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Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  2,026 Ratings  ·  230 Reviews
In this gripping, revelatory, and brilliantly reported book, acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind tells for the first time the full story of America's financial meltdown and an untested new president charged with commanding Washington, taming Wall Street, rescuing an economy on the verge of collapse, and restoring the confidence of a shaken nation. Suski ...more
ebook, 528 pages
Published September 20th 2011 by Harper
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Frank Stein
Sep 30, 2011 Frank Stein rated it it was ok
This has got to be one of the most infuriating books ever written. First, the author knows nothing, and I mean nothing, about the basic economics that underpins the whole debate the book is putatively about. He confuses bank assets with liabilities, the "multiplier effect" with consumption spending, annual deficits with total debt, and on and on and on. Even more frustrating, however, is the fact that I have never in my life read a book with more plain and simple factual errors. It is almost ine ...more
David Drum
Dec 30, 2011 David Drum rated it really liked it
My liberal friends have two views of President Barack Obama, the first African American to be elected President. The most cynical view is that Obama was always a “Trojan horse,” talking liberal talk while always basically aligned with the interests of corporate America and Wall Street. A more sympathetic view is that Obama went into office a good man with great ideas, and simply couldn’t pull them off because he wasn’t up to the job.

Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, an
This is a deeply perplexing book.

In the Woodward/Bernstein tradition of political journalism, this book offers a contemporary view of a political crisis, as it happens, using extensive interviews to provide an 'as-if-you-were-there' intimate perspective.

We see the financial crisis unfold, and it is not pretty.

There are many striking revelations here, the first being that the President received advanced warning on the crisis, even during his electoral campaign. Of course, he had numerous other is
George Bradford
Nov 14, 2011 George Bradford rated it really liked it
Why did President Barack Obama fall so short of the expectations of the citizens who elected him? What happened to the change he promised? Where did the hope go? Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ron Suskind lays it out in excruciating detail. And for a reader like me (who supported, campaigned, raised money and voted for Barack Obama), "Confidence Men" is a brutally painful book to read.

But the pain is worth it (if, like me, you love your country, believe its best days are still ahead and want
Oct 01, 2011 Kent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some people have told me that they thought this book was a “hit piece” on the President. I can't agree; however, it is clearly not written from the perspective of blind love for him either. It seems to be a fair record of events during the first few years of the Obama administration. The story is of two capitol cities Washington, DC and New York, NY (capitol of capital and finance). It covers contributing elements of the economic collapse; how a new administration attempted recovery, and finance ...more
Michele Weiner
Oct 09, 2011 Michele Weiner rated it it was amazing
I loved this inside look at the Obama White House by Ron Suskind, whose recent current affairs efforts have been equally stunning. He says that Barack Obama was forced by crisis to change his course dramatically in key areas: the Bush tax cuts, health care, and Wall Street reform were all impacted by his fear of doing harm to desperate Americans. Also, he was stymied by the strong opinions of his advisors, including most notably Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and Rahm Emmanuel. In the end, having c ...more
Ron Suskind’s book provides two valuable services for readers. First is an excellent analysis of the roots of the current financial crisis and second an in-depth and behind-the-scenes description of how Washington reacted to the crisis. Suskind brings to the table an ability to synthesize the experiences of most of the key players into a compulsively readable narrative. If you don’t understand what happened and how Wall Street gambled the country away then this book will illuminate that. Suskind ...more
Maddi Hausmann
Sep 28, 2011 Maddi Hausmann rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, finance
Four and a half stars.

While I thought this would be a political inside-the-mind-of-the-advisors type of book, there's quite a bit of The Big Short (Michael Lewis) in here too; an explanation of the Wall Street shenanigans that led to the near-collapse of the US economy. Suskind has to spend time getting us into that mileau to explain where the economic advisors either came from or were reacting to.

