Somebody needs to coin a neologism for an expired neologism, one like “Club Fed,” which at one time was a play on “Club Med,” and a popular invocation for a federal prison with white collar criminals in mind. Whatever the term these days, Michael Cohen is going to one of those – sort of. Oh sure, it includes tennis courts, bocce ball and rugelach in the commissary, as it inevitably did when the white in “white collar” wasn’t only just about the color of the collar, but the color of the skin of the inmate, too. But if Cohen thinks of his three year stint at the Federal Corrections Institute at Otisville, New York, as a kind of vacation with three hots and a cot and a stretch just long enough to accommodate work on his tell-all book, he can think again.
The folks at Otisville have a plan for every minute of every day of the next three years of Cohen’s life, and it doesn’t include writing, unless he wants to give up exercise and/or sleep. Nor does it include spending any of his well-earned celebrity capital. There are no celebrities at Otisville, and anybody who tries to make it otherwise is going to be one sorry inmate.
Nevertheless, I have a certain soft spot for people chastened by regret, as I genuinely believe Cohen is. Conversely, I simply cannot imagine, say, Mitch McConnell being anything but smugly indignant under the same circumstances. He certainly wouldn’t read out a statement of the kind Cohen read to the clambering press before being whisked away to prison. It went like this: “I hope that when I rejoin my family and friends that the country will be in a place without xenophobia, injustice and lies at the helm of our country. There still remains much to be told, and I look forward to the day where I can share the truth.”
How much of the truth will be left for Cohen to share when he gets out remains to be seen. Those old enough to remember what it was like when Nixon’s role in Watergate, and his subsequent obstruction of justice, was still an open question, know that sooner rather than later the truth came out. Most unsolved mysteries – apart, say, from the identity of “Deep Throat” and the content of the missing eighteen and a half minutes – didn’t remain mysteries very long.
Whatever Cohen has to say when he emerges from prison three years (or less) hence should certainly prove interesting. I look forward to hearing it. I doubt he will ever rehabilitate himself to the extent former Nixon special counsel John W Dean III has. But then, Dean was never, on his worst day, as unremittingly evil as Cohen on his best, so Cohen has a lot of ground to cover.
Even so, Michael Cohen’s hope that he will emerge from prison into a “place without xenophobia, injustice and lies,” is eerily reminiscent of Winston Smith’s dream of, “the place where there is no darkness,” in Orwell’s 1984. I hope for Cohen’s sake, and especially for the sake of the country, the realization of Cohen’s dream is a literal one, and not the metaphorical nightmare Orwell’s vision ironically turned out to be.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.