Ron Suskind: Wikis


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Ron Suskind
Born November 20th, 1959
Washington, DC
Education University of Virginia, Columbia School of Journalism
Occupation Journalist, Author
Spouse(s) Cornelia
Children Walter, Owen
Notable credit(s) New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Esquire Magazine
Agent The Wylie Agency

Ron Suskind (born November 20, 1959[1] in Kingston, New York) is a Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist and best-selling author. He was the senior national affairs writer for The Wall Street Journal from 1993 to 2000 and has published four books, A Hope in the Unseen, The Price of Loyalty, The One Percent Doctrine and The Way of the World. He won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for his series of articles in the Wall Street Journal that later became his first book, A Hope in the Unseen. Suskind is equally known for his series of prominent best-selling books cataloging the inner-workings of the George W. Bush Administration and related issues of America's use of power.


Early life and career

Suskind was born in Kingston, New York, to a Jewish family.[2] He attended the University of Virginia, was a brother of the SPE fraternity, lived on The Lawn during the 1980-1981 school year, and was the university's 2005 valediction speaker. He received a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1983.

In 1990, Suskind began working for the Wall Street Journal, and became its senior national affairs reporter in 1993. He remained in this position until 2000 when he left the Journal. While working for the Journal, Suskind published a series of articles chronicling the aspirations of Cedric Jennings, and his efforts to escape his blighted upbringing by going to Brown University. In 1995, Suskind received the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for these articles. In addition to his four books, Suskind has contributed to numerous periodicals, magazines and journals including Esquire and The New York Times Magazine. In 2004, he appeared on CBS's 60 Minutes to discuss his book, The Price of Loyalty. In 2006 while promoting his book The One Percent Doctrine he was interviewed on the Colbert Report, and in 2008 he appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to discuss his book The Way of the World.[3] Other notable television interviews include NBC's "The Today Show", ABC's Nightline and PBS's Charlie Rose. In 2001 and 2002, he was a regular contributor to "Life 360," a series that blended journalists and performers that was a joint production of ABC and PBS. Between 2004 and 2008, he appeared frequently on Frontline, the award-winning PBS series.


In 2002 Suskind wrote two stories in Esquire that marked some of the first stories to show the inner workings of the George W. Bush White House. The first article focused on presidential adviser Karen Hughes (June 2002). White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said that the pragmatic Hughes was "the beauty to Karl's beast", referring to top advisor Karl Rove. According to Card, her resignation signified a political shift in the administration further to the right. Suskind's second Esquire story (December 2002) about Rove carried the comments and a long memo from Bush's former head of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community initiatives John DiIulio, the first top official to leave the White House and speak candidly about his experiences. DiIulio criticized the Bush administration for having "no policy apparatus" and fixating on political calculation, and was quoted as saying "it's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis," although he later recanted that characterization.

In 2002, Suskind began contributing to the series "Profiles in Courage for Our Times"(Hyperion)[4]. The series included other esteemed and award-winning writers including Bob Woodward, Michael Beschloss and Anna Quindlen.

On October 17, 2004, Suskind's cover story in the New York Times Magazine, titled "Without a Doubt: Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush", revealed that the president was planning to partially privatize Social Security as his first initiative if re-elected—a disclosure that prompted controversy in the final two weeks of the campaign. The article popularized the term "reality-based community", based on a conversation with a Bush aide who criticized Suskind and other people who "believe solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality".



A Hope in the Unseen

In 1995 Suskind wrote a series of articles cataloging the struggles of inner-city honors students in Washington, D.C for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. These articles would later form the starting point of his first book, A Hope in the Unseen (Doubleday/Broadway, 1998). The story chronicles the two year journey of Cedric L. Jennings, a fiercely intelligent and religious honor student who aspires to escape his blighted Washington D.C. upbringing by going to an Ivy-League university.

The book was met with overwhelming critical and commercial success. It was chosen by the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Monthly and Booklist as one of the best books of the year.[5] The New York Times Book Review called it “An extraordinary, formula-shattering book”. David Halberstam called it "A beautiful book of a heroic American struggle."[6] The book has been a regular selection in college courses on American culture, education, sociology and creative writing, and has been a required reading for incoming freshmen at many Universities. In 2008, the book was selected as part of the “One Maryland, One Book” program.

The book was especially noted for its influence on the debate over affirmative action. Upon its release in 1998, affirmative action had become one of the preeminent domestic social issues facing the country. In their review of the book, CNN declared "As more voters, politicos and talk-show hosts write off affirmative action as a well-intentioned anachronism, A Hope in the Unseen should be required reading for would-be opinion-mongers."[7] In his review for Newsday, Bill Reel stated "I changed my thinking about affirmative action. I was against it, now I am for it. The agent of change was a mind-opening book - "A Hope in the Unseen" by Ron Suskind."[8]

The book also drew high praise for its innovations to writing style - using exhaustive reporting to place readers inside the heads of characters. The Chicago Tribune called the book, "the new, new nonfiction[9]."

