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Book of the Week: A Peek Inside Obama’s West Wing

by Keith Koffler on September 19, 2011, 5:12 am

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.

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Star September 17, 2011 at 6:25 pm

I couldn’t warm up to Dunn or Romer, but the part about women being sidelined is PURE Washington. I am not surprised. Effete, condescending, in love with theirselves. boys club. If Jarrett is in the inner circle, she knows something they don’t want her to say.

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Star September 17, 2011 at 6:27 pm

By the way, I was a founder of Women in Govt Relations in the Wayback–and I remember all this very well.

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Star September 17, 2011 at 6:28 pm

I meant THEMselves…I was going to say their fine selves. I am not that folksy yet.

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Janice/Granny Jan September 17, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I’m the most curious about what role Obama assumed. Did they ignore his orders because the orders were wrong?

Every chance they get his underlings give BO credit for everything. Are they just flattering his endless ego when the reality is something quite different?

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Janice/Granny Jan September 17, 2011 at 10:42 pm

I found the answer:

“Carter, Clinton and I all have sort of the disease of being policy wonks. … I think that if you get too consumed with that you lose sight of the larger issue. … The reorganization that’s taken place here is one that is much more geared to those [leadership] functions.”

Jon Meacham, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning biographer of presidents, told POLITICO that for Obama to compare himself to Carter could be a “a history-sized mistake.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0911/63754_Page2.html#ixzz1YGgAaJQJ

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Janice/Granny Jan September 17, 2011 at 11:13 pm

The book suggests that Obama is NTB. Just what I suspected. (NotTooBright)

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Knothead September 17, 2011 at 7:03 pm

I thought the President loved women, he always is kissing them in public.
Thus I will not be surprised by anything that emanates from the White House during Oblamebush’s only term. What worries me is what is in the closets of the People’s house.

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Swedish lady September 18, 2011 at 4:38 am

Oh no, I do not sense that he loves women at all. Maybe he has some respect for, or is afraid of some of them but otherwise – no, I don´t think so. Reagan, Clinton and W Bush all were masculine in various ways but this fellow is something else. He is not genuine, that´s why he needs all this fake praise all the time.Great that books like this are published. I guess that there soon will be many by deserted,disappointed, former Obamafriends.But why is for example Anita Dunn still so afraid to tell the truth ? Is she still dependent of favors ?

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Susan September 18, 2011 at 10:25 am

Swedish lady, The reason for Anita Dunn’s denials may be due to the fact that her husband, shyster lawyer Bob Bauer, is still in the employ of Obama. The man who was instrumental in hiding all of his records from public scrutiny, is currently working as Obama’s personal lawyer and the lawyer for his re-election campaign.

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Swedish lady September 18, 2011 at 11:38 am

I see, thank you Susan. All these connections, many hidden,it´s like Kreml in the Soviet days. I realise that there always will be political classes around politicians but isn´t there something different this time ? A fear factor ? A larger political class ? More secrecy ? The reason for this may be that there is so much to hide.

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Beyond the black stump September 19, 2011 at 8:48 am

I thought that Bob Bauer resigned a couple of months ago, distancing himself from the birth certificate issue.

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Susan September 19, 2011 at 10:50 am

He resigned as White House counsel. He still works as Obama’s personal lawyer and lawyer for his re-election campaign.

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AFVET September 19, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Barack Obama lacks CHARACTER.
MLK stated the skin color means nothing ,…it is the character of the individual that is essential.

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Brenda September 17, 2011 at 8:13 pm

I’ve got to say that some of this sounds gossipy. There were probably problems with Larry Summers because he truly is intelligent; which riled up the Obama crowd b/c it made it harder for them to keep up the appearance that our President is ‘brilliant’. Our President who uses incorrect grammar, doesn’t know our own history (Abraham Lincoln) and is provincial (doesn’t speak ‘Austrian’). Perhaps he got good grades in school but he’s not well -educated.

And Larry Summers didn’t drink the kool-aid.

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Janice/Granny Jan September 17, 2011 at 11:16 pm

If he had received good grades in school, we would have heard about it. BO is not known to be reticent about his own brilliance.

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Brenda September 19, 2011 at 10:26 am

My point is that grades can be subjective; school teachers discovered that they can keep parents happy by just giving their child ‘good grades’. However, that child has trouble reading, spelling, writing a coherent sentence and doing even simple math. So it doesn’t matter what his grades are. The bottom line is that he’s not well-educated.

Smoke and mirrors; it’s all an illusion.

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srdem65 September 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Another tale of MrObama as the Front Man, the Figurehead Leader or the Puppet’ whose staff makes all the bad decisions because his decisions are even worse than theirs..

MsDunn and MsRomer have been interviewed on TV many times and I started to talk over them, too.

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Susan September 17, 2011 at 8:33 pm

If Obama has been influenced by the Muslim religion, I can understand why women were treated with disrespect. You only have to see how the Arab springers in Egypt treated journalist, Lara Logan, to discover the level of respect afforded women in the Muslim religion.

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Janice/Granny Jan September 17, 2011 at 11:18 pm

He was most influenced by his mom who was larger than life literally and figuratively.

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Susan September 18, 2011 at 10:48 am

That’s an interesting take on the chameleon, Janice. When they were living in Indonesia, didn’t his mom ship him off to Hawaii to live with his grandparents at the ripe old age of 10? From what I understand, he never lived with her again, and didn’t even bother to travel to Hawaii to see her before she died of ovarian cancer in 1995.

