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The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill

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Updated with a new afterword and including a selection of key documents, this is the explosive account of how the Bush administration makes policy on war, taxes, and politics -- its true agenda exposed by a member of the Bush cabinet. This vivid, unfolding narrative is like no other book that has been written about the Bush presidency. At its core are the candid assessments of former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, the only member of Bush's cabinet to leave and speak frankly about how and why the ...
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The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill

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Overview

Updated with a new afterword and including a selection of key documents, this is the explosive account of how the Bush administration makes policy on war, taxes, and politics -- its true agenda exposed by a member of the Bush cabinet. This vivid, unfolding narrative is like no other book that has been written about the Bush presidency. At its core are the candid assessments of former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, the only member of Bush's cabinet to leave and speak frankly about how and why the administration has come to its core policies and decisions -- from cutting taxes for the rich to conducting preemptive war. O'Neill's account is supported by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind's interviews with numerous participants in the administration, by transcripts of meetings, and by voluminous documents. The result is a disclosure of breadth and depth unparalleled for an ongoing presidency. As readers are taken to the very epicenter of government, Suskind presents an astonishing picture of a president so carefully managed in his public posture that he is a mystery to most Americans. Now, he is revealed.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Penned by Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Ron Suskind and based on the revelations of former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, this controversial exposé is an eye-opening look at the first two years of President George W. Bush's uniquely eventful administration.

Suskind recounts how Alcoa CEO O'Neill -- a plainspoken businessman with unimpeachable ethics and a reputation for getting things done -- was recruited for the prestigious cabinet post; how, despite misgivings, he signed on to join a team he truly believed was committed to a centrist ideal; and how, 23 months later, he was summarily fired for his tell-it-like-it-is brand of pragmatic leadership. Chronicling the ups and downs of his tenure in the Bush White House, O'Neill describes some genuinely surreal scenes -- from the National Security Council meeting in February 2001, where regime change in Iraq mysteriously soars to the top of the foreign policy agenda, to mystifying presidential flip-flops on tax cuts, global warming, and corporate accountability that leave even top-tier officials scratching their heads. Tarred as a contrarian in an administration that valued ideology over analysis, O'Neill soon found himself blindsided by an inner circle of advisers that included his longtime friend Dick Cheney.

Inarguably, the most fascinating portrait (in a gallery that includes Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Karl Rove, and Alan Greenspan) is of POTUS himself. George W. Bush emerges as an inscrutable enigma, bereft of curiosity, intolerant of dissent, and curiously content to be scripted, rehearsed, and handled. It's evident that Paul O'Neill, with his passionate commitment to transparency and candor, and the opaque, super-secretive Bushites were a bad match from the get-go. Anne Markowski

NY Times Sunday Book Review
… whether O'Neill was a brilliant Treasury secretary or a mediocre one, he did regard the public trust as a serious matter, and the case The Price of Loyalty makes about the debasement of the policy process is a strong one. ''Politics, as it's now played, is not about being right,'' O'Neill concludes. ''It's about doing whatever's necessary to win. They're not the same.'' One finishes this book hoping that those who consider themselves the guardians of Washington integrity will do more to demand that the distinction be honored. — Michael Tomasky
The New York Times
Mr. O'Neill is describing the takeover of the Republican Party — and consequently of the executive branch — by what is portrayed as a group of single-minded right-wing ideologues with loyalty only to their narrow and rapacious political self-interest … Mr. O'Neill is appalled by what he sees as a betrayal of real conservatism; he even at one point draws a parallel between the absolutists fighting to take over Pakistan for Muslim fundamentalism and the absolutism at work in the Bush White House. — Katrina vanden Heuvel
Library Journal
More embargoing: a Pulitzer Prize winner peeks at the Bush White House. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
Ward Just The New York Observer A first-rate piece of work....The best we're likely to have for some time....An intelligent and nuanced narrative.

