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

Confidence Men by Ron Suskind
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Dec 10, 2011

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Read from December 09 to 10, 2011

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 misrepresented his sources.

With those preliminaries out of the way, the gist is that Obama choose the wrong economic team and that Tim Geithner and Larry Summers deliberately ignored Obama’s policy intentions and enacted what they themselves thought was best. The degree to which this was intentional on their part is I suppose a matter of debate. Suskind faults Obama for not being able to control these two men. There you go - start arguing with your conservative family members.

Suskind criticizes Obama for asking “What’s my narrative?” instead of being concerned with specific policy points. But Suskind himself deliberately shapes a novel-esque narrative: Obama is the patsy, Geithner & Summers are the villians, and Gary Gensler is the hero. [ed. note: someone should out me here: Obama is the POTUS; Suskind is a journalist]I’m sure Obama’s experience during the time Suskind is writing about would be different. I’m reminded of Jimmy Carter’s Whitehouse Diary. Carter’s subjective experience (and his later analysis thereof) provide a telling lens for what is generally considered a failed presidency. That comparison should be enough to tell you all you really need to know without reading Suskind’s book.

Outside of those considerations, the first chapter is too overtly literary. Suskind is better served sticking to the “facts.” Which he does in later chapters. But he does repeat certain passages or points over and over. I couldn’t help but think this was for the benefit of people who wouldn’t bother to read the whole book. I suppose people who typically read books like this don’t read the whole thing. I feel so provincial.
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