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Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a Presidentby Ron Suskind
Synopses & Reviews
The hidden history of Wall Street and the White House comes down to a single, powerful, quintessentially American concept: confidence. Both centers of power, tapping brazen innovations over the past three decades, learned how to manufacture it.
Until August 2007, when that confidence finally began to crumble.
In this gripping and brilliantly reported book, Ron Suskind tells the story of what happened next, as Wall Street struggled to save itself while a man with little experience and soaring rhetoric emerged from obscurity to usher in "a new era of responsibility." It is a story that follows the journey of Barack Obama, who rose as the country fell, and offers the first full portrait of his tumultuous presidency.
Wall Street found that straying from long-standing principles of transparency, accountability, and fair dealing opened a path to stunning profits. Obama's determination to reverse that trend was essential to his ascendance, especially when Wall Street collapsed during the fall of an election year and the two candidates could audition for the presidency by responding to a national crisis. But as he stood on the stage in Grant Park, a shudder went through Barack Obama. He would now have to command Washington, tame New York, and rescue the economy in the first real management job of his life.
The new president surrounded himself with a team of seasoned players — like Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers, and Tim Geithner — who had served a different president in a different time. As the nation's crises deepened, Obama's deputies often ignored the president's decisions — "to protect him from himself" — while they fought to seize control of a rudderless White House. Bitter disputes — between men and women, policy and politics — ruled the day. The result was an administration that found itself overtaken by events as, year to year, Obama struggled to grow into the world's toughest job and, in desperation, take control of his own administration.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind introduces readers to an ensemble cast, from the titans of high finance to a new generation of reformers, from petulant congressmen and acerbic lobbyists to a tight circle of White House advisers — and, ultimately, to the president himself, as you've never before seen him. Based on hundreds of interviews and filled with piercing insights and startling disclosures, Confidence Men brings into focus the collusion and conflict between the nation's two capitals — New York and Washington, one of private gain, the other of public purpose — in defining confidence and, thereby, charting America's future.
"The book paints a harsh, stark portrait of a president in over his head....Suskind makes a compelling case that Obama was able to win the election because he was talking to the right people." The Daily Beast
"A[n] authoritative window on the inner workings of the administration and a useful management primer on how not to run an organization....Confidence Men is crammed with interesting detail." Fortune
"No book about the Obama presidency appears to have unnerved the White House quite so much as Confidence Men by Ron Suskind, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has developed a niche in the specialized art of parting the curtain on presidential dealings." The Chicago Tribune
"Suskind is not calling Obama a confidence man here. Rather, he presents a president who is not up to the task of outmaneuvering a political and economic system that is packed full of confidence men." Time
"A searing new book....Suskind has a flair for taking material he's harvested to create narratives with a novelistic sense of drama." Michiko Kakutani, the New York Times
"Suskind does a magnificent job explaining the way an economy centered on debt has decimated the middle class and made the top 1 percent of Americans impossibly wealthy....Suskind describes a leader pulled off course by his staff." Joan Walsh, Salon
"Ron Suskind's book is...the one that makes the most sense....The shudder-inducing bits of Confidence Men come when the team is too optimistic about how its policies will play out. The confidence allows them to move on too quickly." Slate
"A truly groundbreaking inside account....Penetrating in its analysis of why the administration's approach to the country's economic ills has been so lackluster....An important addition to the growing library of books about this president." Joe Nocera, the New York Times Book Review
"This is wonkish stuff, but the you-are-there, personality-driven nature of Suskind's writing is compelling." Bethany McLean, the Washington Post
"The White House says Suskind talked to too many disgruntled former staffers. But he seems to have talked to a lot of gruntled ones, too. The overarching portrait of chaos, lack of intellectual depth and absence of political wisdom, from a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, rings true." The Wall Street Journal
