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.
©2011 Ron Suskind (P)2011 HarperCollinsPublishers
The narrator sounds like he should be narrating a detective story or The Twilight Zone. That actually is kind of nice, but he neglected to learn how to pronounce key terms such as "tranche" and AXA and keeps confusing "CDSs" [as in credit default swaps--complex and risky derivative insturments] for CDs [as in either certificates of deposit or the things music and/or data are recorded on].
The story is interesting, though not novel.
I do not like James Lurie's narration. He reads as though this is a dark mystery and in addition he was putting me to sleep. This is one that is better read than listened to in my opinion.
Say something about yourself!
While a little tedious at times, this account of Obama’s first 1000 days (give or take) provides insight into why this great orator, who offered a vision of a better America, is an ineffectual President. The extent to which Obama was both supported and advised by the same Wall Street players that got rich while helping to create the financial meltdown is both insightful and disturbing.
I was disappointed to not hear about the influence organized labor played with this President, but this is a story about Obama and Wall Street. The author has some good connections into the inner workings of the administration, but does not seem to have a grasp of how the failures of financial regulation caused the very problems they were supposed to prevent.
The story line gets lost a bit when the author tries to explain the financial meltdown in terms of evil bankers versus virtuous regulators. He meanders into long stories describing how bankers gave into their craving for wealth and power, setting in motion a series of events that almost destroyed the economy.
The story is much more complex than that, as is implied when Lawrence Summers warns Geithner to “never admit you were wrong”. As we all know, Summers was part of the administration that relaxed financial regulation a decade earlier.
I recently listened to bios on FDR, Truman, JFK. I will go out on a limb to say Obama shares FDR’s lack of understanding of what to do, but lacked his ability to give people confidence in what he was doing. Obama and Truman both came from political machines, but Truman did a great job addressing the challenges in the post-war period, while Obama worries about getting re-elected. After listening to “1961” and “Brilliant Disaster”, I conclude Obama and JFK are comparable in many ways – marvelous at campaigning, dismal at leading.
Ron Suskind (A Hope in the Unseen, The Way of the World, The Price of Loyalty, The One Percent Doctrine) has produced a wonderful new book titled Confidence Men. Suskin in this book relates how the Obama White House dealt with the economic crisis that overshadowed the administration when coming to office. This is one page turner of a story. Suskind is fair to Bush and critical of Bush when it is appropriate. He is critical of Obama and fair to the President when that is the right thing to do. Most of all, I appreciate his sympathetic tone toward the President. The narrative is unsettling and disconcerting, but Obama comes across as a well meaning if someone inept leader. Wait! This book isn’t a bash job on Obama nor is it an apology for him. Suskind just reports what he found. Every tax payer would do well to read this volume to understand how the decision making process came down during that era. It is – well – scary. Based upon hundreds of hours of interviews with over 200 people, this book is well worth the reader’s time. Read it and make your own decision. The reading of James Lurie is very good.
This is the best book I have read on the subject of what went on behind the scenes during the first two years of Obama's presidency, what happened with healthcare, the economy and why his popularity flagged. The narration by James Lurie is just superb, I have listened to it four times and always hear something new. It is very informative and entertaining.
An avid reader
This is a book well worth your time. You'll see just how connected at the hip our banks, government and Wall Street really are. Ron Suskind is a Democrat and he writes with his Democrat perspective, but he is for the most part even handed. I think he may be a little kinder, more forgiving and definitely more understanding of these people than I am, but he is fair.
He seems to conclude that the man who ran for president (Barack Obama) just has not delivered. Because he had higher expectations and hopes for Obama in the begining--and more than I ever had--he probably had trouble bringing this book to light.
So, while I don't agree with all of Mr. Suskind's beliefs and premises regarding the size and role of government and philosophy of economics, I appreciate how much he has put before the American people in a good read.
You learn a lot about American Economy and financial matters.
It is imposible to get this information at one sitting. It took me 2 weeks of intensive listenig. Run Suskind is an outstanding political writer. I learned a lot about economy and about the complexity of running this country. I lesten to most of Ron Suskind books ob Audible.com.
It was a long and extensive venture into politics and economy of our country
This book gives plenty of insight into the Obama White House. I pray that he can develop the leadership wisdom to take better advantage of his advisors over the next two years.
What is so disturbing about this book is Suskind's assessment that Obama is no task master and lacks courage and conviction. Further, Obama should have read Sutton's "The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't " prior or forming his team - he would never hired Larry Summers.
After starting this book in hard cover I was delighted to find an audible.com version of it. Unfortunately, although the book is interesting and worth reading, the performance is so horrible that you start to hate the book. I did not think someone could be so dull in their reading of interesting event in our history but this audio version proves me wrong. I almost fell asleep listening to it in the car today. If I had insomnia, this performance would be a great cure but it is not a way to get the content of this otherwise important book.
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