Ron Suskind says he’s concerned about “informed consent” — in politics, that is.
Speaking to roughly 100 University students and faculty in the Yale Law School Monday, Suskind, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and reporter, discussed his controversial new book “Confidence Men.” The book addresses President Barack Obama’s handling of the 2008 economic crisis, a process that Suskind said was marred by shady dealings in the White House and often hidden from the public as the government has veered away from transparency.
“[The Obama administration] decided that to own key disclosures was too problematic,” he said. “I disagree. Own your history, don’t run away from it.”
Obama had been one of the first to know that the economy was going south in 2007, Suskind said. When a close adviser informed the then-senator and presidential hopeful of the pending economic decline, Suskind said that Obama began to build a team of experienced advisers and experts.
But many felt that the group Obama had selected would harm interests on Wall Street, and those critics successfully convinced Obama to add advisers representing more diverse interests than his original team, Suskind said.
Suskind said this adversarial “B team” went on to undermine the president’s efforts, often directly ignoring many decisions the president made. In one instance, Suskind said Obama unknowingly presented the wrong health care plan summary to Congress because his advisers had replaced his original document with their own two-page list of bullet points.
The advisers took actions like these because they believed there was a need to “protect the president from himself,” Suskind said.
Uncovering information and anecdotes for his book was difficult, Suskind said, as the government has shied away from full disclosure of events throughout his career. Still, he said he tries to pursue transparency in his work.
“I’ve been a reporter for 25 years now and each year [I] find new ways to get people to trust truth … and to own their own truths,” Suskind said.
Though it was easy to find a government official willing to divulge details of an issue to the public at the beginning of his career, Suskind said these open conversations have been replaced with pointless public statements and events that he believes the media feels obligated to cover.
Suskind’s comments on the inner workings of the White House were enlightening, students at the talk said.
“I like [his] insider view of the people in power,” David Rappoport GRD ’13 said.
Suskind’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work, “A Hope in the Unseen,” was originally published as a series of articles in The Wall Street Journal. “Confidence Men,” his latest work, is available through HarperCollins.