The title of a new book about Barack Obama's presidency is Confidence Men. It suggests, among other revelations, that Obama only had confidence in men.
Sorry! I couldn't help it. But seriously, the handful of events and impressions described in the book, which focuses on the handling of the financial crisis, are depressing, if unsurprising, news. Things got the point that female administration members told the president that they felt as if they weren't being utilized or listened to, presumably at considerable personal risk to themselves. According to the New York Times, which has an advance copy of Ron Suskind's book,
At a dinner with Mr. Obama in November 2009, several top female aides - including Anita Dunn, who was the communications director, and Christina Romer, the chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers - told the president about being talked over in meetings by male colleagues or cut out altogether.
Ms. Romer, the book says, once passed a note to Mr. Summers threatening to walk out of a dinner with Mr. Obama and outside economists after the president polled his guests for their recommendations but failed to recognize her.
Romer and Dunn have had to spend the last twenty-four hours denying there was any sexist passing-over at the hands of their former boss, although neither of them appears to have denied the comments at dinner. Dunn told The Washington Post that "her husband, now-White House lawyer Bob Bauer, was 'surprised to see me as someone who could be talked over in meetings.'" Ladies be talking!
She also said, "It's a place where there is vigorous discussion back and forth. At various times people have issues with their collegues, but we were united. I've been very clear that this is a president who values a diverse set of voices on every issue." (Presumably she has her next job to worry about.) Dunn, says The Post, "refused to discuss the details of 'private conversations with the president.'"
And Romer told The Times that she did pass the note to Larry Summers but that "it was lighthearted. It was not me threatening to walk. My God, who would walk out on the president?" Well, she eventually did — she resigned from her administration post in August 2010.
Don't worry, future female White House operatives: There's always the spell the national security advisors — sorry, "militaristic muses — cast over Obama to lure him into Libya.
Book Details Dissension In Obama Economic Team [NYT]
Suskin Book: Female Advisors In Obama White House Sidelined And Ignored [WP]