Let's all cast our minds back to the early fall of 2008.
Lehman Brothers is on the brink of collapse and the entire world economy is waking up to the reality that bulge bracket Wall Street banks have now entangled it in a terrifying crisis created almost entirely by their own trading of mortgage-backed securities. The man most primarily responsible for the rise of MBS trading at the most famous Wall Street investment bank is now the second in command of said bank and in the coming months he will become something of a hulking avatar of risk and white collar greed. For Gary Cohn, President and COO of Goldman Sachs, this is a personal low point, a reputational chasm from which he will spend a lot of effort to escape via the one skill he has always shown a potent aptitude for: Climbing.
Now, let's cast our minds back to literally yesterday.
Neo-Nazis have just marched in Charlottesville, resulting in violent protests and one tragic death. The President of the United States has equivocated on condemnation of the literal hate groups that marched and fostered a growing maelstrom of outrage throughout the world. Hoping to turn the page, the president holds a press conference in the lobby of his Midtown Manhattan tower to announce a totally detail-free infrastructure plan. After muttering pablum about American roads and American steel, the president takes questions from the press and the result is the most dark and troubling 15 minutes in modern American political history. A sitting US President gives actual defense of Nazis on live television while simultaneously lashing out at a free press and elected members of Congress. Standing up beside him for the entire horror show is Gary Cohn.
All that climbing, for fucking nothing.
How did we get here, Gary Cohn?
You were supposed to be the great hope. The one guy rich, successful and physically enormous enough to get through to the malignant narcissist in charge of the world's last superpower. After rising to the number two spot at the most successful financial services company this world has ever seen, it seemed like basic reasoning that you were a competent thinker capable of -at the very least- knowing when to stand up for yourself. And then there was the Goldman Sachs pedigree. Even we -snarky assclowns that we are- bent over backwards to proclaim that you were the actual "get," an actual, honest-to-Paulson, C-Suite Goldman Sachs executive willing to do what Jamie Dimon couldn't bring himself to; lend an air of authentic management to an administration that was clearly lacking and chock full of guys who used to work at Goldman but whom you would never have let run the show at 200 West Street.
But, man, did we fuck up that one. Royally.
Sure, it occurred to us that part of this was motivated by a weird grab at power. That time you went into the briefing room with Slim "Transition Shades" Shady to pitch a tax plan that apparently consisted only of an idiotic one-sheet and Larry Kudlow's dick in your hand was "concerning." And, yeah, it should have made the hair on the back of our necks stand up when you entertained the notion of you as Fed Chair, because...c'mon man. But we kept overlooking it because you were Gary Cohn. There had to be a secondary motive here.
Then yesterday happened. There you were standing next to Donald Trump as he torpedoed his own presidency and roughly 75 years of American social progress. We understand that you went out there to talk about the infrastructure spending plan that you were always hoping would be a key part of your White House narrative, but did you really not foresee this happening? It's been leaked that Trump went off script by letting Charlottesville be mentioned, but let's be honest with each other; that infrastructure announcement had less meat on it than your "tax plan," which means it was about as skinny, empty and useless as Fab Tourre at a high-stakes poker game. Did you really honestly believe that the resulting vacuum of content wasn't going to be filled by Jim Acosta yelling questions about Nazis? And surely you had to know that your adolescent boss was going to take the bait.
But this is all history will remember:
That's you, bro. That's you forever.
So we have to ask the real question here: What the actual fuck, Gary Cohn?
You're the dyslexic kid born into a steel town to the blue collar children of Jewish immigrants who essentially taught himself to become a trader and rose to the most ivory of Wall Street towers. You are a tremendous example of American opportunity providing prosperity to those willing to grab it.
How are you standing there? For that?
This is not just the kind of thing that's going to make it hard to get back into a high profile role in finance (even Corzine was never asked "But what about white supremacy?") or create some awkward glances while you walk to your table at your favorite East Hampton bistro. This right here is the kind of shit that scars you for life everywhere. It's objectively the wrong side of history.
And did you think this was going to help?
You and Dina Powell calling Glenn Thrush on background isn't going to do it. You need to make an actual move here. Sticking around and trying to "guide him" is horseshit that no one wants to see shoveled anymore (Dimon even got him to disband that "CEO Council" silliness and save everyone the time of publicly resigning) and if you're going to leak that you're unhappy with him from here on out, how long until he decides that your lack of total loyalty makes you unfit to be Fed Chair (even though you're really already utterly unqualified)?
Tax reform and that $1 billion infrastructure plan? He just defended skinheads while standing at a podium with the Presidential seal on it. He couldn't even get 60 votes in the Senate to make Ted Cruz give himself a swirly every morning. As Lloyd used to say, "Bitch, please!"
You've got to quit, Gary. And it's got to be now.
There's no endgame here other than the total decimation of your reputation. Goldman Sachs has been through enough and though we know you're still probably pissed that Lloyd never let you be the boss, we would recommend that you GET THE FUCK OVER IT. You're in a corner, big guy, and it's a tight one, which is real bad news for a man of your size.
Flee, Gary Cohn. Get out of there and save yourself. Slink away to a quiet place with your family, regroup, hike up your pant leg, ask advice from your friends and throw yourself into charity work. Maybe start showing up on CNBC in a few moons and then, years from now, you can launch a doomed macro fund.
There' still hope, Gary, but you've got to make a call. We forgave you for the crisis and the grundle chats and the yelling and the Shaq interviews. But this Gary?
Can even you forgive yourself for the unforced error that led you to this?