Jacob Weisberg on Suskind's bad journalism "There's no journalist who sets off my bullshit alarm like Ron Suskind," writes Jacob Weisberg in Slate. Pulitzer Prize winner Suskind has written several "Bob Woodward-style White House reconstructions," and this month, he released his first book on the Obama administration. "If you wrote about the Bush Administration, as I did, you soon learned to avoid relying on Suskind's reporting absent strong independent corroboration," Weisberg says. The books made heroes out of his cooperative sources and turned nuggets of information into "fundamentally untrue" big pictures, Weisberg says, citing examples from each book. In Confidence Men, his book on Obama, "[o]nce again, his work is strewn with small but telling errors." Weisberg lists several, as for example, when he says Timothy Geithner was the former New York Fed chairman. (He was the president.) "When challenged on the facts, he pleads the larger picture. But his bigger points are equally inaccurate," Weisberg says. He uses two key quotes to charge a culture of sexism in the White House. But both women contest the quotes as inaccurate or made up. He also argues the White House managed the economic crisis like amateurs, citing Larry Summers, who called it "Home Alone." Summers, too, calls his portrayal "a combination of fiction, distortion, and words taken out of context." As in the Bush books, it is easy to guess who Suskind's anonymous sources are since they receive "cringe-inducing" flattery. Most controversially, Suskind claims that Geithner disobeyed Obama's request to break up Citigroup. Geithner and other economic advisers all deny this story, and no one has stepped forward to support it. "Suskind loves disputes like this, as do his publishers, because they sell more books," Weisberg says. "His fellow journalists no longer trust him. Readers shouldn't either."
Peggy Noonan on how Republicans can lose When Peggy Noonan uses information available to her to make sometimes "damning" judgements on the White House, she writes today in The Wall Street Journal, she hopes she got it wrong. That said, if Ron Suskind's Confidence Men can be trusted, she says, then "none of it was as bad as I said. It was much worse." As Suskind recasts things, Obama came into office with unique advantages to take on the financial crisis, but his lack of managerial experience worried his aides. "He ran meetings as if they were afternoon talk shows," and he didn't focus on how stimulus funds would be spent. Noonan notes the book has been contested by some who were quoted (see Weisberg's column above), but "the overarching portrait of chaos, lack of intellectual depth and absence of political wisdom, from a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter at this paper, rings true." Nevertheless, she transitions, "Mr. Obama cannot win in 2012, but the Republicans can lose." To prove this, she points to New York. Obama, she says, made a good, clear speech at the U.N. that persuasively put forward the argument against the "short cut" of recognizing Palestine. Meanwhile, Rick Perry went to New York to speak of Israel as well, condemning Obama policy as "appeasement." Perry forgot that "when you are running for president you have to be big, you have to act as if you're a broad fellow who understands that when the American president is in a tight spot in the U.N., America is in a tight spot in the U.N." Perry's opponents rightly pointed out that he actually has very little knowledge of foreign policy. "I'd add only that in his first foreign-policy foray, the GOP front-runner looked like a cheap, base-playing buffoon." Behavior like this, she says, will lose Republicans the election.