Gary Cohn’s Demise

David Leonhardt* – The New York Times

Serve Donald Trump at your own risk. Being a top aide in his administration doesn’t usually work out well.

Some former advisers, like Michael Flynn, are in legal trouble. Others, like Sean Spicer and Anthony Scaramucci, became laughing stocks. Still others have tarnished once-sterling reputations.

Gary Cohn falls into the last category. Before working for Trump, Cohn had an underdog story good enough for a best-selling book. He overcame dyslexia, talked his way into a job at Goldman Sachs and rose to the No. 2 job at the firm.

Shortly after Trump’s election, Cohn accepted a job as the top White House economic adviser. He took it, everyone seems to understand, in the hope that Trump would later name him Federal Reserve chairman. That didn’t happen.

After Trump praised white supremacists last summer, Cohn offered a lukewarm criticism that managed to fall short of courageous while also infuriating his boss. Cohn was never again a leading candidate for the Fed job, which went instead to Jerome Powell, another former banker then serving not under Trump but as a Fed official.

Over the last 14 months, Cohn has served alongside Trump as the president has refused to defend the United States against Russian attacks; continued his string of racist insults; repeatedly tried to undermine the rule of law; and, to quote former President George W. Bush, trafficked in “outright fabrication.” None of this, evidently, stirred Cohn’s conscience enough to warrant resigning on principle.

Yesterday afternoon, he finally did announce his resignation. Quietly, other administration officials signaled that it was related — sort of — to Trump’s recent announcement of tariffs, a policy that Cohn opposes. Publicly, however, he was loyal to Trump.

For the rest of Gary Cohn’s career, whenever his name comes up, people will think of Donald Trump. The relationship worked out much better for Trump than for Cohn.

In The Times, the editorial board comments on Cohn’s departure. Elsewhere: Slate’s Jordan Weissmann notes that Cohn did have one big accomplishment in the job — the corporate tax cut he helped design. “Gary Cohn: The man who swallowed the president’s racism and personal humiliation in order to guide tax cuts for his old employer at Goldman Sachs, and then quit over some steel tariffs,” Weissmann writes.

Generosity. Vox’s German Lopez donated his kidney to a stranger yesterday, having been inspired to do so by his colleague Dylan Matthews, who wrote about the experience last year. This morning, in recovery, Lopez wrote that “it’s immensely gratifying that a 23-year-old woman just got a lifesaving kidney, and a chain of two or more people will too over the next week as a result of all of this.” He added, “I want to communicate that this is something that really is possible to do.”

West Virginia update. After a gutsy strike, the state’s teachers won a raise yesterday. It’s a limited victory, of course. They’re still paid relatively little and face many unnecessary obstacles, like a large number of unfilled jobs. But “there is sense among West Virginians that this strike is about something bigger than teacher pay,” Erin McHenry-Sorber of West Virginia University writes for CNN. “This is a movement for the viability of West Virginia and rural America.” In The Times, Sarah Jaffe writes of labor’s rising ghosts, now visible in the strike.

Texas election. The Democratic turnout in the Texas primaries last night wasn’t what the party had hoped for. David Byler of The Weekly Standard previously explained why demographic change hasn’t brought political change to the state.

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*David Leonhardt is an Op-Ed columnist and associate editorial page editor at The New York Times.

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