More White House Lies About O'Neill's Charges
Why am I not surprised that the media already did a "move on, nothing to report here" as soon as the White House fired back against Paul O'Neill, even though when you look at what has been said, they have managed to give contradictory statements and never rebutted what O'Neill's main points were?
First, the White House message was that "we did not talk about Iraq from the very first days of the Administration." Then the message was "well, we did talk about Iraq, but all we were doing was carrying on the 'Clinton Regime Change' policy." Bush went so far as to say that he didn’t focus on Saddam until after 9/11.
But no one then asked the obvious follow-up: "yes, but the Clinton regime change policy never took that so far as to talk about finding any reason to get the guy, nor did the Clintons take out maps of the Iraqi oilfields as part of their regime change plans." And despite the claims from Rummy that there were no early discussions about taking out Saddam, John Cochran of ABC News got a source inside the administration to admit that in fact O’Neill was right: there was talk inside the administration from the earliest days about how to invade Iraq. Which means that O’Neill was correct, and both Rummy and Bush are lying once again.
As for O’Neill’s other major claim about Bush’s management style, it never really got pursued once the predictable Don Evans and others weighed in with the "he is a strong and decisive leader" spin. But you only find confirmation of what O'Neill was saying about Bush's hands-off management when you read James Fallows' piece in the new Atlantic Monthly, which is only in print as of today. Fallows is writing about how little preparation the administration did for a postwar Iraq.
Even though they haven't posted it to the site, I read my copy last night, and on page 72 is the following:
"This is the place to note that in several months of interviews I never once heard someone say 'We took this step because the President indicated...' or 'the President really wanted...' Instead I (Fallows) heard 'Rumsfeld wanted,' 'Powell thought,' 'the Vice President pushed,' or 'Bremer asked,' and so on. One need only compare this with any discussion of foreign policy in Reagan's or Clinton's Administration - or Nixon's or Kennedy's or Johnson's, or most others - to sense how unusual is the absence of the President as prime mover. The other conspicuously absent figure was Condoleeza Rice, even after she was supposedly put in charge of coordinating American policy on Iraq last October...”
I think that observation by Fallows based on his interviews and research, given the respect he has amongst Beltway types, tends to validate what O'Neill and Suskind said, and blows out of the water any spin doctor crap from the White House.