Way back in the olden days of 2011, when he was but a lad of 65 years, Leon Cooperman was fond of going on television and likening the president of the United States to Adolf Hitler. Leon reveled in his attacks on the man who he claimed was waging a silent war on successful capitalists and attempting to ruin Christmas by being a socialist heathen. In response, Cooperman took flack from many different sides of what in retrospect was somehow a less-polarized America, with many voices calling on Leon to calm down, find some chill and stop calling Obama "Hitler."
And then Leon published an open letter to the president laying out all of his annoyances with the then leader of the free world. Cooperman's letter is a famous doozy, a multi-page lecture about how the first person of color to be elected President of the United States should be ashamed of how he has slandered the possibilities of American possibility, and an admonishment of Obama's "rancorous" partisanship...from the man who was then going on TV to compare him to literally Hitler. Cooperman cited numerous examples in his letter of people like him [he also included a Cliff Notes Horatio Alger biograpy] of himself] that were rich and self-made and good people who deserved better from Obama. Leon's letter is a widely-mocked and treasured example of what came to be known as the "Self-own": a piece of whiny writing written by a public antagonist to the person he has been antagonizing telling him to stop being such an antagonist. And the ludicrous elements of Cooperman's letters were only compiled when it came out that he was also very butthurt that Obama failed to compliment the book of poetry by Leon's granddaughter that Cooperman had given the president unsolicited.
Eight years later, very few people actually remember Leon's open letter to the president, which is all well and good because Leon Cooperman isn't a bad guy, he just got really worked up over a black liberal president that one time and said/wrote some things that look embarrassing in retrospect. The important thing is that Leon learned from that experience and will never show his ass again should he come to find himself triggered by an unconventional politician saying things he doesn't like.
Leon Cooperman sent a critical letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of the top Democratic presidential candidates, marking the latest salvo in the war of words between the billionaire investor and the economic populist politician.
Oopsie daisies! Well, we're sure he's taking a different tact this time. Sure, he definitely started the fight here like he did in 2011 by going on TV and saying reflexively nutty nonsense like the stock market would fail to open on the first day of a Warren administration or that Mrs. Warren is "Shitting on" "the fucking American Dream," it's probably still her fault for making this a thing, right? After all, she did do that one tweet.
Right? Let's go to the letter!
Dear Senator Warren:
While I am not a Twitter user, several friends passed along to me your October tweet in which, after correctly observing that my financial success can be attributed, in no small measure, to the many opportunities which this great country has afforded me, you proceeded to admonish me (as if a parent chiding an ungrateful child) to “pitch in a bit more so everyone else has a chance at the American dream, too.”
Oh, Leon. Please tell us he's not going to do the "I was born into nuthin'" routine again...
As I have noted elsewhere, mine is a classic American success story. I have been richly rewarded by a life of hard work combined with a great deal of good luck, including that to have been born in a country that adheres to an ethos of upward mobility for determined strivers My father was a plumber who practiced his trade in the South Bronx after he and my mother emigrated from Poland. I was the first member of my family to earn a college degree. I benefitted from both a good public education system (all the way through college) and my parents’ constant prodding.
Well, at least he didn't remind everyone that he worked at Goldman, again...
When I joined Goldman Sachs following graduation from Columbia Business School, I had no money in the bank, a negative net worth, a National Defense Education Act student loan to repay, and a six-month-old baby (not to mention his mother, my wife of now 55 years) to support. I had a successful, near-25 year run at Goldman before leaving to start a private investment firm.
Jfc...We guess this means that he also did some namedropping?
My story’ is far from unique. I know many people who are similarly situated, by both humble origin and hard-won accomplishment, whose greatest joy in life is to use their resources to improve their communities. Many of their names — including those of Ken Langone, Carl Icahn and Sandy Weill, all self-made billionaires whom I am proud to call friends — are associated with major hospitals (NYU Langone Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Weill Cornell Medical College, and, in my own case, Saint Barnabas Medical Center and Boca Raton Regional Hospital) which tend to the needs of, among others, many thousands of poor patients each year who could not otherwise afford the best-of-class medical services that those fine institutions, with our support and that of others like us, provide.
Well, at least Leon is showing some clever awareness by using someone that Warren cannot argue is a paradigm of noble munificent American wealth, like...Carl Icahn?
Cooperman goes on to lay out a very long case for trickle-down wealth being a necessary pillar of the American dream citing numerous tax policy experts and economists, never pausing once to acknowledge that Warren was literally a tax policy academic at literally Harvard. Leon's letter is well-researched, well-written, well-reasoned and we happen to agree with a lot of it. Which is why it's so stunning to watch him totally obviate his entire point at the end:
I am a registered Independent who votes the issues and the person, not the party. The fact is, Senator Warren, that despite our philosophical differences, we should be working together to find common ground in this vital conversation — not firing off snarky tweets that stir your base at the expense of accuracy. Let’s elevate the dialogue and find ways to keep this a land of opportunity where hard work, talent and luck are rewarded and everyone gets a fair shot at realizing the American Dream.
Much like 2011, Leon is publicly lecturing a politician for not being nice to him or agreeing with him after he has taken every opportunity to demonize them in public. And once again, he is appealing to an American togetherness that he loves to preach about but is very clearly loathe to practice. Leon Cooperman might not be wrong about the power of capitalism to do good, but the imperious and belligerent tone that he uses in public to berate politicians on TV is not just going to be ignored when he writes them long, letters in the voice of "a parent chiding an ungrateful child" telling them to behave.
Whether you agree with Leon Cooperman or not, this is not how you actually start to "work together and find common ground." It is, however, a great way to continue Cooperman's bizarre legacy of acting persecuted for his own wealth. Like the letter to Obama, or the $1,000 check to attend a Hillary Clinton fundraiser to tell her to be nice to him after he complained that she was a traitor to her class who "crapped on" rich folks. It's a silly and self-harming trend of behavior that undermines Leon's objectively strong argument about wealth and philanthropy.
And whether you agree with Elizabeth Warren or not, her message that there are two sets of rules in this country for those who have massive amounts of wealth and those who don't is resonating ever more strongly with Democratic voters. Her big challenge is that it's hard to find concrete examples of that notion and illustrate why it scares the wealthiest Americans. But thanks to Leon Cooperman's obsessive need to keep telling people that he deserves to attack without being attacked, she now has a more than a bit of both.