by Irvin Muchnick
Surely I can’t be the first to observe the strange synchronicity of Donald Trump’s top legal mouthpieces as he staves off impeachment or prison or whatever it is that this crime family boss on borrowed time in the White House is staving off.
That Trump lawyer Ty Cobb has the same name as his distant relative Tyrus Raymond Cobb has been well remarked. The original Ty Cobb, the Georgia Peach, was baseball’s greatest player before Babe Ruth, and until 1984, the major leagues’ all-time leader in career hits. That Cobb also was a ground-floor investor in Coca-Cola and, I think it’s safe to say, clinically insane. He once played a game the same day he’d allowed a quack to perform a tonsillectomy on him without anesthetic. He bragged to his biographer Al Stump about killing a man with a knife.
Less widely publicized is that John M. Dowd, another featured White House counsel, was the baseball investigator who in 1989 busted Pete Rose — the player who broke Cobb’s record — for gambling on games. One of my sons told me it’s the same John Dowd. I looked it up and confirmed it.
With a strong trailwind from history, no one could seriously deny that Rose was guilty as sin. But Dowd, working for baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti, cut some disturbing corners. One of the reasons Rose stipulated to his ban from the sport was that the settlement agreement stated that there was no finding as to his guilt. Yet as soon as the ink was dry, Giamatti went in front of the cameras and recorded, repeatedly and at length, his “personal” view that Rose had gambled. These were sharp tactics best reserved for the prosecution of — oh, I don’t know, Kim Jong-un. Or Donald Trump.
I find the new-and-improved Ty Cobb refreshingly droll. He has a gray handlebar mustache and says the right, respectful things about special counsel Robert Mueller and his work. He gives off the vibe that he is a mercenary and knows it, and believes at some level that his service to Trump adds up to a service to the nation.
Drawing parallels with impeached president Richard Nixon, I see Cobb as similar to James St. Clair, the lawyer who was thrust into his role during that presidency’s final, disintegrating months. St. Clair said things like, “”I don’t represent Mr. Nixon personally. I represent him in his capacity as president.” And “Lawyers don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing cases in which they believe.”
In a funny new story from Slate by way of Business Insider, Cobb got into it on email with a noodle restaurant owner who was harassing him about working for Trump. Cobb said, “All deserve a defense.” Cobb said he wouldn’t “be here for long.” Cobb said, “Can say assertively the more adults in the room [we’ll] be better. Me and Kelly among others.” See http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/09/06/trump_lawyer_s_leaked_email_is_funny.html.
Dowd, on the other hand, comes off as just another Trump attack dog. He’s more like J. Fred Buzhardt, the ex-Strom Thurmond aide who was enlisted as a nakedly partisan pooh-pooher of the Watergate scandal that would bring down Nixon.
Last month, as the fascist march and murder in Charlottesville tore the country’s fabric in ways that its enablers will have to answer for to history, Dowd took time out to forward an email comparing Robert E. Lee to George Washington and arguing that Black Lives Matter “has been totally infiltrated by terrorist groups.” Neither had anything to do with allegations of his client’s corrupt financial dealings, collusion with Russia, or lies and obstruction of justice relating to same.
A guy with the name Ty Cobb is more sympathetic than John Dowd. Who knew?