Dan Petegorsky's Reviews > Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President

Confidence Men by Ron Suskind
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Sep 30, 2011

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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 administration.

This wider scope of the book is both a strength and weakness. A strength in that, especially for those who haven’t delved into the wider literature on the economic collapse and its roots on Wall Street and in DC, it’s a relatively lucid and non-expert friendly telling. The drawback is that if you’ve read other treatments, much of the narrative has been told already. That said, even where Suskind goes over familiar territory he tells parts of the story through the eyes of some figures who haven’t received much attention elsewhere and who give it fresh perspective. Plus, while he does focus on a circumscribed network of characters and how they influenced the process of trying to reform (or block reform of) the financial industry, he really is most interested in the policies and moral issues themselves.

So while there are flaws (including some factual errors various reviewers have noted), overall it’s still a pretty strong and unfortunately necessary indictment of the Administration’s failure to have taken full advantage of a moment when it had Wall Street’s back against the wall to implement a far more systemic reform that it has so far achieved. Perhaps the mounting protests now underway across the country can help change that.

[One note on the Audible version: while they’ve employed a generally skillful narrator, it’s beyond merely irksome that he regularly butchers the pronunciation of major figures’ names, including such prominent public figures as Valerie Jarrett and Vikram Pandit, and even including one of the book’s central figures, Gary Gensler.]
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Susan (new) - added it

Susan Well, Dan, you've helped answer my question of whether this is a book worth reading. It's going on my To-Read list.


message 2: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Petegorsky I'll be curious to see what you think.


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