When Roy Cohn schooled Donald Trump the two men were inseparable. Donald was the more enthused of the two. When Cohn was dying of AIDS, Trump cut him off. Cohn could not believe it. Trump is a germaphobe. Cohn was deserting him. Personal ties are expendable. Whatever the reason, Trump was gone. Trump believes he is the most loving soul on the planet.

Today's lead story in the New York Times reflects on Trump's disdain for naive moralizing. Even in the face of a terrible attack in Syria involving chemicals, Sean Spicer, speaking for the president, says it is pointless to carp.

“We would look like, to some degree, rather silly not acknowledging the political realities that exist in Syria,” Spicer said.

Preachy is a problem

In one sense this is refreshing. Those of us who incline more toward the preachy are well-advised to recognize the points at which reality is not amenable to good impulses however well meant. Trump doubtless believes that his toughness serves a good purpose. If you ask what purpose, he says something about making America great again. He may see himself as the reincarnation of the great Prince Metternich who almost single-handedly created European unity after the devastation caused by the Napoleonic wars.

A certain salience

This analysis may be strange but there are a few things that make it salient.

You catch in Trump's language the notion of creating a new frame for the existing relations among nations. The disruptive talk may have a certain design. His friends, the leaders of Egypt and China, recent and incipient visitors to Trump, share with Trump no instinctive love for democracy or human rights or of positive values of any sort, save as possible rhetorical flourishes.

Robustly is better

This is one reason why championing human rights and defending democracy needs a more robust posture than is common these days. Barack Obama almost had the balance, but not quite.

The Kennedys probably had it, at least in prospect. Eventually, the world needs to vest authority in each individual, not in giant nation-states. But to get to that point we need to be just as tough as Trump and call him out on clear contradictions in his so-called realpolitik.