Cohen testifies on his life in the gutter.

But there's a light for Republicans at the end of the sewer tunnel.

We’ve all known the type. The sharpies. The wiseguys. They’re always so very clever, the smartest in room, boasting (but in whispers) over cocktails how they cut corners here and there, finagled taxes, hoodwinked banks, fudged applications, stroked politicians (with money to all sides) to get some sweet deals unavailable to mortals.

Yet, they don’t seem to be that bright. Maybe there’s street-smarts there. But no intellect. We wonder whether to take them seriously. There must be more to the story. Can such mediocre talent have really found the key to the good life? And, if their tales of life on the edge are true, how long before they’ll fall off? (And poetic justice be done.)

“Whiplash Willie” was Torts Class’s proverbial ethics-free lawyer who’d always take the case, although the plaintiff’s story didn’t add up, feigned the injury or brought it on himself. Even after the law professor warned that if no one else would grab for the potential windfall fees, there would always be Willie, to take that food off our table – most of the class piously vowed not to become Willie.

But there’s sometimes in law school a Michael Cohen. And, in biz school, a Donald Trump. Amoral. Out to “win” – whatever it is, just “win.” Beat out others. Get over on them. The Cohen and Trump types suffer no moral dilemma in being Willie.

They find each other, gravitate toward each other. The small-mass Cohen falls into the orbit of a planet Trump (huge, gaseous). Well-compensated beyond even his immodest law-school expectations, Cohen strides the world on Jovian missions, to amass even more for the Empire (Organization), or to bully, threaten, bury some potential embarrassment to its prodigious vanity.

Throwing around large sums of money (and taking some home, too) is “intoxicating” (Cohen’s word). It numbs the worry that becoming so entirely dependent on the whims of one patrone is precarious – not only financially, but legally. All was well while it remained under the streets, though, while nobody paid much attention to the goings-on down in the gutters: the garden variety tax evasions, the cooking of books, the self-serving and inconsistent financial claims, the stiffing of contractors, the “charitable” foundation machinations.

Until November 2016 focused a beam into the sewer, and the accumulated sludge came to light. Cohen and Trump had been down there together, kindred spirits, symbiotic, the warp and weft of a fabric of sleaze.

Neither has the character worthy of high public office, public trust.

But that’s not really news.

Trump’s paramount achievement, occurring that November day in ‘16, was sparing the country from Hillary. He was the only one who could beat Hillary, and Hillary was the only Democrat he could beat. Mission accomplished.

Trump can still make further progress with North Korea on nukes, with China on predatory trade, with Congress on border security and immigration reform, on normalizing the federal judiciary. But others can now take those efforts forward, and bear less baggage.

The danger in protracting a Trump administration is a relapse to the Left. The vaunted Trump Base will likely hold – their strong stomachs able and willing to forgive the sleaze, maybe even revel in Trump’s in-their-face attitude.

But too much of the middle, the blue-collar heartland, may not. The “yuck” factor may keep them home, especially women. It’s embarrassing to vote affirmatively for such a low-life, and have to explain it to friends and family. Meanwhile, the Democrats won’t repeat Hillary’s mistake of ignoring those blue collar swing states.

Trump can lose. (And take the Senate down, too.)

To prevent a Left snapback – and these Leftists are farther out than even Hillary was – Republicans need a ticket that retains the base, entices the “never-Trumpers” back to the fold, and doesn’t disgust the non-Left Democrats, who agree with Trump’s message that socialism is not the future, but cringe over the messenger.

Republicans – luckier than they deserve to be – actually have such a ticket that’s balanced by race, by gender, by geography, by religion -- “trumping” the Democrats’ identity-politics card.

So . . . Let Trump declare victory, proclaim that he’s already finished the job . . . American is already great again! . . . He doesn’t need a second term. Which leaves the Republicans to nominate –

Mike Pence and Nikki Haley.

R. L.

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