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465 of 512 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Objective Look at Presidential Leadership
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...
Published on September 20, 2011 by Loyd E. Eskildson

48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Confidence Men
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...
Published on December 6, 2011 by Brendan Moody

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465 of 512 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Objective Look at Presidential Leadership, September 20, 2011
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. And then there's Christina Romer, former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, stating that she 'felt like a piece of meat' after being kept out of a meeting by Summers; further, she once threatened to walk out of a dinner with the president and outside economists after the president skipped over her when asking his guests for their recommendations.

Additional concerns over sexism surface in the book. "This place would be in court for a hostile workplace," former White House communications director Anita Dunn is quoted as saying. "Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women." Another - "The president has a real woman problem." Some have complained to Obama about being ignored.

Per Suskind, President Obama decided in March, 2009 to create a plan to restructure many of the large, troubled banks, starting with Citigroup - only to learn a month later that Geithner/Treasury had ignored his directive. (Perhaps motivated by Geithner loyalty to former boss and Treasury Secretary Rubin (during the Clinton administration), then a Citigroup senior adviser and board member?) Insubordination, or protecting the president from himself? In any case, Obama excused it, when asked, as due to 'this is really hard stuff.' Unfortunately, Suskind does not report what Obama told Geithner when he found out.

Suskind sees Obama as a passive CEO sketching out guiding principles and allowing others to fill in the details. This ended up delegating the creation of ObamaCare to Congress, and fiscal reform to Geithner - losing control and momentum in both instances. Another Obama characteristic was seeking consensus among advisers, instead of considering whether one side or the other was just plain wrong.

Author Suskind also wonders why Obama turned away from his campaign advisers (eg. Nobel-winning Joseph Stiglitz, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich) and instead chose men associated with the disastrous prior deregulatory policies (Geithner, Summers). (Stiglitz called the enormously unpopular bank bailouts a win for banks and investors, and a loss for taxpayers. He also asserted that too much of the too-small stimulus went to tax cuts, that GDP is an inadequate measure of an economy.) Geithner is even described by one major bank CEO as 'our man in Washington,' undoubtedly at least partly due to Geithner having been selected by major bank CEOs to lead the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Geithner also had underpaid his taxes by $34,000 in recent years, via erroneous deducations. Reportedly former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was not Obama's first choice for the position, or even on the initial short list.

As for health care reform, Suskind contends that the debates and delays involved (partly due to Obama's delegating its initial formation to Congress) wasted his 'honeymoon' leverage to obtain concessions from both health care providers and bankers. Orzag was aware of the highly credible practice-pattern variation data compiled by Drs. Wennberg and Weinstein, how American medicine had become supply- and investor-driven, and was aching to incorporate major potential savings from these findings. It was not done, however, and the result was minimal impact on driving down the costs of health care, limiting financial-sector salaries, or preventing future financial meltdowns.

Bottom-Line: The White House is now trying to minimize the effect of Suskind's book - many of those quoted are recanting or challenging materials in the book. At least some, however, have been documented to the Washington Post via tape recordings. Suskind's reporting of a largely dysfunctional White House is not likely to be easily dismissed - major symptoms have long been evident, some reported by previous authors. Clearly there are major problems with his leadership style - probably because he's never been a leader before. And it is clear that our economic crisis is not an ordinary cyclical one that will go away with the passage of time - something has to be done about the millions of jobs lost to Asia via offshoring, and to illegal workers within the U.S.

On the other hand, President Obama must also be given credit for earlier strong leadership vs. the Pentagon during his initial review of Afghanistan options - including have the fortitude to confront that organization over leaks and eventually firing Gen. McChrystal. More obvious, his willingness to proceed with the risky attack on bin Laden within Pakistan. And as Massimo Calabresi points out, his economic team infighting pales in comparison to that between Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld in the Bush II administration.

The 'really good news' is that it is still not too late for Obama to start addressing underlying flaws in the free market system, and begin by replacing Geithner and others in his economic team with eg. Joseph Stiglitz (former World Bank Chief Economist) and Justin Lin (current World Bank Chief Economist). (Yes, I know Lin is Chinese - I'm suggesting him as just one member; regardless, China's economy has been the world's strongest source of growth for nearly three decades. Even more important, Chinese economists recognize both the harm 'Free Trade' has inflicted on American workers, and the fact that protectionism is sometimes essential.)
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104 of 116 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Obama Fantasy, September 24, 2011
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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
3.0 out of 5 stars Confidence Men, December 6, 2011
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. Economics is hard, but much that Suskind mentions could have been made clear if his explanations had been a bit slower and more basic.

