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Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President Hardcover – September 20, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (September 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061429252
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061429255
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #427,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Savvy and informative.  . . . The most ambitious treatment of this period yet.  . . . Suskind’s book often reads like Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest. But the quagmire isn’t a neo-Vietnam like Afghanistan—it’s the economy.” (Frank Rich, New York)

“A searing new book.  . . . Suskind has a flair for taking material he’s harvested to create narratives with a novelistic sense of drama.” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)

“No book about the Obama presidency appears to have unnerved the White House quite so much as Confidence Men by Ron Suskind, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has developed a niche in the specialized art of parting the curtain on presidential dealings.” (The Chicago Tribune)

“A truly groundbreaking inside account.  . . . Penetrating in its analysis of why the administration’s approach to the country’s economic ills has been so lackluster.  . . . An important addition to the growing library of books about this president.” (Joe Nocera, The New York Times Book Review)

“The book of the week, maybe the book of the month, is Ron Suskind’s Confidence Men.  . . . A detailed narrative of the Administration’s response-sometimes frantic, sometimes sluggish, sometimes both-to the financial and economic catastrophe it inherited, as experienced from the inside.” (Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker)

“The work that went into Confidence Men cannot be denied. Suskind conducted hundreds of interviews. He spoke to almost every member of the Obama administration, including the President. He quotes memos no one else has published. He gives you scenes that no one else has managed to capture.” (Ezra Klein, The New York Review of Books)

“Suskind’s account of the Obama administration is a marker of our times. It reveals a President unable to perform responsibly the duties of his high office.  . . . Suskind’s contribution to this tale of woe is to give us a fine grained picture of Obama’s passive place in deliberations.” (Huffington PostThe Huffington Post)

“My Book of the Year. A narrative tour de force.  . . . Journalism like this is all too rare in an ange in which reporters trade their critical faculties for access. And it’s even rarer that skeptical reporting is turned into something lasting.” (David Granger, Esquire)

“This inside account of the Obama economic team contains enough damning on-the-record quotes to give it the ring of truth despite White House efforts to discredit the narrative of infighting and missed opportunities. Read it and weep. It reminds me of the post-Iraq invasion books that documented a similar failure to rise to the enormity of the problem, whether the insurgency was in Iraq or on Wall Street.” (Eleanor Clift, Newsweek)

From the Back Cover

The hidden history of Wall Street and the White House comes down to a single, powerful, quintessentially American concept: confidence. Both centers of power, tapping brazen innovations over the past three decades, learned how to manufacture it.

Until August 2007, when that confidence finally began to crumble.

In this gripping and brilliantly reported book, Ron Suskind tells the story of what happened next, as Wall Street struggled to save itself while a man with little experience and soaring rhetoric emerged from obscurity to usher in “a new era of responsibility.” It is a story that follows the journey of Barack Obama, who rose as the country fell, and offers the first full portrait of his tumultuous presidency.

Wall Street found that straying from long-standing principles of transparency, accountability, and fair dealing opened a path to stunning profits. Obama’s determination to reverse that trend was essential to his ascendance, especially when Wall Street collapsed during the fall of an election year and the two candidates could audition for the presidency by responding to a national crisis. But as he stood on the stage in Grant Park, a shudder went through Barack Obama. He would now have to command Washington, tame New York, and rescue the economy in the first real management job of his life.

The new president surrounded himself with a team of seasoned players—like Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers, and Tim Geithner—who had served a different president in a different time. As the nation’s crises deepened, Obama’s deputies often ignored the president’s decisions—“to protect him from himself”—while they fought to seize control of a rudderless White House. Bitter disputes—between men and women, policy and politics—ruled the day. The result was an administration that found itself overtaken by events as, year to year, Obama struggled to grow into the world’s toughest job and, in desperation, take control of his own administration.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind intro-duces readers to an ensemble cast, from the titans of high finance to a new generation of reformers, from petulant congressmen and acerbic lobbyists to a tight circle of White House advisers—and, ultimately, to the president himself, as you’ve never before seen him. Based on hundreds of interviews and filled with piercing insights and startling disclosures, Confidence Men brings into focus the collusion and conflict between the nation’s two capitals—New York and Washington, one of private gain, the other of public purpose—in defining confidence and, thereby, charting America’s future.


More About the Author

Ron Suskind is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Way of the World, The One Percent Doctrine, The Price of Loyalty, and A Hope in the Unseen. From 1993 to 2000 he was the senior national affairs writer for the Wall Street Journal, where he won a Pulitzer Prize. His newest book, Life, Animated, chronicles his son Owen's struggle with autism and the way in which the family used Owen's affinity for Disney to connect with him. He lives in Cambridge, MA, where he is Senior Fellow at Harvard's Safra Center for Ethics.