The Price of Loyalty

The Price of Loyalty was published on January 13, 2004. The book, which chronicled the two year tenure of United States Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, took readers deep inside the Bush Administration and was the first work to authoritatively assess the conduct and character of the Bush presidency. While the book covered a wide array of foreign and domestic issues, it is particularly notable for its portrayal of events that culminated in the Iraq War. Perhaps the most significant accusation was that the War in Iraq had been planned as early as the first National Security Council meeting after President George W. Bush took office. The book was met with both commercial and critical acclaim.

Among the many claims in the book, which drew from numerous sources and more than 19,000 internal government documents, was that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the U.S. occupation of Iraq was planned from Bush's first U.S. National Security Council meeting in January 2001.[10] This lay in sharp contrast to the widely held perception that concerns over Iraq only came to the forefront after the September 11 attacks in 2001. Administration officials have contended that O'Neill confused contingency plans with actual plans for invasion.[11]

Rather than denying his allegations, Bush officials attacked O'Neill's credibility, while answering that regime change in Iraq had been official U.S. policy since 1998, three years before Bush took office. However, O'Neill's claims called into question the relationship of the Iraq occupation to the post-9/11 War on Terrorism. After the cover sheet of a packet containing classified information were shown during a 60 Minutes interview of O'Neill and Suskind, the United States Department of Treasury investigated whether both men had improperly received classified materials. It concluded in March, 2004 that no laws were violated, but that inadequate document handling policies at the Treasury had allowed 140 documents, which should have been marked classified, to be entered into a computer system for unclassified documents. The documents were amongst those subsequently released to O'Neill in response to a legal document request and then given to Suskind. [1]

The One Percent Doctrine

The One Percent Doctrine is the third book by Ron Suskind, published in 2006. The book revolves around the evolving the foreign policy of the Bush Administration especially in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The doctrine itself is defined as,

If there's a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It's not about our analysis.... It's about our response.

Suskind's investigative report, published in his book The One Percent Doctrine, claimed that al-Qaeda leaders were plotting to attack the New York City Subway. Excerpts of the book were published in the June 18, 2006 issue of Time. The book, based on interviews with more than a hundred sources, concluded that U.S. foreign policy since 9/11 has been driven by Vice President Dick Cheney and his doctrine that "if there's a one percent chance" of weapons of mass destruction being given to terrorists "we need to treat it as a certainty." The doctrine, Suskind asserts, freed the administration from the dictates of evidence and allowed suspicion to be a guide for action.

One of Suskind's many assertions, that a suspect in the London subway bombings was on a US "no fly" list and attempted to enter the US, has been challenged by the US government. The FBI described Suskind's reporting on this single matter as "inaccurate", and issued a statement saying "the author has intertwined facts... causing some confusion."[12]

The book was met with commercial and critical acclaim. It was a New York Times Bestseller and received an immense amount of acclaim in the journalism community. Frank Rich called it a "Must read bestseller" while Michael Hill stated "If Bob Woodward is the chronicler of the Bush administration, Ron Suskind is the analyst.... A page-turning, blow by blow, inside-the-administration account...Historians will be grateful for it as they write the many final drafts in the decades to come."

The Way of the World

The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism was published on August 5, 2008. The book weaves together an array of stories that follow a diverse group of individuals engaged in the modern challenges of national security and cultural connection. Among these stories are the tales of an intelligence official working to combat nuclear terrorism, a detainee lawyer fighting for rights at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, a young Pakistani man interrogated under the White House, an Afghan teenager who spends a year in American high school, and former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto as she returns to Pakistan to challenge President Pervez Musharraf.[13]

The Way of the World marked the fullest return of the investigative narrative form that shaped Suskind’s first book, A Hope in the Unseen. This powerful technique was praised by many in reviewing “Way of the World”. In his assessment for the Literary Review, Michael Burleigh noted the linked vignettes that formed the bedrock of the narrative. “Using a series of interwoven stories, some hopeful, others disturbing, Suskind explores whether the United States and the Muslim world will ever be able to find mutual respect and understanding.... This is a hugely important field that has never been so well examined.”[14] Similar encomium was used in analyzing Suskind’s capabilities as a storyteller. The Sunday Times declared “Suskind is never unsympathetic to his characters, who he appears to have debriefed intensively. He is a romantic, a writer who clearly believes that his country has betrayed its past, its values and its moral compass by failing to tell the truth about the war." Perhaps the most substantial testament to Suskind’s return to a narrative style came from the New York Observer. “Moving.... Mr. Suskind is a prodigiously talented craftsman.... It’s all here: a cast of characters that sprawls across class and circumstance to represent the totality of a historical moment.... These hard times, Mr. Suskind’s book suggests, call for a nonfiction Dickens.”[15]

