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"Confidence Men" Author Ron Suskind Responds to Obama Administration's Fiery Denials About Financial Crisis

Ron Suskind's book has elicited harsh reaction from the White House since it was published. The authors tells his side.


JUAN GONZALEZ: The release of an explosive new book that draws a searing portrait of the Obama administration’s failings and early management of the economic crisis has been met with sharp objections from officials within and outside of the White House. In his book  Confidence Men, veteran journalist Ron Suskind writes that U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ignored an order from President Barack Obama to consider dissolving the debt-ridden banking giant Citigroup as part of a reconstruction of major banks in March 2009. Suskind goes on to say that Citigroup was one of several incidents where President Obama’s authority was, quote, "systematically undermined or hedged by his seasoned advisers." He also reports Larry Summers, former chair of the National Economic Council, once said at a meeting, quote, "We’re really home alone. There’s no adult in charge. Clinton would never have made these mistakes."

Earlier this week, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded to some of the allegations in Suskind’s book.

PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: I, too, have not read the book, although I’ve read a lot about it. What we know is that very simple things, facts that could be ascertained—dates, titles, statistics, quotes—are wrong in this book. So I think that—in fact, one passage seems to be lifted almost entirely from Wikipedia in the book. I think, based on that, I would caution anyone to assume that if you can’t get those things right, that you suddenly get the broader analysis right. That analysis is wrong.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Press Secretary Jay Carney, speaking about Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind’s new book,  Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President. Suskind says the book is based on interviews with more than 200 people, including former and current members of the Obama administration, as well as the President himself.

Well, we are joined by Ron Suskind right now. His previous books include the  New York Times bestsellers The Way of the WorldThe One Percent DoctrineThe Price of Loyalty and A Hope in the Unseen. From 1993 to 2000, Suskind was the senior national affairs writer for the  Wall Street Journal, where he won the Pulitzer Prize. He now lives in Washington, D.C., writes for  Time MagazineThe New York Times MagazineEsquire and the  Wall Street Journal.

Ron, what most surprised you in your research for this book,  Confidence Men?

RON SUSKIND: It did surprise me when I began to discover how much the President faced in those first days, how significant the challenges were, but also how much he was ceding authority to a small group of advisers, many of whom, of course, had long experience with one another, dating back to the Clinton years. That was the most surprising thing. And as well, when I found that out, of course, as you know, as the Bush administration pointed out, I am a lifelong Democrat, and, you know, some of the things that you’re finding in reporting often, as a reporter, are unsettling. I was very, very ardent about making certain that the book really was true to the idea of the evolution of the President, rather than a snapshot of any place in time, which was the prime driver to the final interview with the President, where he speaks, I think with great strength, about how he has evolved across these tumultuous years.

AMY GOODMAN: At a press briefing on Monday, the director of the Management and Budget, Jack Lew, asked Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner about your book. Here’s how Geithner responded.

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