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Janice/Granny Jan September 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm

A child’s personality is formed by the time she shipped him off at 10. She’s responsible for making him feel like he was the second coming. She’s the one who told him how brilliant he was just like his father. Her radicalism, atheism and hangups became his.

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Susan September 18, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Agreed Janice. You are absolutely right.

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AFVET September 19, 2011 at 1:22 pm

That coupled with the fact that he never had a real job in the private sector.
He has been coddled throughout his entire life, and we are seeing the results.

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Old Timer September 18, 2011 at 6:43 am

Re: Summers

The thing that gets me is why was Summers part of the administration to begin with. When he was president of Harvard he had a saying…..”No one ever washes a rental car”.

Obama and team think they know best and will solve the problems. According to them government does a better job and has better judgement than individuals..

In a nutshell we are at a point of deciding if we are to continue to allow individuals to pursue their happiness or let the government decide for them. It is all about ownership. According to Obama and team they want to change it from..Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness to Life, Liberty and Happiness (They leave out the Pursuit part.They determine what happiness is) Pursuing one’s happiness is just as important as happiness itself. I can not find joy if government gives it to me. I want to earn it.

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Star September 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm

What was that rental car thing anyhow? I think it meant everyone should own everything–say houses–so they would take care of them…or no…It never really dazzled me, that one.

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Susan September 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Never washing a rental car is associated with ownership or ‘skin in the game’. That rental car isn’t mine, so I’m not going to pull it in my driveway and detail the thing. Works the same way in private business. Say the owner of the company has to cut back on expenses because business is slow. The owner could arbitrarily let some employees go, or make his/her employees partners in the survival of the company by asking them to make suggestions for reducing costs. Gives the employees ownership in the success of the business and nobody gets a pink slip. That is good old capitalism at it’s best. Those who bear the risk, reap the rewards.

Obama practices crony capitalism, or pay to play. The highest bidder to his campaign coffer gets first chance at the trough — taxpayer subsidies. In Obama’s world, the taxpayer always bears the risk and Obama cronies at Solyndra, LightSquared, and the unions reap the rewards.

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Star September 19, 2011 at 11:18 am

So you are saying employee ownership is the key to captialism–that has failed many places. I don’t think Summers was for that. the collective–sort of the opposite.

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Susan September 19, 2011 at 11:39 am

I didn’t mean literal ownership in my example. If any owner makes his/her employees feel like they are part of the team, they care about the success of the company.

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Star September 19, 2011 at 12:01 pm

They also give stock options for this. So that is what Summers meant–like this was a revelation from His Brilliance?l

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Mike C September 18, 2011 at 6:49 am

It seems more apparent than ever that this administration is run by a campaign staff. I think winning the election swelled their collective heads to the point of delusion, which clearly is the state they are in now.
What riles me most lately is this jobs plan. I am thinking it is all a campaign-plan, to a) use it to run against Republicans in Congress , and most glaringly, b) using it as an excuse to make ineffiecent, expensive campaign trips on the taxpayer dime in the guise of promoting the plan that they know is dead in the water anyway. I think they are saving the war chest for later, but trying to keep his idiotic face out there for free. (Free for them, not for the taxpayer.)
Lastly, I wish he would appear before a crowd of the true public instead of these unions and kids that love him.I doubt that will happen, might make for bad “optics” and tarnish the brass.

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Old Timer September 18, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Amen, Mike C. You summed it up perfectly.

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AFVET September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Well said Mike C.
Barry doesn’t have the ammo to confront an audience of conservative adults.
All of his ‘appearances’ are orchestrated carefully.

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lc southern September 18, 2011 at 9:31 am

His handlers are afraid to put him in front of a non union, adult crowd. He will get questions he can’t answer…so the pro union and to young to vote crowd is where they put him…screams volumes about the mentality of the people advising him.

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ol'gator September 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm

as every day passes ,these nuts (obozo &staff) are evermore exposing
their true colors of ignorance.I think Mike C is right: after winning the election they all got drunk on the success which has heightened their egos and arrogance to the point of no return.. they now operate in a bubble of perfection within their own twisted minds.. is it 2012 yet?

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Star September 19, 2011 at 11:21 am

And Clinton! Did you see MTP? Blah, blah…this is a solid plan…he never mentioned the OTHER $800 billion plus boondoggle–was that
“solid”? All this is so disgusting. And I don’t despise Clinton like some people do–despite all–but his performance was ewww…horrible.

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Star September 19, 2011 at 11:46 am

AND–she said, not able to let this go–Bill started out by saying he was not in Washington anymore and didn’t keep up, BUT this was a smokin’ plan the president had proposed and COULD lower unemployment 1 percent. And if it doesn’t? Well, we all know, it could have been WORSE… I say let Clinton take his speaking gazillions, or however he got rich, and swan around to wonky conferences and blat on. Just leave ME alone.

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Janice/Granny Jan September 18, 2011 at 10:46 am

Who’s up for a round of golf today?

Place your bets here.

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Janice/Granny Jan September 18, 2011 at 2:30 pm

@markknoller Partly cloudy and 67. Nice day for golf. Pres Obama playing at Joint Base Andrews.

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Susan September 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm

The golf course is where he does his best work, which isn’t saying much. Guess he has to get in a little recreating so he can decide how to keep his FCC czar from attending the congressional inquiry on LightSquared.

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girly1 September 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Byron York’s insightful pre-election essay “WHAT DID OBAMA DO AS A COMMUNITY ORGANIZER” should be required reading for every voter!!! Knowledge is power!

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/225564/what-did-obama-do-community-organizer/byron-york?page=1

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