Mark Danner, reviewing the book for The New York Times, writes that "These narratives and others perform, in Mr. Suskind’s hands, an intricate arabesque and manage, to a rather remarkable degree, to show us, in this age of terror, 'the true way of the world.'"[16] It is around the stories of these characters that the book frames the debate about how America lost much of its moral authority in recent years and how it is struggling, often through the actions and initiative of individuals, to restore it.[17]

The Way of the World sparked controversy upon publication for a series of disclosures centered on Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the head of Iraqi intelligence under Saddam Hussein. The book reveals that British and American intelligence entered into a dialogue with Habbush before the invasion of Iraq, in which he revealed that Saddam possessed no weapons of mass destruction and did not take an American invasion seriously. The book also contends that the Central Intelligence Agency resettled Habbush, paid him $5 million, and forged a document in his name alleging that 9/11 hijacker Mohammad Atta trained in Iraq.[18]

The White House, former CIA director George Tenet, and former CIA officer Robert Richer, an important figure in the book, were quick to deny involvement in fabricating the Habbush letter, denials that were echoed in an official CIA statement, saying of Suskind's claim that the White House ordered the agency to forge a letter from Habbush: "It did not happen."[19]

Suskind responded to the Rob Richer's denial, circulated by the White House, by posting on his website a partial transcript of a taped conversation with Richer in which the two discuss the Habbush forgery.[20] In response to the official CIA statement, Suskind told The Washington Post that the disclosures and details in his book are backed up by hours of interviews and that there is "not a shred of doubt about any of it."[21] On August 11, House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers announced that his committee would look into the matter of the Habbush letter and a variety of other disclosures in the book.[22]

The Way of the World debuted at #3 on the New York Times bestseller list,[23] but some remarked that its revelations did not produce the outrage or scandal that would seem to attend a White House-run disinformation campaign aimed at U.S. public opinion.[24] The layers of the controversy have nonetheless deepened with the revelation that Ayad Allawi, the initial source of the Habbush letter, was at CIA headquarters the week before the letter emerged,[25], and a piece in The American Conservative by Philip Giraldi that claims an "extremely reliable and well placed source in the intelligence community" confirmed that the Vice President's Office was behind the Habbush letter, but that "Doug Feith’s Office of Special Plans", not the CIA, carried out the forgery.[26]

Many of the disclosures in the The Way of the World received less attention than the Habbush controversy, but the inside story the book tells about Pervez Musharraf's actions toward Benazir Bhutto during the last months of the her life was picked up in the Pakistani press and dovetailed with a growing movement calling for the impeachment of the (now former) Pakistani president.[27] Speaking to another aspect of the book, Mark Danner, in his review for the The New York Times, writes that "the revelation of an effort to steal and sell fissile material in Georgia’s now celebrated 'breakaway region' of South Ossetia... is only the most terrifying of a dozen or more newsworthy disclosures in this book."[28] Suskind cites the battle against nuclear terrorism as the most pressing crisis the United States needs to restore its moral authority in order to combat and details an ambitious attempt to infiltrate the worldwide nuclear black market, called the "Armageddon Test."[29]


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  9. ^ Chicago Tribune
  10. ^ Suskind, Ron. The Price of Loyalty Simon & Schuster. 2004
  11. ^ Cabinet members defend Bush from O'Neill CNN. January 12, 2004
  12. ^ Press release.FBI Responds to Report on London Bomber Federal Bureau of Investigation. June 22, 2006.
  13. ^ Jenkins, Simon. Sunday Times book review Sunday Times (London). August 24, 2008.
  14. ^ Michael Burleigh, Literary Review
  15. ^ New York Observer
  16. ^ Danner, Mark. Weapons of Mass Destruction and Other Imaginative Acts The New York Times. August 27, 2008.
  17. ^ Ron Suskind interview on The Washington Posts Book World Live. August 12, 2008.
  18. ^ Ron Suskind interview on Democracy Now! August 14, 2008.
  19. ^ Warrick, Joby. CIA More Fully Denies Deception About Iraq The Washington Post. August 23, 2008.
  20. ^ [ Rob Richer and Ron Suskind discuss Habbush letter
  21. ^ Warrick, Joby. CIA More Fully Denies Deception About Iraq. The Washington Post. August 23, 2008.
  22. ^ Conyers announces review of allegations in Ron Suskind's The Way of the World
  23. ^ New York Times nonfiction bestsellers, August 24, 2008
  24. ^ Crook, Clive. Whispers of Watergate for Bush Financial Times. August 11, 2008.
  25. ^ Conason, Joe. New evidence suggests Ron Suskind is right. Salon. August 8, 2008
  26. ^ Giraldi, Philip. Suskind Revisited. The American Conservative. August 7, 2008.
  27. ^ Loudon, Bruce. Musharraf defies calls to quit The Australian. August 11, 2008.
  28. ^ Danner, Mark. Weapons of Mass Destruction and Other Imaginative Acts. New York Times. August 27, 2008.
  29. ^ Rosenberg, Alyssa. Speed Reading Suskind: War Games. The New Republic. August 7, 2008.

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