In any case, the largest problem with Confidence Men is that its guiding narrative, the storyline around which facts are shaped (sometimes to their detriment) is unconvincing. Suskind, like millions of Americans, was clearly impressed by Barack Obama's campaign rhetoric in 2008; his descriptions of that period ("brilliant speech... his particular brand of magic... precise and lyrical, heartfelt and gently clipped... extraordinary speech") may prove frustrating to those who never shared that enthusiasm. Tasked to explain the divergence between those stirring calls for change and the unambitious governance of 2009 and 2010, he decides that the speeches are more legitimate than the policies, and pursues a narrative where Obama's lack of managerial skills and the actions of a few aggressive, sometimes intransigent staffers caused an earnest desire for reform to go unfulfilled. This narrative is supported by Suskind's interviews with certain White House officials who blame Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, and Rahm Emanuel for that stagnation.

Without disputing that Obama was a poor manager who was intellectually dominated by certain advisers, one has to point out that Suskind's major sources, the heroes of his book, all wanted substantial reform themselves, which would naturally color their recollection of Obama's actions and beliefs. At one point Suskind quotes Tom Daschle on the impression Barack Obama creates: "I saw a man who listened. Sometimes people misunderstood that listening as an acquiescence to their point of view." Such misunderstandings in fact date back to the campaign, when Obama's aggressive rhetoric was accompanied by a cautious, bet-hedging attitude toward policy matters not substantively different from that of his opponents in the Democratic primary. There were observers who pointed out well before the 2008 presidential election that Obama's political profile, as distinct from his campaign method, was centrist and that he was unlikely to bring about the radical change some had imagined. This is a simpler explanation that Suskind's, because it requires no sudden change in Obama's forcefulness, only a continuity that fits his chaotic White House as well as anything else.

Suskind's most important sources, the (by political operative standards) more ardent reformers, were given secondary positions in the domestic policy structure, while those who wanted less radical change got the top spots. Suskind glosses this primarily as a managerial decision, going with tested experience over boldness, but it's also a political one. The obvious result of putting non-reformers into top jobs is to weaken the reform position in policy debates, and it's hard to believe Barack Obama didn't realize that. Modern political journalism often emphasizes personality, of which leadership style is an aspect, over ideology, but both are important in interpreting decisions, and by ignoring the ideological implications of Obama's appointment decisions, Suskind makes his own narrative seem more credible than it is.

Much is made of Obama's having his advisers debate issues in front of him so he could lead them toward a consensus position, a preference that Larry Summers' (apparent) intellectual force and preparedness allowed him to manipulate. But, again, that push for consensus is more than a leadership strategy. It's an act of triangulation, taking liberal and conservative positions and twisting them into something that seems like a compromise. Obama's fruitless attempts to shape legislation that would win large bipartisan majorities reflect a similar belief in the power of meeting in the middle. And, despite Suskind's attempt to construct a happy ending where Obama regains the courage of his imagined convictions, that approach continues today.

Suskind's final claim is that in the wake of the 2010 midterms Obama modified his managerial style and took control of his presidency. The debt ceiling crisis, which took place after the writing of Confidence Men but before its publication and was characterized by the same ineffective consensus-seeking as Obama's first two years, is strong evidence against this thesis, and it's unsurprising that Suskind can't summon up much evidence in favor. The only policy matter he mentions is the compromise that extended the Bush tax cuts in exchange for unemployment and a payroll tax cut, a development that, despite the glowing language about "taking control" that Suskind offers, is difficult to distinguish from what had preceded it. He also praises Obama's speech in the aftermath of the Arizona shootings, as if the president's ability to give an inspiring speech on a very general topic was ever in doubt.

Suskind's greatest emphasis, though, is on the staff shakeup that included the departures of Rahm Emanuel and Larry Summers. While those changes might or might not address any managerial problems in the Obama White House, from a standpoint of ideology and vision, they represent further continuity rather than major change. Many of the reforming voices also departed around the same time, and some replacements, including Rahm Emanuel's, were widely understood as signaling a greater friendliness to business, the sort of "move to the center" that Democratic presidents are forever being encouraged to undertake. It is, then, a pragmatic response to the forces exerting pressure on Obama, much as his liberal rhetoric during the Democratic primary was a response to the expectations of the party's base, and his triangulating stance during the first two years struck a balance between those calling for reform and those who wanted to extend the status quo. That sort of balancing act is, of course, business as usual for a politician. Confidence Men is an extended attempt to raise anew the 2008-vintage idea that Barack Obama is different from virtually everyone else in politics, but it founders on the hard fact that he is as responsive to the existing structures and ideologies as anyone else. There are, however, enough interesting facts woven around that unconvincing narrative to make the book worthy of careful, critical reading.
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142 of 165 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The story that can only be told by a insider with wonderful access, September 20, 2011
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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.

The gazelles are analogous to good ideas being put into law. Suskind favors forcing transparency into the turbid world of derivatives trading. He favored separating traditional banking, which the federal government has an interest in bailing out, from proprietary trading. He lionizes people who really wanted to contain health care costs, fighting against the healthcare industry which has huge vested interests in perpetuating a lack of efficiency. His heroes in doing this are people like Elizabeth Warren, apparently soon to be a senatorial candidate in Massachusetts, and even a few Wall Street characters like Larry Fink. These are the gazelles; few of their initiatives survived the march past the predatory lobbiests, vested interests in Congress, and competing interests in the executive branch.

The book is not as negative as its initial hype would lead you to believe. He quotes Larry Summers as saying that the senior staff were "home alone" with no adults in charge at the White House. However, he so thoroughly discredits Summers' performance that whatever quotes about Obama he attributes to Summers do not matter.

Suskind is a good craftsman with words. His description of the economic meltdown is very nicely done, with some nice turns of phrase. Many other books have been dedicated to the mortgage debt crisis. I recommend "The Big Short" as a very readable summary of the situation, one which goes somewhat deeper into its mechanics than this book. The beauty of this volume is the connection that it draws between, as the chapter is titled, "The Two Capitals," that is, the financial and the political capitals, New York and Washington.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For a real inside view -- READ THE BOOK, October 1, 2011
All I can say is, read the book. Including to some of the reviewers here, all I can say is, get past the more salacious details and READ THE BOOK. The primary themes are incontrovertible. In this important, influential work and remarkable piece of reporting and writing, we get to experience, close up, the lessons that Barack Obama learned the hard way in two years in the White House, and we get a first-hand preview of him as an even better, more-seasoned leader heading into his second phase (and term) as President. The making of a President!

This book is grist for neither one side or the other, but instead shows how leadership evolves, stumbles, and grows. It's an escape into the upper inside of Washington -- along with a profound consideration of the issues that matter. Ron Suskind is too much the accomplished veteran to fabricate or stretch anything. The truth is much more interesting. He is a world-class documentarian and interpreter who can put the big picture together for the reader. CONFIDENCE MEN, like his other books, is an essential historic document for understanding the times in which we live. Grab it and immerse yourself in the dynamics, the personalities and pressures, and the human side of the highest seats of American power.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Management 101, October 9, 2011
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This book could be used at almost any business school as a case study on the impact an inexperienced manager has on the success or failure of the organization he/she leads. President Obama surrounded himself with extremely expert and strong willed men, Lawrence Summers, Rahm Emanuel, and Tim Geithner. Those appointments at first blush would seem exactly the type of people the President of the United States should have surrounded himself with. Unfortunately in this case those strong willed personalities with world class expertise overwhelmed a tentative President unsure of himself, who entered office with virtually no management experience. These men, and others, ill served Obama, openly ignoring presidential directives, and openly insulting him in front of others in the organization. Summers said more than once "We are Home Alone" implying that there would be no leadership or decisions coming from the President.

Susskind has written a fascinating glimpse into a presidency that has been widely seen as ineffective and even inept. This book is well researched, entertaining, and enlightening.

Highly recommended
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic, though distracted, account of Obama's first two years, October 7, 2011
This book is essentially a first-draft history of Obama's first two years in office, focused entirely on domestic policy. It is insightful, comprehensive, and somewhat distracted. I wasn't really sure what to expect when I picked this up, but it is not the narrative Woodward-style account of events. It is more complex and offers more of a thesis than Woodward's fly-on-the-wall approach.

