Portrait of a Dysfunctional Administration

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on September 19, 2011

Mike Allen has some juicy bits from Ron Suskind’s new book. Good government technocrats–you know, the group the President and his admirers claim to be a part of–should be very afraid:

Enough was enough, [White House chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel decided. … He summoned the two competing super-egos, [economic adviser Larry] Summers and [budget director Peter] Orszag, and told them to make peace. After all, they were each responsible for huge swaths of the federal government. And they were fighting at every turn. After a bit of delicate negotiations, it was decided that they’d meet once a week for dinner and see how it worked. So, that night, Orszag settled into a white-clothed table at the Bombay Club, a posh Indian restaurant across Lafayette Park, a favorite of lobbyists and White House officials.

Summers walked in, slightly late, but not impolitely so, and met Orszag at the table. And then it was the two of them. Orszag hoped that this time the White House would be less fraught with strife than the last go-round during the 1990s. Summers said it kind of came with the territory. This talk of their shared history seemed to thaw things out. They both grabbed for the plate of flatbreads … and tore corners at the discus-sized breads. “You know, Peter, we’re really home alone.” Over the past few months, Summers had said this, in a stage whisper, to Orszag and others as they left the morning economic briefings in the Oval Office. … “I mean it,” Summers stressed. “We’re home alone. There’s no adult in charge. Clinton would never have made these mistakes.”

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