Certainly some of the advisers come across better than others, and with a book of this type one alw
Adam Snider
This is both the first book I've read on the Obama presidency, and the first book I've read by Ron Suskind, and it has left me feeling slightly ambiguous about both. Confidence Men isn't just a book about the Obama phenomenon - it jumps repeatedly back and forth between Wall Street and Washington, using the story of the first two years of the new administration as a doorway into a host of other topics: the evolution of the financial industry since the '70s, the rise of the Tea Party, the 2008 el ...more
Dec 10, 2011 Bryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
First, it struck me as strange to be reading a book about a sitting president’s cabinet. It felt like a forced telescoping (microscoping?) of history. I still have mixed feelings about this. I have never read a book like this before (one about a sitting president’s cabinet). It felt lurid. I couldn’t resist after so many members of said cabinet tried to backtrack in the press after the book was released. To me, this meant whatever was in the book was probably true. Or maybe the author had misrep ...more
Justin Mitchell
Dec 22, 2011 Justin Mitchell rated it really liked it
Anyone still wondering how on earth Obama managed to squander his incredible level of political capital in the first two years of his presidency needs to read this. It's incredibly dense, incredibly abstract at times--especially when discussing the ever-maddening-to-comprehend world of derivatives--but also painstakingly details the way in which entrenched Washington players managed to curb the wishes of the American people and their elected president. While it's garnered criticism from some of ...more
Les Aucoin
Jan 06, 2012 Les Aucoin rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This book by an award-winning author, the first who had inside access to the Obama White House, names names of culprits in the greatest failure of the American financial system since the Great Depression and how they worked to enrich themselves while building a bubble economy that produced little underlying value.

It spotlights Wall Street flimflam artists whose venal hawking of credit swap derivatives of sub-prime mortgage instruments led to the Great Recession of 2008 (a calamity which may yet
Joseph D. Walch
Dec 21, 2011 Joseph D. Walch rated it liked it
There is a point at which journalism turns into historiography, when the current events have passed sufficiently to allow the historian beach-comber to piece together a more comprehensive representation of the events. This was one of those first historical accounts to emerge from the nascent Obama administration. The author was given plenty of access to the President and his economic team in writing this book. Previously, Ron Suskind had written critically of Pres. Bush and so perhaps the admini ...more
Dave Lefevre
Sep 26, 2011 Dave Lefevre rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: political
Everything that has been said about this book in the media has been a red herring. Outlets like CNN have chosen to focus the book's sub-narrative about problems female members of the administration faced or that the book shows Obama as "weak." The problems women had in the first two years of the administration are important, but when compared to the overall story of the massive banking crisis Obama faced it's a secondary story that was meant to provide insight into how the Obama Whitehouse took ...more
Dec 24, 2011 Flavio rated it liked it
Confidence men makes the case that "confidence" is a quality that determines outcomes in the political process more often than one imagines. In one sense the book uses confidence to mean faith. Picking a leader is an act of faith in some measure.By faith I mean belief without absolute knowledge.The book also points out that many of the actors in the political and economic arena in recent years have also projected confidence, may times unwarranted confidence, in order to convince others and push ...more
Dan Petegorsky
Sep 30, 2011 Dan Petegorsky rated it liked it
Suskind’s book has drawn wide attention mainly for some “palace intrigue” passages featuring various WH staffers’ uncharitable assessments of one another and for several sources’ subsequent denials of the accuracy of Suskind’s attributions. That’s a shame, because while these do feature in his book, it’s really much more than that: it’s a sobering, indeed depressing overview of the financial crisis and how it affected and was handled first by candidate and then President Obama and his administra ...more
May 30, 2016 Mike rated it liked it
This is one of those hard-to-rate books that has five star elements mixed with a little too much pedestrian pontification. The book shines when it's providing an inside look at the dynamics within the Obama Administration, especially focusing on his strengths and, more often, weaknesses as a manager and at the interpersonal tensions among members of his economic team.

Suskind pulls together inside accounts from countless people in the administration and expertly puts the puzzle pieces together to
Jul 19, 2012 Drake rated it it was amazing
Ahhh, it’s an election year and time for politics. My first dive was into Ron Suskind’s Confidence Men and it was amazing. Summarizing the early years of the Obama presidency, the book contrasts the hopes and desires of the young president with the soul-crushing realities of mismanagement and incompetence. Although, I didn’t always agree with Suskind’s premise of the self-destruction of males in powerful positions, there was plenty of research to back it up. From the way President Obama heeded t ...more
Jan 03, 2012 Al rated it liked it
I am willing to believe that in the preparation of this book, Mr. Suskind conducted "... 746 hours of interviews ... with more than 200 individuals..." I for one am glad that he didn't talk to more, or longer, than he did. As best I can determine, this book is a wealth of data and stories in search of a theme. It wanders from story line to story line, and from person to person. It's confusing, if not maddening, to find policies and people first viewed favorably, later unfavorably, and in some c ...more
Ken McDouall
Dec 22, 2014 Ken McDouall rated it really liked it
Ron Suskind has a knack for turning obscure history into compelling narratives, and he doesn't disappoint here. He fills in the cast of characters like a novelist wielding his creative toolbox--Obama's economic advisers, the Fed, the politicians making up the legislative milieu. We learn quite a lot about Obama's personality, his methods of managing meetings, and his managerial style. It is the latter the comes up severely lacking in Suskind's account. Always engaging, intelligent, concerned, an ...more
Catherine Johnson
Jul 14, 2013 Catherine Johnson rated it it was amazing

"It was on a Friday, November 21, that [Christina] Romer first entered Obama's curtain-sealed office in Chicago. Unlike Orszag, she was nervous about meeting Obama and she hadn't even come with any ultimatum or conditions about taking the Council of Economic Advisers job. She was just elated to get to know the guy.

