- It was only a matter of time before the Bush administration
contrived to sanction former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill for revealing
the secrets of the temple.
- But no one should take seriously the attempts by the
administration to suggest that O'Neill violated the public trust by revealing
details of the machinations of Vice President Dick Cheney, White House
political czar Karl Rove and the others who run the Bush presidency.
- O'Neill, who was always the most outspoken of the Bush
acolytes, was fired late in 2002 after he noted that the emperor's tax-cutting
schemes had no clothing of legitimacy. A year later, the man who is well-respected
in business and economic circles internationally has started talking about
what he saw inside the Bush White House. What O'Neill has to say is more
disturbing than surprising. Most Americans have thought for some time that
the man who wears the label of "president" is not actually in
charge, and that is certainly the impression conveyed by O'Neill in "The
Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of
Paul O'Neill," a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron
- O'Neill discussed his time in the Bush administration
at length with Suskind, and provided the journalist with 19,000 documents
backing up his statements. Suskind then confirmed the facts with administration
insiders and others.
- What emerges is the picture of a profoundly disengaged
president who led Cabinet meetings "like a blind man in a roomful
of deaf people," and whose top aides found themselves devising White
House policy on "little more than hunches about what the president
- Ill-informed and lacking in curiosity, the president
is portrayed as a man being manipulated by Cheney and Rove - especially
on issues of tax policy. O'Neill tells of a Cabinet meeting where Bush
actually asked questions about whether additional tax cuts for the rich
really were necessary, only to be admonished by Cheney and Rove to stay
- Much is being made of O'Neill's observation that the
administration began planning a pre-emptive war against Iraq long before
the 2001 terrorist attacks. But this is not that big a revelation. The
Bush administration's determination to invade Iraq was evident to anyone
who bothered to pay attention.
- Far more shocking are the revelations regarding the casual
manner in which administration insiders dismissed economic common sense.
O'Neill makes it painfully clear that the president and his aides had little
interest in any economic policy that did not begin - and pretty much end
- with a combination of hefty tax cuts for the rich and the relaxation
of basic regulations on corporations. O'Neill recognized early on that
the administration was forging disastrous policies that would create deep
deficits while failing to address fundamental issues.
- Now, with deficits rising and job growth stagnant, it's
obvious that O'Neill was right. That is, of course, an inconvenient reality
as the president prepares to deliver an election-year State of the Union
address that undoubtedly will paint a rosy picture of the nation's economic
- So Bush aides, and their allies in the media, are battering
O'Neill. Officials at the Treasury Department have even asked for a probe
into O'Neill's possible misuse of documents that may have been classified.
What they have not done is make a credible case that anything O'Neill has
said is untrue.
- Paul O'Neill took a risk in telling the truth. The Bush
administration has a track record of seeking to destroy those who reveal
how it really operates.
- But this time it is unlikely to work. The American people
have a taste for the truth. CNN asked viewers whether O'Neill was right
to come forward with his revelations about the inner workings of the administration.
Ninety-three percent of those who responded said yes.