PRINT December 2019

Clout Theory

Senator Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn during the Army McCarthy hearings, Washington, DC, 1954.

ROY COHN’S NAME ECHOES in the bleakest twists and turns of twentieth-century history. He was the executioner of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, McCarthy’s right-hand man, and later, Trump’s personal lawyer. He introduced Ronald Reagan to Rupert Murdoch. In a final flourish of his natural talent for living ironically, he died of aids, in public, all the while maintaining it was cancer.

To the extent that collective histories are also the histories of the impasse of the psyche, Cohn’s desire, and his ambivalence about its public appearance, blew through American communism as a freezing-cold wind. In the documentary Where’s My Roy Cohn?, directed by Matt Tyrnauer, an interviewer manages an almost-direct question about the open secret of Cohn’s homosexuality. After a long pause, Cohn explains that the rumors can’t be true because he is a very aggressive person. Communism, for reasons that

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