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Cohn And Summers Talk Trump, China And Machismo By A Hamptons Pool

Before former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. President Gary Cohn began a poolside chat in the Hamptons on Thursday with former Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers, their host cracked a joke about the Wall Street veteran.

“If you happen to see him leave early, that means they’re probably calling him because he’s a candidate to be the future CEO of Goldman Sachs,” said Steven Starker, who worked there before co-founding the brokerage BTIG. “There’s going to be no David Solomon questions tonight. And, yes, he was invited. He chose not to come.”

The crowd, abiding by what the invitation’s dress code called “Hampton chic,” laughed, according to a person who attended.

Cohn, who ran the National Economic Council under Donald Trump and is now vice chairman at International Business Machines Corp., began with a question about the economy. “I’m going to go right for the jugular here,” he said.  

“You’re known for that,” said Summers, who was Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, ran the NEC for Barack Obama, and is now a paid contributor to Bloomberg Television and a professor.

“I’ve never been accused of being soft and cuddly,” Cohn said.

Then he asked if the economy is hitting a soft or a hard landing, to which Summers replied: It “looks very strong right now to me, and I don’t think in the next few months we’re going to have a recession.” What happens beyond that, he said, is less clear from the statistics.

‘Let’s Go’

Before the sun began to set over Starker’s place in Sag Harbor, they also talked politics. “Look, I think that there’s a lot to criticize about the Biden administration,” Summers said. 

“All right, so let’s go there,” Cohn told him, smiling. 

“But the Biden administration has done a pretty good job, I would say, on independence of the Fed,” Summers went on. 

“I even got Trump to leave them alone, come on,” Cohn said. Trump, who appointed Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell, had just said he wouldn’t reappoint Powell if he’s reelected.

That seemed to get Summers thinking about what government will look like if Trump, who was indicted this week on criminal charges for the fourth time, wins again.

“If we have, as there must be a 20% chance or 25% chance we will, if we have Donald Trump without the leavening influence of Gary Cohn-like people, which is what we will have if we have Donald Trump again, God knows what that will mean for all kinds of things, of which inflation is one,” Summers said.

The men both wore dark blazers over dress shirts with slacks and loafers, without socks. The invitation list for the audience included figures from Goldman, Apollo Global Management Inc. and KKR & Co., among the small crowd of Wall Street luminaries. 

Cohn asked about US policy toward China.

“Machismo has its role in the world,” Summers said, “but machismo just for its own sake usually ends badly.”

Biden’s Steps

Later, Cohn asked if Biden is equipped to be president for another four years. “Right now, yeah,” Summers said. 

“He can’t get up the steps on Air Force One,” Cohn responded. “I’m just calling it like it is.”

“A lot of steps, by the way,” Summers said. 

“By the way, it is a lot of steps,” Cohn echoed.

“It is a lot,” said Summers. 

“It’s a lot of steps,” said Cohn. Then they talked about golf.

Near the end, Summers addressed the Supreme Court decision that effectively bars universities from using race as a factor in admissions.

“At this point in the country’s history, with the kinds of resentments that we have, I think that the world would be a better place without legacy admissions,” Summers said. “I’m close enough to the process to be able to state with confidence that it would not be a devastating financial blow to American higher education if there wasn’t legacy admissions.” 

He also said: “I don’t think we really need to be giving big preferences for people who are good at aristocratic sports.” The crowd laughed. 

—With assistance from Zeke Faux and Sridhar Natarajan.
This article was provided by Bloomberg News.


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