Paul O'Neill Confirms Your Worst Fears About Bush Tomorrow On "60 Minutes"
You may want to watch “60 Minutes” tomorrow night. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, who was fired by George W. Bush allegedly for not being a team player and being less than enthused about the administration’s “tax cuts only” approach to economic policy, is being interviewed. In the interview, which is in support of a book soon to be released by former Wall Street Journal and Esquire magazine political correspondent Ron Suskind “The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill”, the former Alcoa CEO says that Bush didn’t encourage debate in Cabinet meetings, and was disengaged in one-on-one meetings as well. I've already ordered my copy of the book from Amazon, and I've added a direct link to the book on the left of the site in case any of you want to purchase it as well.
O’Neill casts Bush as a disinterested and shallow man only concerned about politics.
The former Treasury secretary, fired in 2002, says Bush was bored with economic facts and more interested in just playing politics.
In private meetings, Bush would show little interest in the advice he was being provided, O'Neill told CBS.
O’Neill says that the White House decision-making process was virtually nonexistent, and Bush left no indication of what he wanted his subordinates to do (paging Andy Card – white courtesy phone).
In an excerpt of the book released by CBS, O'Neill said that a lack of real dialogue characterized the Cabinet meetings he attended during the first two years of the administration and gave O'Neill the feeling that Bush "was like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people."
O'Neill was also quoted in the book as saying that the administration's decision-making process was so flawed that often top officials had no real sense of what the president wanted them to do, forcing them to act on "little more than hunches about what the president might think."
This trashes all of the White House, Karen Hughesian spin of Bush as a clear and decisive leader.
Suskind already has a history of causing heartburn for Karl Rove and this administration when he ran a story in Esquire over a year ago on his interviews with John DiLulio, Bush’s first head of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, wherein DiLulio complained that there was no domestic policy operation at all in the White House, only what Karl Rove thought would be good politics.
But the most important charges made by O’Neill and Suskind in the book, which are addressed in tomorrow night’s interview, are also the most likely to be ignored by the Beltway media: that Bush and his administration came into office dedicated to removing Saddam Hussein and were in search of a justification to do so in the months leading up to 9-11.
"From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," O'Neill said in the "60 Minutes" interview scheduled to air Sunday. "For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap."
The former treasury secretary and other White House insiders gave Suskind documents that in the first three months of 2001 revealed the Bush administration was examining military options for removing Saddam Hussein, CBS said.
"There are memos," Suskind told CBS. "One of them marked 'secret' says 'Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq."'
Another Pentagon document entitled "Foreign suitors for Iraqi Oil Field Contracts" talks about contractors from 40 countries and which ones have interest in Iraq, Suskind said.
O'Neill was also quoted in the book as saying the president was determined to find a reason to go to war and he was surprised nobody on the National Security Council questioned why Iraq should be invaded.
"It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it," said O'Neill. "The president saying 'Go find me a way to do this."'
We already know that Sandy Berger gave Condi Rice several briefings on the threat of Al Qaeda and the need to roll back terrorism in January 2001, which Rice virtually ignored. We also know from Rudman himself that the Rudman/Hart Commission report on the terrorism threat to our national security was given to the White House in February 2001 but was then given to Dick Cheney to “study” and ignored.
What O’Neill is confirming here is what many of us suspected all along: that the Bushies came into office committed to their fixation on removing Hussein using any justification possible. The most important question from all of this is: did the White House ignore the real threat from Al Qaeda, for which they were adequately warned from many sources, in their single-minded and personal fixation on removing Hussein? Or, worse yet, did they see an opportunity for justifying the removal of Hussein by downplaying the Al Qaeda threats intentionally?