Suskind does some important things in this book. He closely follows the Obama administration's response to the 2008 financial crisis and the financial reforms that followed, and ties in the health care (health insurance) reform. Critically, he demonstrates how these two major accomplishments of Obama's team were hollowed out by lobbyists, congressmen, and Obama's own advisors into barely effective shadows of their original intent. Financial reform was meant to guarantee the elimination of systemic risk, to put caps on derivatives, and limit the speculative behavior of true banks, but little of that change ever came into law. The same with health care, which was first intended to reduce the cost of care by eliminating unnecessary treatment and eliminate unfair insurance practices, but in the end was largely a mandate to increase the consumer base of insurance companies and offered no oversight on providers' costs.

There is some of the he-said, she-said accounts of infighting within the White House, with Rahm Emanuel and Larry Summers coming off as the most difficult to work with and perhaps the two who most inhibited Obama's aspirations. Tim Geithner is painted as insubordinate and elusive. Then there are those who come off as misunderstood and of brilliance ignored: Christy Romer, Elizabeth Warren, Peter Orszag, and Gary Gensler. Even Paul Volcker is found to have his sage advice brushed aside. All of this is often fascinating for gossip's sake, but also provides insight into how ineffective the Obama White House truly was during the first two years in office. The end of the book describes personnel changes that allowed for more effective decision-making today.

There are a few flaws to the book. Firstly, it is far too long. Suskind takes too much time focusing on marginal characters and too much time on things that are not relevant to the thesis. The focus on health care reform is partially relevant because of its economic impact, but receives more attention than it deserves. Some chapters were page-turners, other seemed to ramble aimlessly.

Reading this book during the start of the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon was interesting, however. It provided a keen source of frustration at Wall Street and at those within the government who are loathe to undermine market confidence to any degree (eg Geithner and Bernanke). It underscores exactly why the American public should be upset, not just at Wall Street, but also at Washington, for its inability to act in a decisive manner that truly puts the interests of the American people first. The book is fairly unbiased, painting both sides with a critical brush, though in the end it heaps beatitudes upon Obama who, after two rocky first years, seems to have found his true self; and Ron Suskind seems to like that guy.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars backroom political gossip, October 24, 2011
Suskind talked to all sorts of people at the top politically. Hundreds of people and hundreds of hours of interviews. And he has a large amount of material here for a book. But the art of the book would be taking those individual perspectives and distilling something like the truth from them. This book, however, is not art. Its a bunch of people trashing each other and putting knives in each others backs. There is pride. There is envy. There is the scrambling for position. But what there isn't is much substantive disputes over policy.

One thing that comes ironically across is that Obama didn't have enough of his own people around him and maybe wasn't at a career point where he had enough of his own people to staff an administration. Every Clinton person involved seems to be more loyal to the ex-president than they are to the current president. They are willing to lecture about how how "Bill" would never have done such-and-such a thing.

Most people seem more upset at Larry Summers for getting the job rather than what he did in the job. Half of them of course think that they and their friends should have been given the job. And then there is the tribalism within the democratic party. It gets as bad as the communcations director calling the Obama White House a hostile workplace for women.

Suskind wants to project Obama as a sort of senile old powerless fool at at the top. He means well and when it goes wrong, its the fault of those below him. Its kind of a back to a "if only the Tsar knew" sort of excuse and a sort of elevation of Obama into the role of a god-king who doesn't trend on the same ground as the mortals who serve him.

The author also never quite fully understands that the problem is that the democratic party *in power* is far less progressive than it is when its out of power. And that there are quite a few democrats in congress who vote like republicans. There were not the votes to pass a more aggressive health care bill. There was not the political will to nationalize the banks. There was not the will to pass a much bigger stimulus.

The book points indirectly to the real problems in the first two years of the Obama White House:

1) A rotten, backstabbing staff who were all out for themselves in the middle of a crisis
2) A democratic congress that was less interested in solving problems than in sharing out spoils.
3) A President who lacked a large enough circle of close friends to form an administration loyal to him.
4) Too many Clinton hangers-on brought in
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Accessible insight into the financial crisis, September 29, 2011
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Because we are entering an election cycle, much of the attention this book is receiving is based on how it might help or hurt Obama's chances for reelection. What the book is is an insightful look into the events leading up to and following the great financial crisis of 2008. You will definitely come away with a deeper understanding of the workings of Wall Street e.g. credit default swaps, tranches, leveraging, etc. and the difficulty of dealing with the problems through government policy. The inside look at White House dynamics is not always pretty, but could one really expect a leader with limited experience to effectively handle the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression and the most complicated crisis ever. How this book may effect your vote in 2012 depends on your personal analysis of whether or not Obama has grown into the Presidency.
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77 of 100 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Blitz Through 4 Years of Financials, September 20, 2011
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""What is my narrative?" he all but shouted. "I don't have a narrative."

