trump and the Russians, but he has ‘suspicions.’ Once, he saw the president’s son whisper to him in his office and then — are you sitting down? — Trump said ‘OK good…let me know.’
Cohen’s oily statement is a tissue of pointless allegations and breathless insinuations into which are mixed squeaky pleas for absolution. According to Cohen, the President once arranged for someone to bid at auction on a portrait of himself. Yes, OK. And the point is — what? That Donald Trump is vain? Didn’t we know that already? Maybe he has a lot to be vain about.
Let’s travel back to Crete. Cohen says ‘I have lied, but I am not a liar. I have done bad things, but I am not a bad man.’ Does that wash? In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle points out that only a blockhead believes that our character is not formed by our actions. We become brave by doing brave acts, for example. Mutatis mutandis, we become liars by lying, bad men by committing bad acts. Presumably Michael Cohen understands this, which is one of the reasons his latest statement is as repulsive as it is incredible.