Thursday, September 22, 2011

Confidence Men

A good interview with Ron Suskind about his new book Confidence Men. I believe what Suskind wrote about the Bush administration has been largely vindicated. Suskind comes across as very careful with his sourcing. (So does Joe McInnis in this interview about his Palin bio The Rogue.)

Careful scrutiny suggests it's mostly sociopaths at the top ;-)

Fresh Air: ... Suskind says Summers' style of leadership at the White House was to "control the show" and "lead by fiat."

"A young economist ... [once told me that Larry once said] 'Here's the way it works. ... I can win either side of the argument. That's my genius. That's what I do. And then I win both sides and I think about which side I won more fairly when deciding which is right. Sometimes I decide otherwise,' " says Suskind. "The young economist who recounts the story says, 'Jeez, Larry, that gives you an awful lot of power to shape everything,' and Larry sort of says, 'Yeah, that's the point.' And that's kind of how Larry sees it — the economic policy will be what Larry decides in consultation with a president who has very, very little in the way of training in economic theory or practice." In his book, Suskind quotes Summers as saying, on record, that "Clinton would never have made these mistakes" that the Obama administration made. Summers has denied making those comments. He told The Washington Post last week that "the hearsay attributed to me is a combination of fiction, distortion and words taken out of context. I can't speak to what others have told Mr. Suskind but I have always believed that the president has always led this country with determined, steady and practical leadership."

... Suskind tells Terry Gross that he talked to Summers as the book was going to press about his statements in the book, including the one where he said "Clinton would never have made these mistakes."

"At first Larry blurted out, 'I deny it,' and then I said, 'Look, Larry, lots of people heard you talk about this and say this. This is not something you uttered once to one person. Lots of people remember where they were when they heard it.' ... Then after a few minutes, he came back with his response. He said, 'Look, we had five times as many problems, we didn't have five times as many people. It was an overwhelming time, very difficult for everyone involved.' He lays it on the door of circumstances. ... The Washington walk back has a long history, as anyone who works in this town knows."


Seth said...

Just starting to listen to this interview.  To state my priors: his book with Paul O'Neill "The Price of Loyalty" provided me with several key insights into the internal dynamics of the GW Bush administration.  I'll be interested to see how well this book holds up over time in comparison to the high standard he set with "Loyalty".  I'll have to read "Confidence Men" and then wait a few years, not just listen to this interview, of course, to report how I adjust those priors.   

Given the mood of the country -- both at large and within the Democratic base -- towards Obama, I must say I'm a bit anxious and conflicted about what I'm "about to hear" from Suskind.  (What I've already heard via the t00bes is making me expect unpleasant news.)

RKU1 said...

Well, that Summers fellow may indeed be a pretty bright guy.

...But I also seem to recall that Economics was not his first choice of a college major...

5371 said...

Samuelson did a lot of damage to economics by stripping Keynes' thought of the historical understanding that informed it. Perhaps his nephew will go down as having eclipsed his iniquity.

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