That's Barack Obama reacting to the election of Scott Brown to the Senate seat of Ted Kennedy- a toe stubbing to the concurrent ARRA negotiations.

If you have been wondering- and I have to some extent- what has been said and thought behind the scene of headline events then Ron Suskind is your man.
He not only has word-for-word quotes from Barney Frank huffing and puffing his way through Manhattan asking direction on how to get to Wall Street, he has asides from Obama to an aide in a passing hallway conversations. And what Obama said to Rahm in a dressing down following a suspicious puff piece by Dana Millbank.

There is no shortage of who said what to whom, regarding what and just when. In that sense "Confidence Men" forms an important document of recent political history.

Overall, Larry Summer, Tim Geithner and Rahm Emanuel are cast as the bad guys. Volcker, Gary Gensler and Elizabeth Warren are good. Does that make any sense? I am not convinced by that narrative. Summers comes off as an abrasive fellow you wouldnt want working for you but then TARP is one of the few Obama economic plans that you can say was successful so credit where it is due.
The over all sub-text of the book is of a Liberal dream frustrated by mean old insiders. Ron Suskind chooses to open on Obama announcing the the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and simultaneously snubbing Liberal It-Girl Elizabeth Warren to head it. That sets the stage for how an apparently much anticipated (in some quarters) Extreme Makeover of US society along "Progressive" lines got frustrated in the backroom fisticuffs between Team "Good" and Team "Baddie". Two things frustrate this Xanadu- Obama's inexperience leads him into the clutches of Team "Baddie", and the 2nd derivative of the crisis gets under control giving time for a sober assessment of how much baby is being thrown out with the bathwater. At one point Volcker is quoted as saying in 2010:
""The crisis should have lasted a little longer," he said. "It would have been better if Wall Street didn't pull out of it so soon. Given us more time."

Oh well- a disappointment for Team "Good" but good news for the rest of us... if I can be so selfish.

In light of all this it's somewhat remarkable that the pushback by liberals against the book is that Suskind is on a WSJ hit job- he appears to be quite sympathetic to the lefty insiders.

In terms of the theme of Obama being manipulated by Team Bad, there was simply no other way that it could have worked out. Obama had *no* management experience going into the job and no practical knowledge of economics. It was always going to be the case that his Chief of Staff was going to have to be the one who herded, controlled and was the enforcer. As far as economics, Larry Summers is accurately described as "Summers was simply a master explainer, able to deftly boil down the complexities of matters economic and financial, and to put them in terms the nonexpert could understand." As economics were the central focus of the first 100 days it was always inevitable that Summers would have centrality since Obama had no practical background.

Interestingly its revealed that the idea of a giant Stimulus bill actually came up in 2007 when the economy was fine. Austan Goolsbee and Alan Krueger were laying out the problem of a decreasing male job market and Obama brainstormed the idea of a giant infrastructure building project as part of a men's work project [the utter failure of infrastructure works projects to generate employment in a short time frame and the fact that heavy equipment means project dont employs 10,000's of workers anymore goes completely unexplored by Suskind]. Essentially from that point Stimulus was a hammer looking for a nail- and found one in the political climate of Q1 2009.

Overall this book is a mish-mash of insider information, some interesting some not, with a narrative that I dont find so persuasive but the end result is an important and informative book. Preposterously for a book written three years after the events it describes, Suskind tries to adopt a "sweep of history" and flowery language more appropriate to a retrospective of a decades maturity. The reader is expected to slough though speeches in Manassas and Iowa and is supposed treat gilded campaign prose with naive whole-cloth fervor of a true believer.

An appropriate reader would be an liberal fan who wonders what went wrong with their guy, or someone interested in what was said behind the scenes at some major events of the past three years. A general reader is unlikely to find enough sex appeal in derivative swaps discussions to hold their interest.
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Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President
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