"Savvy and informative....The most ambitious treatment of this period yet....Suskind's book often reads like Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest. But the quagmire isn't a neo-Vietnam like Afghanistan — it's the economy." Frank Rich, New York magazine
"This narrative...keeps you reading long after you've absorbed the White House's petty criticisms about the book. The portrait of Obama that emerges here is sympathetic, even though Suskind addresses the president's failings....Though the book toggles between Washington and Wall Street, the freshest material comes from Suskind's deep access to the West Wing." Bloomberg
"Written in sharp, cinematic scenes, in which the main players in the administration are captured in full-blooded, uncensored conversation, Confidence Men sprawls across the multiple crises of the opening two years of the Obama presidency....Suskind's central thesis deserves to be taken seriously." Financial Times
"The book of the week, maybe the book of the month, is Ron Suskind's Confidence Men....A detailed narrative of the Administration's response-sometimes frantic, sometimes sluggish, sometimes both-to the financial and economic catastrophe it inherited, as experienced from the inside." Hendrik Hertzberg, the New Yorker
"The work that went into Confidence Men cannot be denied. Suskind conducted hundreds of interviews. He spoke to almost every member of the Obama administration, including the President. He quotes memos no one else has published. He gives you scenes that no one else has managed to capture." Ezra Klein, the New York Review of Books
"Suskind's account of the Obama administration is a marker of our times. It reveals a President unable to perform responsibly the duties of his high office....Suskind's contribution to this tale of woe is to give us a fine grained picture of Obama's passive place in deliberations." Huffington Post
"This portrait of the president's management of the economic crisis is an extraordinary story of ineptness, callowness and pitiful inexperience in office....Indeed, the book represents some sort of watershed, a formal measurement of the distance between the perception of a vaunted political figure and the reality." Michael Wolff, GQ
"My Book of the Year. A narrative tour de force....Journalism like this is all too rare in an age in which reporters trade their critical faculties for access. And it's even rarer that skeptical reporting is turned into something lasting." David Granger, Esquire
"This inside account of the Obama economic team contains enough damning on-the-record quotes to give it the ring of truth despite White House efforts to discredit the narrative of infighting and missed opportunities. Read it and weep. It reminds me of the post-Iraq invasion books that documented a similar failure to rise to the enormity of the problem, whether the insurgency was in Iraq or on Wall Street." Eleanor Clift, Newsweek
In this gripping, revelatory, and brilliantly reported book, acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind tells for the first time the full story of Americas financial meltdown and an untested new president charged with commanding Washington, taming Wall Street, rescuing an economy on the verge of collapse, and restoring the confidence of a shaken nation.
Suskind moves from the frenzied trading floors of lower Manhattan to the power corridors inside the Beltway and introduces a larger than life cast of politicians and advisors, titans of high finance, reformers, lobbyists, and others who faced a crisis unlike anything they had ever imagined. Based on hundreds of hours of interviews and exhaustive research, filled with piercing insight and startling disclosures, Confidence Men goes beyond the headlines and previous accounts, bringing into focus the unprecedented struggle between the nation's two capitals — New York and Washington, one of private gain, the other of public purpose — that continues to divide and roil America.
Acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind, author of the New York Times bestselling The Way of the World, The One Percent Doctrine, and The Price of Loyalty, gives an explosive inside account of an Obama White House overwhelmed by the global financial crisis — and the political and economic consequences still being felt today. Readers of Michael Lewiss The Big Short, John Heilemann and Mark Halperins Game Change, and Andrew Ross Sorkins Too Big to Fail will be riveted by Suskinds illuminating, in-depth investigation of the financial meltdown. Rooted in hundreds of hours of interviews with key members of the Obama administration, including the President himself, Suskinds exposé offers an eyewitness account of the most momentous events in the history of global finance.
About the Author
Ron Suskind is the author of The Way of the World, The One Percent Doctrine, The Price of Loyalty, and A Hope in the Unseen. From 1993 to 2000 he was the senior national affairs writer for The Wall Street Journal, where he won a Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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