New York Magazine

The Babysitter Fallacy

It takes more than “adults in the room” to control a petulant leader.

ONE OF THE MOST BLANDLY UNSETTLING PASSAGES in Bob Woodward’s Fear recounts the near resignation of Gary Cohn, one of the book’s likely sources and (therefore) heroes. In August 2017, Cohn, nauseated at President Trump’s equivocation over neo-Nazis demonstrating in Charlottesville, Virginia, attempted to quit. Trump berated Cohn for his weakness and, characteristically equating political loyalty to himself with loyalty to the country, accused Cohn of “treason.” “It was chilling,” Woodward reports.

Then Trump tried another approach. “If you leave now, taxes are over,” he warned. By this he meant the massive corporate-tax cuts Cohn had helped to craft and from which he also stood to personally benefit. Cohn’s moral outrage began to drain, and he instead decided to stay on, prioritizing the taxes,

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