Customer Reviews

Read it and make your own decision.
Lynn
The book is well written with the style almost that of a novel that makes it very readable.
KJD
Suskind is a good craftsman with words.
Graham H. Seibert

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

465 of 512 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on September 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Suskind's "Confidence Men" is based on 746 hours of interviews with over 200 people, including former and current members of the Obama administration - including the president. It's negative observations will not make the president's life any easier - already dealing with an emboldened, growing opposition, a floundering economy, the appearance of having been outmaneuvered during the debt-ceiling debacle, the Solyndra mess, another Palestine-Israel mess, and even prominent strategists already saying he should 'fire much of his staff.' It begins with candidate Obama's crash course in economics and ends in early 2011, and does not include the efforts to kill Osama bin Laden, the more recent debt ceiling fight, nor his most recent efforts to create jobs.

The most attention-getting material involves comments from Obama's economic team. For example, Lawrence Summers is quoted as saying to Budget Director Peter Orzag at a dinner that 'There's no adult in charge. Clinton would never have made these mistakes.' Former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, in turn, describes the president as too reliant on Summers, smart, but not smart enough. Senior White House aide Pete Rouse wrote 'There is deep dissatisfaction within the economic team with what is perceived as Larry's imperious and heavy-handed direction of the economic policy process.' Suskind also tells us Geithner was working behind the scenes to neutralize Elizabeth Warren and prevent her being named to leadd the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - per bankers' demands.
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104 of 116 people found the following review helpful By reval on September 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I voted for Barack Obama in 2008. I believe he is a sincere and likeable individual. But I also think he brought a tremendous lack of managerial experience and a dirth of understanding about human pride and greed into the presidency. I also believe Obama is deeply invested in elitism and a naive admiration for the so called "intellectual" East Coast/Harvard/Yale/Washington, D.C. crowd. The author's portrait of Obama's belief in the wisdom of the pompous Larry Summers as his top economic advisor reflects this gross naivete. Suskind's book is a must-read in my opinion. Whether you supported Obama or not, CONFIDENCE MEN will help you understand the deep hole this country has dug for itself. Both Obama and Bush were sadly lacking in basic oversight of the "hogs" in banking and on Wall Street. Read this book. It will open your eyes about the "gaming" of the American people by both politicians and predators.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Brendan Moody TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Ron Suskind's Confidence Men is that most frustrating of books: overlong, unclear, poorly-argued, yet ultimately worth reading. Suskind sets himself so large a task-- explaining the 2008 economic collapse and government response and at the same time offering a history of the first two years of the Obama administration-- that the book is thoroughly unfocused, with many digressions and repetitions that fascinate but don't add to the overall effect. This weak synthesis is nonetheless strong enough that the book offers an adequate overview of the economic and political history of the last few years. Yet it must be said that there are other substantial flaws. Any individual Suskind found compelling was apparently allowed to present (as most of us would) a self-serving personal account and make criticisms of the current financial system, regardless of how those criticisms might fit the parameters or the flow of Suskind's larger argument. The "novelistic writing" and storytelling gift mentioned in the back cover blurbs appear mostly in trite metaphors, saccharine recountings of individual biography, and the lazy journalistic tic of reading body language to justify preferred interpretations of behavior. Deeper than these problems is Suskind's failure to make the financial behaviors he describes readily comprehensible. Readers not already versed in the language of modern finance will get at best a general sense of how the maneuvers that led to the crisis actually worked, enough to recognize that it was an inherently unstable system but not enough to follow the details Suskind describes, often by means of unexplained jargon. This is, in a book dominated by debates about the nuts and bolts of managing such a system, no small point.Read more ›
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142 of 165 people found the following review helpful By Graham H. Seibert TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Two stories are intertwined - the ascent of Barack Obama and the crisis on Wall Street. One might say that they are incestuously intertwined. Here in Eastern Europe we have an expression "government capture" to describe what happens when the oligarchs own the government. Barack Obama was ill-prepared to negotiate with Wall Street. They had the money and the expertise.

Suskind is kinder to Obama than other people who write about him, especially as his presidency appears to be sinking. Suskind takes at face value that Obama wrote Dreams of my Father and Audacity of Hope. He appears to believe, as other liberals do, that Obama is a genuinely smart fellow; that he rose to the heights he achieved on his own merits. Two books which challenge these hypotheses are "Deconstructing Obama" and "America's Half Blood Prince." The reader will come away from reading Suskind's book with a strong sense that the liberal establishment very much wanted Obama to succeed and championed him in every possible way. One senses that Suskind is, or at least was, in this camp. The reader should at least raise the question in his own mind about the degree to which they were willing to overlook and suppress negative data points about their man.

One of the strengths of the book is a close-up look at how legislation is made. In this instance it is the healthcare reform bill, which transmuted itself into healthcare insurance reform; the Wall Street bailout and reform (in this case, actually not) of the regulatory oversight bodies; and the questions of balancing the budget. Gary Gensler, one of the white hats in this story, makes a marvelous analogy of shepherding a group of gazelles across the plains through packs of ravenous lions, hyenas, panthers and whatnot. It is success if one gazelle makes it.
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