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

Confidence Men by Ron Suskind
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May 01, 2012

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Read in April, 2012

Fascinating but frustrating book. Suskind's look at Obama's first two years in office has incredible White House access (he's interviewed all the players at one time or other) and crafts a compelling narrative; a new administration divided and stalled by the enormity of the unexpected financial crisis. You get all the details wanted on the administrations' plan to wind down Citigroup that ultimately never came to fruition (a process that would show how govt could intercede in 'too big to fail' institutions without causing the panic of Lehman or AIG), the push and pull of continuing with health care reform in spite of the immediate financial crisis at hand, and the wearing down of meaningful financial reform legislation in Congress.
What's so frustrating is Suskind's narrative default of casting Larry Summers, Rahm Emanuel, and Tim Geithner as villains. Digressions on Geithner's bad fashion sense and Summers' moodiness undercut the journalistic integrity. Suskind's too busy describing what an asshole Emanuel is that he never gets around to explaining to the reader why Obama chose this particular team over the more progressive economic advisors he surround himself with during the 2008 campaign.
We won't have a fuller grasp of such a decision until time provides a more complete view of Obama as president. With that in mind, I wish Suskind would have rendered a more objective account of "the Education of a President".

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