The second good look inside the Obama White House is about to come out – the first being Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward – with some stunning details of a White House hostile to women and riven by divisive rivalries.
The book, “Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President,” is by Ron Suskind, the Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter who reported for the Wall Street Journal during the 1990s and also chronicled the inner workings of the Bush White House.
Some of what I’ve seen written so far about the book centers on it’s depiction of former National Economic Council Director Larry Summers, who regularly angered administration and Congressional officials with his condescension while working for Bill Clinton and appears to have gotten right to work doing the same thing under Obama.
Summers is very smart, but this leads to several problems: He thinks he doesn’t need advice; he thinks other people must be stupid; and he’s willing to let them know they are stupid, in case they missed it.
This is the type of book with lots of juicy anecdotes, many of which might even be true. Enough are, apparently, that the White House is already planning to go into heavy spin mode.
The portrayal of the place as hostile to women would not be surprising to most White House reporters, who know Obama and his aides as a towel-whipping boys club where women just seem to play a secondary role, except perhaps for Valerie Jarrett.
The book does not come out until Tuesday, but you can purchase a copy now at Amazon. I assume it will ship next week. Based on what I’ve seen so far, it looks to me like a good read.
Here are a few excerpts from a piece on the book written by the New York Times, which apparently purloined a copy.
A new book claims that President Obama’s response to the economic crisis was hampered by a White House economic staff plagued by internal rivalries, a domineering chief adviser and a Treasury secretary who dragged his feet on enforcing decisions with which he disagreed.
The book, by Ron Suskind, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, quotes White House documents that say Mr. Obama’s decisions were routinely “re-litigated” by the chairman of the National Economic Council, Lawrence H. Summers. Some decisions, including one to overhaul the debt-ridden Citibank, were carried out sluggishly or not at all by a resistant Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, according to the book.
Mr. Suskind quotes from two memos for the president in which Pete Rouse, a senior White House aide, wrote, “There is deep dissatisfaction within the economic team with what is perceived as Larry’s imperious and heavy-handed direction of the economic policy process . . . ”
In this rough-and-tumble environment, the book reports, female staff members often felt bruised. At a dinner with Mr. Obama in November 2009, several top female aides — including Anita Dunn, who was the communications director, and Christina Romer, the chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers — told the president about being talked over in meetings by male colleagues or cut out altogether . . .
The book claims that Mr. Obama pushed out two of his closest aides, Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, and David Axelrod, his senior adviser, earlier than planned in a housecleaning after the midterm elections.