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Almost Famous: The Extraordinary Career of
David L. Cohen Lí81
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The results of his hard work speak for themselves. Although he doesnít take sole credit for what happened to Philadelphia while he was in office, Cohen readily admits that the administration accomplished a lot during his tenure. When asked, of everything that happened while he was in City Hall, what heís most proud of, the list is most impressive. ďIím proud of the government that we put together,Ē he says. ďIím proud of the quality of people we attracted into the government, Iím proud of the fact that we balanced the budget, Iím proud of the fact that we cut taxes, Iím proud of our five year financial plans, which I think have set a standard for government reporting and government writing. Iím proud of the way in which we went about the business that we had to go about, doing it in order to save the cityÖ Itís still a miracle, in terms of the difference in the vibrancy and the cleanliness, and the feeling of energy that is associated with the city today, as compared to ten years ago.Ē

Those years in the mayorís office established Cohen as the presence he is today. Before, he was known to some as a meticulous and tireless young lawyer. After Rendell took office, it became clear that Cohenís organizational skills were at least the equal of his legal ones, which is far from faint praise. In a building that had been known for being chaotic, Cohen was the calm at the eye of the storm. He brought his job to a whole new level, making it his business to know everyone and everything. He mentally consumed and processed an unbelievable amount of data, came out with measured recommendations, and implemented plans as soon as they were fully formed.

He says that some of his success is due to his willingness to do anything to get the job done. But that doesnít tell the whole story; in politics, where ambition and hard work are bare minimum qualifications, many are willing to do what is asked of them. What makes Cohen unusual is not just his willingness (which is boundless), but that it is combined with his ability, which also appears to be unlimited. Bissingerís descriptions of Cohen make him seem almost machine-like in his capacity for work. But Cohen is not an automaton, blindly doing whatever task comes before him. He takes a measured approach, and heís not a silent worker; heís discreet, but if you ask, heíll tell you what he thinks. He has a confidence that comes with having proven yourself capable, in public, under the harshest circumstances, and coming through with flying colors.

One thing about Cohen: he is very smooth. He delivers what a cynical person would call perfect sound-bites, requiring essentially no editing, because Cohen, whose first work with Rendell was as a speech-writing consultant, has edited them first. Even when heís going through what he admits is his usual spiel, like ďAdvice to Law StudentsĒ or ďHow I Met Ed Rendell,Ē he doesnít mail it in, though heís run through these paces more times than heíd care to count. Itís hard to know whether this level of polish was a result or a cause of his success as a lawyer and public figure, but Iíd guess itís the latter. After all, he went to the semi-finals of a national high school debate tournament in his senior year, so if public speaking does not come naturally to him, itís an obstacle that he conquered long ago.

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