Donald Trump is spending the week in Florida recharging the batteries at Mar-a-Lago, and who could begrudge him a rare golfing break? The last few days have been action-packed even for him.
Many leaders of the free world would be content with either a) celebrating a gesture bombing raid on Syria as “mission accomplished”, in absolute ignorance of that phrase’s resonance; b) repeatedly calling the former FBI director he sacked a “slimeball”; c) humiliating his UN ambassador by letting her announce that new sanctions against Russia were imminent, and reneging on that within hours; or d) implying that the Feds’ raid on his lawyer’s office is up there with Pearl Harbour in terms of days that forever live in infamy, by identifying it as “an attack on our country”.
For Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, any of the above might have sated the appetite for traditional statesmanship. For the titan who with God’s grace will eventually join them on Mount Rushmore, that barrage barely scratches the surface. No surprise there. When it comes to delivering new ways of entertaining his audience, his fecundity is limitless.
If it’s also rather derivative, he cannot be blamed for that. The intense pressure to keep the show fresh with new story lines and supporting characters obliges him to search the canon of modern American TV drama for inspiration.
Until recently, he was happy sticking by and large to The Sopranos. In his earliest days, some cultural critics toyed with The Godfather as the reference point. With Eric and Donald locked in deathly battle to be cast as Don Corleone’s imbecile son Fredo, you could see that.
But this Don, being the bastard child of television, lacks his cinematic namesake’s gravitas and fierce (if warped) morality. The Mooch’s marathon stint in charge of comms, and succession of (alleged) gumars to flit across the screen since, removed all doubt that the Trump presidency was based primarily on HBO’s New Jersey mobsters.
Thanks to one of those (alleged) gumars, Stormy Daniels, Breaking Bad finally joins the party. The setting was a court hearing about the confidentiality of material seized from Michael Cohen, the wildly philanthropic attorney who paid Daniels $130,000 (£909,000) from his own pocket, he says, to stay silent about the coupling with Trump that never took place.
Until then, the Breaking Bad character on whom Cohen seemed modelled was Mike Ehrmantraut, the morose ex-cop who cleaned up nasty messes for the meth lord Gus Fring.
Apart from Trump and one other whose identity remained a secret until Monday, Cohen’s only client was one Elliot Broady, a Republican hack on whose behalf he bought the silence of a pregnant onetime Playboy playmate, for a bargain $1.6m.
The mystery third client, it emerged in court, is Sean Hannity, star of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News. For once, the foghorn who dominates cable news ratings by spewing out inventive theories (Obama was born in Kenya, the Clintons are serial killers, etc) can find no hint of a conspiracy in the fact that he shares Cohen’s scandal laundering services with the president whose most zealous cheerleader he is.
In fact, he denies sharing Cohen with Trump and the other guy all. Hannity was never a client, he insists. All he did was ask his old friend Michael for property advice. He vaguely recalls slipping ten bucks into Cohen’s pocket, but that was only to guarantee client-attorney privilege.
As any sensible non-client would do before casually picking a mate’s brains about best how to purchase a condo within a shanked fairway wood of the Mar-a-Lago clubhouse.
The Twiterati, unfairly of course, recalled that this mirrored the Breaking Bad storyline in which lawyer Saul Goodman told Walter White to slip him a dollar for the same reason. It would be outrageous, indefensible, utterly egregious, as the bombastic Cohen might put it, to compare him too closely with Saul.
For one thing, there’s no evidence he ever changed his name, as Goodman did (from Jimmy McGill) on the assumption that clients would trust a Jewish attorney more than one of Irish extraction.
In any case, this is a guy who is honest to a fault. “If somebody does something Mr Trump doesn’t like,” he told ABC News in 2011, “I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr Trump’s benefit. If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck, and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.” Quite the Atticus Finch.
We’ll find out soon enough whether Robert Mueller can flip Cohen into helping him resolve things to Mr Trump’s non-benefit.
In the meantime, have you had an accident involving faulty equipment, a porn star, a burst condom, or even allegedly a couple of weak-bladdered hookers in a Moscow hotel bedroom?
If so, better call Mike!