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

Confidence Men by Ron Suskind
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's review
Oct 16, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: america, m-o-n-e-y, villains, truth

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 to make it better for your ancestors than it was for you. You know, the ideals that fueled so many of us that supported Barack Obama's candidacy for the presidency.)

So, once elected, what went wrong?

Over the course of 515 pages Ron Suskind reveals all the details. There are a lot of details. And they document a disaster worse than I ever imagined.

First, the president surrounds himself with all the wrong people. (A roster of Washington insiders and Wall Street champions.) Second, the president is incapable of making a decision. (He'd rather pursue consensus than make a difficult choice.) Third, in the rare instance when the president actually makes a decision his team refuses to act on it. (And there's no accountability or consequences.) Fourth, the White House is a men's club --i.e., a hostile work environment -- where females are not welcome. (At all.) Fifth, the president is so lacking in even rudimentary leadership skills that it takes him almost two years to realize his White House is in chaos. (That's right: chaos.)

And those are just the "tips of the icebergs".

As a result of this fiasco, the president produces no cohesive economic policy, no meaningful financial regulations, no solution to the banking crisis, no improvement for unemployed Americans, no genuine health care reform and, well, you get the idea. . .

But it's not all "bad".

"Confidence Men" is very well written. Its 'you are there' narrative will remind readers of Bob Woodward's 'insider accounts' of previous administrations. However, Suskind is a better writer (who doesn't use omniscient perspective).

And it's very well researched and documented. Prior to publication, Suskind presented his most explosive revelations to the parties and includes their responses in the book. (Since the books publication Suskind has responded to administration officials claiming to be misquoted -- or taken out of context -- with audio recordings of their interviews that verify the accounts in his book.)

As stated above, "Confidence Men" is a painful book to read. I often felt like screaming. I often felt like crying. And, on several occasions, I felt like doing both.

If you love the United States and believe it deserves better than its getting right now and/or you are wondering why the Obama administration got so far off course so quickly, I recommend Ron Suskind's "Confidence Men". It's a good read.

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