Ezra and Ron: not a Love Story

Puts me in mind of these fellows

In The New York Review of Books, Ezra Klein finds little to love about Ron Suskind’s new book, The Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President. Perhaps because Suskind found little to love about the economic advisors Obama surrounded himself with and the resulting policies, which, Suskind says, led to the decline in Obama’s poll numbers.

In criticizing this conclusion (and some others) as unproven, Klein makes an important point – one too often ignored in the current conversation – a point which may end up being just an historical footnote, if Obama is not re-elected (I’m confident he will be). But it’s a reminder of how much time we waste puzzling over what history tells us is quite predictable.

The President’s poll numbers aren’t the mystery Suskind presents them as. If you want to know what killed Obamaism, the answer is the stagnant economy. No president, no matter how politically graceful or personally confident, looks good in the midst of an economic crisis. When unemployment rose during the 1980–1981 recession, President Ronald Reagan’s approval ratings fell below 40 percent and his party lost twenty-six House seats in the midterm election. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Federal Reserve twisted toward austerity too early and sparked the 1937 recession, Democrats lost more than seventy seats the following year. No one would accuse either president of insufficient charisma or weak leadership. Americans don’t want leaders so much as they want jobs. And that’s Obama’s problem now, too.

I’ve read two of Suskind’s earlier books and found both to be  well sourced and so well written as to reach that novelistic heaven of “couldn’t put it down”. But I haven’t yet read this one, so can’t comment, except to say I usually find Klein to be a fine reporter and writer as well.

7 responses to “Ezra and Ron: not a Love Story

  1. It is a MUST READ.


  2. Even most hardcore Obama fans have common sense enough to know that these “confidence men” had were badly misguiding the president, and the world economy.
    For me, his retention of the same Bush economic team was baffling, and still is.


    • Me too. Back in ’08, after the election, when Obama said he’d be appointing Geithner and Summers, my brother in law said, “well, that’s it. He’ll be a one-termer”. Smart guy.


  3. For some reason – I find some of Klein’s commentary really annoying. It might be some naive streak, or some belief that the problem is that the smart solution hasn’t been thought out yet.

    As for the article – the stagnant economy is in part a result of Obama’s missed opportunities and slow learning curve, which has – however impressive as a novice – not been good enough. And you can’t blame it on impossible expectations either, most people have been generous and surprisingly patient with him. Obama is not excactly in the way of progress, but he’s not helping that much either.


    • I agree re Obama – which is why I have the Suskind’ book on my list. He’s really a fine writer and I sure found every word in the Bush books credible – so fair is fair. I’ll be reading it.


  4. Pingback: Book Review: "Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President" by Ron Suskind | Publius Online

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