THE BOOK - TOP RECOMMENDATION
Confidence Men - Wall Street, Washington, And The Education Of A President - Ron Suskind, winner of the Pulitzer Prize (and a Democrat)
700 interviews, huge amount of substance, yet as interesting as a good novel.
An inside look.
On the flyleaf:
"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."
THE CONCLUSIONS MADE
"We're home alone. There is no adult in the White House." Key advisors.
"...A brilliant amateur..." [Brilliant, but an amateur in this job with no experience and minimal knowledge]
"Obama had only one year actually walking the halls of Congress before he went on the banquet circuit, and of course he needed a lot more experience before becoming President." p. 50
Presidential in appearance, well spoken - "All the better that none of the politicians gathered around the table seemed to recognize this much less bracing truth, known only to him and a handful of others: he wasn't ready." p. 122
"What the administration was finding, Orszag and others recalled, were the distinctions between campaign talk and governance..." p. 260
"Not one person said a thing. One of the particIpants later said the moment was 'odd and surprising, like a scene from that movie Dave,' where a man off the street suddenly winds up as President..." p. 261
"He said he always liked that thing Obama said, about how the hardest thing to do in government is "to solve tomorrow's problems with today's pocketbook. 'But he doesn't do it!'" p. 289
"'I mean it,' Summers stressed. 'We're home alone. There's no adult in charge. Clinton would never have made these mistakes.'"
No "adult in charge" of the world's mightest nation at its time of peril? It bespeaks a crisis - of a President overmatched, unable to fulfill the duties of his office, and a nightmare no one wants to acknowledge in daylight." p. 301
"Decisions were left unmade; policies drifted without direction...The problem was in guiding the analysis toward what a President is paid, and elected, to do: make tough decisions." p. 302
RIGHT PRIORITIES? POOR DECISIONS?
"Emanuel felt it was the moment to make a choice about priorities. It was no secret that he thought the President had chosen wrong in making health care this top agenda item...." p. 303
(Geithner and Summers) "Both men said that undertaking financial reform now would 'create an overhang of regulatory doubt' that would slow economic activity when they needed a restored and confident financial sector to drive economic activity." p. 305
"Obama went with hope and consensus, and then, as Daschle said, didn't do much." p. 306 (rest of the page is very, very interesting)
Read p. 308 on Obama's speech and the Iranian election crisis.
"The broader problem, of course, was the administration's lack of follow-through, where a stirring speech, Obamas' strongest suit, was not integrated into any plan of action. P. 309
A LACK OF LEADERSHIP?
"But the ongoing push-and-shove atop the administration, without leadership from either the President or the chief of statf, was leaving lines of authority blurred, roles ill defined, and deepening questions of who at any given moment was in charge." p. 316 (read the rest of the page, where the President had no coherent healthcare plan nor a model of how to pay for reform...and how things get lost...need to bring a modium of sound process to the White House..)
"...sitting atop a White House where roles, and lines of authority, were fuzzy..." p. 317
DEMANDING WHAT WAS NEEDED
"One prominent banker who asked not to be named, said, "For Washington to not demand anything when it saved us, even stuff that we know is for our long-term good, was one of the stupidest moves in modern times...."
"By Thanksgiving, the dysfunctions inside the President's economic team, and the policy drift, had grown acute." p. 355
Anita Dunn: "someone needed to take control of the economic team...'it's in crisis - it can't go on like this.'..dispirited - as so many were - with the shattered, haphazard process of decision making and wildy uneven execution. It was chaos." p. 364 (read especially the next page, about charmingly stitching together cloud formations, but the loss of interest in execution...)
"Nearly two years before, Goodbee had told Obama, then an underdog candidate, that hiring from a clean-energy initiative would be modest." "...the President was occupied with S and S programs, which would not bear fruit for years, whlil the economy listed forward, with the highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression." p. 366