Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner forcefully denied the claim in a book by Ron Suskind that he ignored a request from the President to work up a plan to dissolve Citigroup. He further added that the entire theme of the book, about infighting in the White House over economic policy issues, bears “no resemblance to reality.”
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Monday dismissed a new book about the Obama administration’s handling of the economic crisis as an account full of “sad little stories.”
Geithner said Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind’s Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President, written about backfighting in the administration, bears “no resemblance to the reality” of the situation, and fired back at its assertion he ignored an order from President Obama […]
“Absolutely not,” Geithner said. “I would never contemplate doing that.”
“I haven’t read this book, but — to borrow a phrase — I lived the reality,” Geithner said. “Reports about this book bear no resemblance to the reality we lived.”
Amping up the war against Suskind’s book, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney highlighted a handful of passages where dates or job titles or other facts in the book are incorrect. He even cited a sentence about Fannie Mae that echoed a Wikipedia entry.
It should be noted that Suskind had the cooperation of the White House in reporting the book. He didn’t write a Kitty Kelly kind of unauthorized biography. There are interviews with the President and virtually his entire staff in the book. The White House may not like the end result, but they did participate in the book’s creation. After the fact, many people quoted in the book are accusing Suskind of hearsay. He had to get the quotes from somewhere.
Furthermore, this nitpicking over dates and such appears to be a mask for more fundamental issues of White House dysfunction and even allegations of sexism reported in the book.
These palace intrigue books do tend to generate a hyper-real version of history. But they also tend to reveal some larger truths. It’s clear that the Obama Administration entered extremely unfamiliar territory at the top of its term, and that the cast assembled to deal with it didn’t have the best handle on how to do so. They were budget-cutters and deficit-watchers in an era of a shortfall in aggregate demand. And there were big egos that clashed repeatedly. So the portrait that emerges shouldn’t elicit any surprise.
Frank Rich and Adam Moss have read the book, and they discuss it at length here. Larry Summers comes off like a real nut, apparently.