The full spectrum of Republican behavior has been on display this week. Michael Cohen (no relation, save in the most distant possible sense) ratted out his former boss Donald Trump in a spectacularly revealing piece of congressional testimony. Representative Matt Gaetz, the self-described “outspoken conservative firebrand” from Florida, threatened Cohen (by tweet, of course) with revelations of marital infidelity. When reminded that this could be construed as witness tampering, he pulled the tweet. The vast majority of House Republicans lined up to vote against a resolution rejecting President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency. And 13 Republicans, including Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin—like Gaetz, a second-term representative—voted in favor of it.
Cohen is not the most pathetic specimen of Republican. He was a little grifter hopelessly, shamelessly attempting to make something of himself by attaching his person to a really big grifter. His testimony is one long recitation of Trump’s scams, bigotry, payoffs, and lies. And possibly worse, of a dirty-tricks campaign in the 2016 election coordinated with a foreign power.
Cohen’s contrition is forcefully put: Whether they are his words or those of his lawyer, one cannot tell. But he gave the impression of having retained enough decency, despite a career of emptying the chamber pots of the Trump Organization, to evince some sense of shame. Perhaps it is the shadow of the Holocaust that darkened his father’s early life; perhaps it is affection for a family that he admits he betrayed; perhaps it is a spark of the moral sense that can survive a career of abasement.