Is the exit of Gary Cohn worth the beating this market took today?
You know what? Unequivocally yes. I have been saying for months that my principal worry about this market would be that the president's chief economic advisor would leave and it looks like that was sure right.
Why does it matter so much?
Let me do a little ode to Gary Cohn whom I am proud to call a friend even as I say I am not about friends I am about money.
First, in a White House that almost everyone has to admit is a little chaotic, to say the least, Cohn was a rock of Gibraltar, someone you could count on to do the right thing by the country. His true north is the country's true north so you weren't worried about what he stood for and where he was coming from. I was always thrilled when I got to interview him because he laid out the straight case and wasn't on script. He listened and answered and wasn't fearful of anyone. I don't know if people really understand how special that is.
Of course that means he was willing to run afoul of the president if necessary. He was a vocal critic of how the president handled Charlottesville, where racism, while not condoned, was viewed by many as a moral equivalent view. He had a strong view on the value of free trade and didn't want to see it compromised as he clearly felt the president was doing. I read some in the press saying how outrageous it was that he was willing to stick with the president on Charlottesville but felt tariffs were worth quitting over expressing contempt for the man's imperatives.
I think that was hurtful and wrong, Cohn wanted to be inside trying to influence rather than outside taking shots. Perhaps in the end, the whole thing was just too much for him, but this man is a dedicated public servant, as we were all taught at Goldman Sachs (GS) to be at some point in our careers. I may not have agreed with him on his stand of free trade but I defend Gary to anyone who believes he did anything other than the best job possible in trying services, and we can only imagine, hate him or love him, there are trying circumstances working in the Donald Trump White House.
He carried the water for the president's tax reform agenda in what can only be considered a spectacular way. I know I sure didn't think he could get the tax code changes through. But he did, and for that he deserves praise from all because the reform has unleashed the economy in a way that I never thought possible. He's freed business of shackles that will produce much higher growth than we ever expected.
And he did so without seeking or even wanting an ounce of credit. He was a team player and he got the job done.
More important, Gary Cohn's one of the good ones. He wasn't in it for the fame, the glory, the money, or the power. He was in it because he thought it was the right thing to do after a lifetime at Goldman. Sure there was unfinished work. I wanted him to stick around to help keep the tiller steady when the government needs to finance hundreds of billions of dollars worth of debt. I wanted him around for his guidance in what I am sure will be many global economic crises I wanted him there for his common sense. His sound judgment.
Now he's off to the next project whatever it may be, which I am sure means spending time with his wonderful family that he probably had little time to devote to.
I would like you to join me in thanking him for his service and wishing him well in whatever's next for this nice, good man, who in a short time did so much positive for the country.