But their first meeting would open on an odd note. Before exchanging hellos or even shaking hands, the president-elect delivered what seemed intended as a zinger.

Muhammad Ahmad
Oct 22, 2011 Muhammad Ahmad rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, economics
Like his previous book, an otherwise excellent work of investigative journalism is marred by an excess of superfluous detail. This book wouldn't suffer from losing at least 200 of its pages. Suskind writes in the non-fiction novel style of Bob Woodward, though he is a much better writer. But unlike Woodward, he has a tendency to easily get lost in unnecessary embellishment through novelistic details about minor characters.

Like Woodward's last book, Confidence Men paints an unflattering picture
Heidi Hanson
Aug 15, 2012 Heidi Hanson rated it liked it
If you would like to get really, really mad read "Confidence Men" by Suskind. The book explains in layman's terms some of the very complicated financial situations that created the crash of 2008. Once you have a better understanding, however, you will be insensed. Too big to fail? Was Detriot or the steel industry "too big to fail?" If you didn't realize it already the book makes it crystal clear that Wall Streeters love the rules of the game until they lose. Then, it is time to rewrite the rule ...more
Andrew Mccracken
Jan 07, 2012 Andrew Mccracken rated it it was ok
This could be such a great book; and the insights into the people and dynamics of the White House are great. The association of the book with particular individuals agendas is clear enough that you can take the appropriate pinch of salt with the angle the author takes, and really feel that you're seeing in to the challenges of governing in prose after so effectively campaigning in poetry.

However, the editing and structure of the book is just impossible to fathom. The massive cast of characters,
Harry Lane
Nov 11, 2011 Harry Lane rated it it was amazing
Suskind reports indepth and with great detail on the inner workings of the Obama administration's first two years. The conclusion I come away with is that Obama had hoped to become a transformative President, but is failing badly for several reasons. First, a strong argument can be made that he chose the wrong people for his economic team. Second, his strong instinct is to achieve consensus to the degree that it got in the way of making decisions. He did not exercise strong oversight, and severa ...more
Oct 17, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it
I found The Confidence Men to be a fascinating book, but it's not for the faint of heart. The detail Suskind goes into breaking down the economic crisis and the decision making process in Obama's first couple of years is phenomenal. If you like lots of detail and analysis, you'll love this book. Examining the collapse of the housing market, the bailout of the auto industry and the fight for healthcare are a few of the things laid out on the table with tons of behind the scenes interviews and inf ...more
Uwe Hook
Jan 28, 2012 Uwe Hook rated it really liked it
A stunning portrait of the first 2 years of Obama's administration filled with in-fighting, inexperience and inaction. An important read for any voter, a good glimpse into the psyche of the President.
Nov 26, 2011 Thomas rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just started...already fascinating...and does not reflect very well on the President.
Sagar Jethani
Nov 07, 2011 Sagar Jethani rated it it was amazing
Ron Suskind's "Confidence Men" is one of the most comprehensive portraits of the Obama administration to emerge in the past two years. Suskind, a former senior national affairs reporter for the Wall Street Journal whose work has earned him a Pulitzer Prize, describes an administration held hostage by corporate advocates: a dysfunctional White House and a president whose penchant for intellectual analysis is manipulated by those around him into endless relitigation instead of bold action. Suskind ...more
Interesting and, at times, frustrating account of Obama's first two years as President. Major egos, especially his economics advisers, protecting the President from his own responsibilities make for an ugly picture of policy coherence and general confidence. Dealing with the fallout of the financial sector meltdown at the end of the Bush administration would have been enough to deal with, so the health care (really, health insurance) reform story was more of a distraction, though instructive in ...more
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Harper Collins & Murdoch 4 15 Oct 21, 2013 07:24AM  
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Ron Suskind is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and best-selling author. He was the senior national affairs writer for The Wall Street Journal from 1993 to 2000 and has published several books: A Hope in the Unseen, The Price of Loyalty, The One Percent Doctrine, The Way of the World, Confidence Men, and Life, Animated. He won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for his series ...more
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“It is one thing to rouse the passion of a people, and quite another to lead them.” 6 likes
“Younger colleagues tended to draw untested self-confidence from their bonuses and prestigious degrees.” 5 likes
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