One of the more illuminating passages in Fear, Bob Woodward’s new book on the Trump White House, centers on former economic adviser Gary Cohn and his apparently fruitless attempts to educate Donald Trump on the changing nature of the U.S. economy and the impact of technologies like self-driving vehicles.
During one of their first discussions, Cohn told Trump that robotics could lead to job losses and that, during his presidency, he is going to have to deal with the automation of cars and trucks, especially since many Americans make a living behind the wheel. Trump’s response, per Woodward: “What are you talking about?”
Later, Cohn tried to correct Trump’s mistaken belief that factory jobs wouldn’t come back, saying Americans by and large don’t aspire to work in assembly factories: “I can sit in a nice office with air conditioning and a desk, or stand on my feet eight hours a day. Which one would you do for the same pay?” He added, per the book: “People don’t want to stand in front of a 2,000-degree blast furnace. People don’t want to go into coal mines and get black lung.”
But his lessons fell on deaf ears. “Trump wasn’t buying it,” writes Woodward. When Cohn asked Trump why he clung to such views, Trump responded, “I just do. I’ve had these views for 30 years.”
Per Woodward, Cohn quipped in response: “That doesn’t mean they’re right. I had the view for 15 years I could play professional football. It doesn’t mean I was right.”
Woodward’s reporting has been challenged by Cohn, who told Axios: “This book does not accurately portray my experience at the White House. I am proud of my service in the Trump administration, and I continue to support the president and his economic agenda.”