During the height of the global financial crisis, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner ignored President Barack Obama’s orders calling for the restructuring of major banks, including Citigroup.
According to a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind, Obama faced conflicts among his top advisers regarding the response to the gathering storm of the banking crisis.
"Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and The Education of A President," which will be released on September 20, includes interviews with more than 200 people, including Obama and Geithner.
The Associated Press, which acquired an advance copy of the book, noted that in March 2009 when Obama issued an order calling for the possible dissolution of toxic asset-plagued Citigroup amidst a series of stress tests on banks, Geithner ignored the directive.
Obama didn’t deny the account, but declined to tell Suskind what he told Geithner about this apparent breach of an executive order.
"Agitated may be too strong a word," Suskind quoted Obama as saying.
Obama also lamented in the book that "the speed with which the bureaucracy could exercise my decision was slower than I wanted."
However, Geithner declared in the book that his department was not slow to respond to Obama’s orders, nor could he remember the president being upset with him.
"I don't ‘slow-walk’ the president on anything," Geithner told the author.
Suskind commented in the book: "The Citibank incident, and others like it, reflected a more pernicious and personal dilemma emerging from inside the administration: that the young president's authority was being systematically undermined or hedged by his seasoned advisers.”
Obama reportedly accepted blame for his administration’s mismanagement of the banking malaise.
The book also seems to support rumors of disagreements among White House officials over the size of bailouts to be delivered to ailing financial institutions, as well as the magnitude of stimulus packages.
Former White House economic adviser Larry Summers reportedly claimed that mistakes made under Obama would not have happened under President Bill Clinton, whom Summers also served under.
In addition, the book claims that former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel (who left the White House to become Mayor of Chicago), was not the first choice for that job, nor was he even on the initial short-list.