As part of a media tour — Ron Suskind is making the rounds on TV shows to sell his new book Confidence Men. His interview with Tavis Smiley last night has me intrigued:
Well, Geithner and I went through it letter and verse, and I just would tell readers if they want to see Tim Geithner’s real response, the response that’s full, complete, in paragraph-long quotes, it is in the book, two pages.
I think if you read that, at the end of the day it’s hard to come to a conclusion other than Tim Geithner gamed the president on arguably one of the most important decisions of his presidency, which was his desire to really look at the taking down of the big banks, Citibank, other big banks, when he felt a kind of Rooseveltian urge to step up.
Hard to do. He was really studying hard in January, February, in March of 2009. This was decisiveness by Obama, and the fact is it didn’t happen. A month later he thought plans were being drawn up about how to dissolve Citibank by Treasury. Only Treasury can do it, after all, and he found out they weren’t. He got quite agitated.
He said to Christie Romer, she said, “There is no plan, Mr. President.” He said, “There better be.” Well, I talked to the president about it; I talked to Tim about it. Everybody involved, everyone in that meeting that day when he raised his voice. I don’t think there’s any dispute about it. There’s certainly no dispute that I’ve seen about what happened.
The question is what does the president do then? Did he take Tim to the woodshed in April of 2009? I asked them both. They said there was discussions; there was a lot of rolling discussions. I think one of the issues is how does this president rise to this moment and have a White House around him that now carries forward his more seasoned and deeper experience to express his will, to express his qualities? That’s still a battle, I think.
It’s no wonder the White House is in full spin mode trying to deflect Suskind’s revelations. They’ve rebuked with the best headline grabber in a long time: The Suskind Book Game: ‘Too Big to Fact Check?’
My dear White House public relations wing, it’s only 800 pages or so — seriously, it’s not that hard to read a book and mark down what you think are errors without sounding like complete twats about it. One factual error writeup wins out at Politico, “Sperling played tennis at Minnesota. Though, to be fair, both universities start with an ‘M’ and are only about 800 miles apart.” My suggestion is to read it with a nice glass of wine, and learned to cut out the whine. Just a thought.
I’ll give credit to Tavis Smiley for asking a really important question, “Everybody wants to get a conversation with the president. But when these books come out and I find out that the president and his people cooperated, I’m like, ‘Duh, why don’t you guys shut up, stop talking to these writers.'”
Easy Tavis, you might be asking the right questions, then you’ll be curbed in the media game. In case you’re wondering, a cool Suskind responded to that inquiry by deflecting, “you’re going to have to ask the president and his staff about that.”
Watch the complete interview here: