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The Escape Artists: How Obama's Team Fumbled the Recovery Hardcover – February 28, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (February 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439172404
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439172407
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #469,994 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Scheiber writes with ease and authority about complicated financial matters . . . and proves particularly adept at showing how [the Obama economic team’s] personalities, philosophies and previous experiences with one another shaped their interactions and the policy-making process.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“A Woodwardian account of infighting in the White House’s economics team . . . Scheiber is a smart, clear-eyed reporter who frames his arguments elegantly.” Bloomberg Businessweek

The Escape Artists is a compelling narrative, deeply reported and beautifully written.” —Jonathan Chait, New York

“Diligently reported and informative.” —John Cassidy, The New Yorker

"The Escape Artists reads like a Bob Woodward book—albeit better written and informed by a more sophisticated understanding of economics and policymaking." —Daniel Gross, Yahoo! Finance

“Noam Scheiber offers a persuasive take on administration policymaking . . . [and] provides a template for future administrations—even a future Obama administration—to avoid the trap of thinking too narrowly and too politically in a crisis.” —Matthew Yglesias, Slate

“What Scheiber offers is a judicious, nuanced and ultimately . . . persuasive chronicle of how contentious experts jockeyed to influence a young president stuck with an almost impossible set of chal­lenges. . . . Such sophisticated analysis of how the nation’s most powerful officials think—however one regards the wisdom of that thinking—distinguishes Scheiber’s book.” —Paul M. Barrett, The New York Times Book Review

The Escape Artists offers great insight into Obama’s self-perception. . . . Scheiber’s reporting has naturally sparked a great deal of second-guessing in Democratic circles, and his book will provide plenty of ammunition for the president’s liberal critics . . . [and] to those critics on the right who believed that the White House never really earned their trust.” —Reihan Salam, The Daily

About the Author

Noam Scheiber is a senior editor at The New Republic, writing about politics and Obama administration economic policy. He has written for the New York Times, The Washington Post, New York magazine, and Slate, and has appeared on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, and NPR. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Customer Reviews

Yet the narrative is brisk, even suspenseful.
Jarad Vary
Great detail and background on the why and the how key players of the Obama administration including the president unsuccessfully pursued economic recovery policies .
Peter Schutt
The most obvious example of this is the title, which doesn't make much sense on a number of levels.
P. Troutman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By LAM on March 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A superb treatment of President Obama's first years in office, Noam Scheiber's "The Escape Artists" is an extraordinary blend of reportage, analysis and opinion.

Although Scheiber covers the same territory as a number of other recent books, there is a great deal of new information here that makes the book valuable as a first draft of history. Scheiber's punctilious coverage of the internecine battles among Obama's economic advisers alone sets his book apart. In particular, Scheiber lays bare for the first time National Economic Chair Lawrence Summers' thoroughgoing efforts to bury CEA Chairwoman Christina Romer's recommendation for a much larger, $1.8-trillion stimulus package in the first months of the administration. The exceptional detail of this episode is quite helpful in furthering the picture of Summers as hectoring bully that has emerged in more breathless, but less satisfying, books, such as Ron Suskind's "Confidence Men."

And while the reportage in "The Escape Artists" is terrific, Scheiber's lucid analysis of the 2009-2010 economic terrain gives the book an added dimension. Indeed, Scheiber's explication of the path not taken with respect to additional stimulus, derivative regulation, and "too big to fail" financial institutions is as helpful as anyone will find anywhere. This book deserves a widespread audience and here's to hoping that it finds one.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Barbara on March 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Scheiber has done a masterful job of putting a human face on the policies that have been argued back and forth about the Obama administration and its handling (or non-handling) of the economy. For those of us not privy to the inside scoop, Scheiber has managed to give us a detailed picture of who said what to whom, and when, and why, and how that catapulted into what someone else said to whom, and when, and why. Though we peruse the newspapers and blogs scrupulously, listen to the cable talkers, and debate with our friends, most of what we hear and know has an ephemeral quality to it. Scheiber provides the down-to-earth human element--the missed opportunities, the flawed judgement, the personal history of the actors-- and we learn, once again, why the person, not just "the idea," matters.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By P. Troutman on April 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The other reviews are largely devoted to how this book squares with the reviewers' own political leanings. That isn't too useful (except for one point noted below).

Some general interest issues:

A. Noam Scheiber is obviously a strong, if occasionally hyperbolic, writer who writes with a novelist's panache. The editor, however, could been tougher and reined him more. There are a number of places in which they could have demanded more coherence. The most obvious example of this is the title, which doesn't make much sense on a number of levels. The phrase `the escape artists' doesn't clearly point to any central theme, and the word `fumbled' isn't an accurate description of what Scheiber describes (except for a homeowner relief package mentioned toward the end of the book). A more accurate subtitle for this work would have been `How Republicans tripped up the economic recovery'.

Scheiber himself, however, seems to reluctant to reach this conclusion, in part I suspect because he doesn't want to appear partisan and in part because if that really was the story, that would mean a different book with a whole set of more interviews. I'm not saying this to blame Republicans but to say that Scheiber doesn't want to go where his evidence is leading him. And if he followed the trail, he would have had to interview a lot more Hill Republicans, which might have complicated the story he got from talking to White House insiders. Or it might have made him squarely face his own evidence that Wall Street effectively captured a White House promising change.

B. Toward the beginning of the book especially, Scheiber fetishizes intelligence, talking about how brilliant or analytical this or that person is.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By T. A. Venegas on May 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Here's my review of The Escape Artists, which I think does a good job of delving into the personalities of the principals, but seems to fall into the trap of assuming the president has more power than he does.

Noam Scheiber is a regular writer for The New Republic. He researched the tremendously readable The Escape Artists, which is an insider look at the Obama Administration's dealings with the economy. He weaves a beautiful narrative that focuses on the personal and institutional biases of many of the players within the administration, including Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, Christina Romer, and Obama himself. I recommend the book to all readers of this post, especially because it tries to counter the self serving spin that we get from any president. However, many of the criticisms that Scheiber levels at the president just don't pass muster logically.

Scheiber credits the president with averting economic disaster (and that credit should also be shared with George Bush, who stepped away from his ideology to sign the TARP program), but Scheiber believes that the economy would have improved with more liberal policy prescriptions, which would have also put the president in a position of political strength in the present. Scheiber theorizes that the use of the president's power of persuasion, or "the bully pulpit," would have put the American public on his side and forced Congress along for the ride. Scheiber also faults Obama for listening more to his more centrist advisers, like Summers and Geithner, and less to more liberal members of his staff, like Romer.

Scheiber first discusses the stimulus, and how Romer believed it was too small.
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