We have spent so much of the last year opining on what happened to Gary Cohn.
As a longtime imaginary friend of Dealbreaker, "The Big Grundle" was someone that we had come to begrudgingly love in our own strange way. He was Goldman Sachs' in-house lunk. A large and smiley Cleveland-born enforcer who reveled in talking up his Rust Belt underdog origin tale and never stopped acting like a steel salesman turned Wall Street mega-trader. Even when he became the yang to Lloyd Blankfein's yin, Gary was still Gary.
To us, Gary Cohn read as a not-so-charmless bully. A character who seemed out of place at Goldman Sachs yet desperate to be defined by it. The perpetual number two who dwarfed his superior in everything but actual power.
We liked Gary Cohn because we pretended that we knew Gary Cohn.
If 2017 taught us anything it was that we did not know Gary Cohn.
Joining up with the Trump administration threw us for something of a loop, but we hung in hoping that our pal Gary would be the Goldmanite voice of icy reason inside a White House assembled like a fritto misto plate of fringe-thinking personality disorders. He would surely bring countenance and reason to the Trump economic shop, tamping down the more extreme instincts of his new colleagues in favor of keeping the global economy churning forward.
Inside a White House powered by D-list Goldman alums, we put major faith in Gary to be the one A-lister that would keep shit real up in 1600 Penn.
What we got instead was a Gary Cohn who smiled and glad-handed in full service of "This President's Agenda" when that agenda obviously did not really exist. He kept talking nonsense about a "21st Century Glass-Steagall" and even appeared pleased to work on tax reform with the administration's Harpo Marx, Steve Mnuchin. That pleasure somehow didn't leave him when he was sent into the White House briefing room with the vaguest of one-page vague outlines and told to sell it as a tax plan. Even good ol' Lloyd started using Twitter in an attempt to see if Gary was okay. He was clearly surrounded by idiots and loons, so we worried. But then we realized that Gary had his eye on another job that he was ill-suited for: Fed Chair.
And back in June (it's weird to think about it now) we were actually kind of rooting for Solomon Grundle to take over from J-Yellz at The Fed. He was totally unqualified and politically poisonous for the role, yet we wanted better things for him and The Fed seemed fine enough in the chaos of Trumperica. But then, somehow, it got truly crazy.
After taking way too long to distance himself from Trump's "Both sides" take on Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Gary tried to take both sides himself by saying that he wasn't a huge fan of White Power or Nazi sympathizers, but he was going to stay at the White House to pass tax reform. We were...displeased.
Gary's hubris in feebly criticizing the most fragile ego in Presidential history cost him his moonshot at The Fed and left him neutered inside the West Wing. By doing the obviously correct thing way too quietly, Gary had lost power inside the place he'd come to be powerful. As his personal reputation burned down, Gary Cohn stayed, working hard to sell a tax plan that he seemed to grow oddly comfortable saying out loud was aimed at people like, well, Gary Cohn. It was breathtakingly poor politics being deployed to sell wildly unpopular policy.
It was here that our faith buckled and our sympathy waned. Gary Cohn was supposed to be the smart, charming face of Wall Street in a West Wing devoid of smarts and charming faces. But there was Gary, with all his Goldman Sachsian wiles, saying the dumbest shit about something that he should have been beyond prepared to talk about. He even tried to be a democrat again while touting the least democratic thing in modern memory. It felt like even Jamie Dimon was watching Gary and thinking "Bro, be cool. You're going to fuck this up."
But the job got done. Trumpian Tax Reform is now law, and for better or worse Gary Cohn will be forever part of this achievement. That said, we are now left to wonder if he even knows what that means. Because it sure as shit doesn't seem like he has a clue...
White House economic adviser Gary Cohn said he was dumbfounded by the unpopularity of the Republican tax bill, and claimed that President Donald Trump fought unsuccessfully to strip a provision that mostly benefits wealthy investors.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know,’’ Cohn said Wednesday at a Washington event hosted by Axios, when asked why the plan lacked public support. Middle-income Americans “are getting the largest percentage tax savings of anyone in the whole distribution. So we have clearly not communicated that.”
This is troubling.
Gary crafted this tax plan, he sold it and he was pretty clear that it was a trickle-down plan. As a guy who lived in New York City, worked at Goldman Sachs and is sentient, Gary knows full well how people react to the mere perception of "Wall Street giveaways." The internet is littered with examples of Gary defending Goldman from those people throughout his years at the firm, and he even gave voice to many of the criticisms he claims to not understand while he was selling the fucking legislation.
You don't say "Only idiots pay the estate tax" and then wonder why everyone is pissed.
So either Gary is lying or dumb. If he's lying, that's a bummer. Mostly because the lies are so lazy and bad. Gary Cohn lying to us would suck, but it would not break our passive-aggressive covenant with Gary Cohn.
But if Gary is dumb...wow. If Gary is dumb we are truly adrift. It would explain a lot about his choices over the years, and this year in particular. It would also shed light on why he thought Lloyd was ever going to hand him the crown and why he keeps refusing to do the obvious thing and cut ties with this Whit House. It also helps us understand why we end up in a white empty head space every time we wonder "What does Gary do after this?" And it speaks volumes as to why we were met with smirks and/or shade almost every time we asked a denizen of 200 West Street what they thought about Gary in the White House.
If Gary Cohn is this dumb, we are dumber for having cared this much.