Michele Weiner'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 09, 2011

it was amazing
Read in October, 2011

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 contended that Geithner ignored clear orders from Obama to restructure Citibank immediately in favor of his stress test plan, Suskind asks if Geithner's slow and steady, no quick or violent moves philosophy was the right one. The jury's still out, but what remains is the knowledge that there was a kind of vacuum where a strong president should have been. Obama is seen as a man who had no strong philosophy at all, which could be a drawback, unless it is a plus to be without ideology. In the end, who can know?? Certainly not Suskind.

The big surprise here was the feeling among the women on Obama's team that there was a locker room atmosphere that demeaned them, and that Obama appeared mystified and not very interested in changing things when they had a meeting to discuss it with him. I'll be he doesn't give Hillary that kind of trouble!!!

Anyway, a very interesting look at how a president must learn to manage his staff and the expectations of his supporters. It's not a given that a smart guy with good intentions and lots of high-powered help will be able to do what he wanted to do when he was on the outside looking in.
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