The New York Times An invaluable contribution both to the historical record and to the fierce public debate over the nature of the Bush administration's true views and motivations on issues of war and peace.

Business Week Suskind is a smart writer....He deftly picks through some 19,000 documents and hours of interviews to open an often eye-popping window into the Bush White House.

The New York Review of Books A detailed, deeply disturbing look at how the Bush administration makes policy.

Paul Krugman The New York Times An invaluable, scathing insider's picture of the Bush administration.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743255455
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 1/13/2004
  • Pages: 348
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Ron Suskind is the author of the # 1 New York Times bestseller The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed A Hope in the Unseen. He has been senior national affairs reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. Visit the author's website at www.ronsuskind.com.

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Read an Excerpt

from Chapter 2: A Way to Do It

Paul O'Neill arrived at 6:15 A.M. on his first morning in office.

The President, he understood, was also an early riser — in his office by 7 A.M. — and O'Neill mused that maybe this would be part of what defined this administration: people of fortitude and clarity, always first to work. At the very least, this was one thing the President and he had in common.

His secretary, Annabella Mejia, was already there. "You're late," she chided. "Mr. Secretary, it's practically afternoon."

"Thanks, I'll get my own coffee," he said with a chuckle. "Can I get you anything, Annabella?"

Before almost anyone else had arrived, O'Neill had drafted a strategic memo to the President. By midmorning, it was ready. He had his secret pact with Greenspan. But the goal of pushing forward the President's plan was central to his job description. A core responsibility. O'Neill decided he could be a team player and still feel like himself. Good policy could make good politics — at least, it was possible. With a surplus number of $5 trillion — a number O'Neill understood from a friend at the Congressional Budget Office would soon rise to $5.6 trillion — he needed to help the President set the right priorities.

Memorandum to the President

From: Paul H. O'Neill

Subject: Tax Reform

Date: January 22, 2001

I believe there is an opportunity to get quick action on your tax proposal if we move now.

You have won the general argument on the desirability of a tax cut and the opposition has been cornered into arguing how large the cut should be, and, their numbers are moving toward your numbers and scope....

O'Neill knew that special interests, with their congressional advocates, were already lined up at the White House door, pushing for midsize proposals — abolishing inheritance taxes or offering a tax credit for each legitimate child — along with perennials like tax incentives for ethanol production or inner-city fix-ups. Bundling everyone's favorite items would create "a working majority" and "a way to get a quick victory in the tax arena," O'Neill wrote, aware that this was something that the President's political team found attractive. Considering the election results, any show of strength, or weakness, would be read as a trend. A quick victory was crucial. The problem, he wrote the President, was that his proposed across-the-board reductions in marginal tax rates might be left behind.

O'Neill had made his own decision about priorities. The bundle of many targeted credits and exemptions, with their myriad schedules and provisions, would be difficult to rein in with a trigger. A broad tax rate reduction would have a kind of simple, manageable clarity. It would progress, year by year, on a schedule, depending on whether there was a surplus. If the excess were to be used up, the rate reductions would halt.

Now, he had to help the President see that this was also the strategically sound move. One of the keys was speed. "Growing agreement, even alarm in some quarters, with regard to the slowing economy," O'Neill wrote, could justify swift action on this one defining issue, provided they could get a proposal to Congress in a few weeks and push through marginal rate cuts — most likely through a tweak of withholding — retroactive to January 1.

The only congressional argument to counter this "insurance policy against the slowing economy," he noted, would be that "it doesn't fit their process." Failure to act, moreover, would expose members to blame if the economy slipped into recession.

Embrace reality, he suggested. This plan would take us out of the "morass about the theology of economics" — a shot at anyone who might be whispering about supply-side concepts — and stress that "we care about taking practical action right now." Meanwhile, it would leverage the current economic uncertainties. "We know the real economy has slowed and the official statistics will reflect the slowing over the next quarter, at least. If the current slowness starts moving toward re-acceleration late in the second quarter, it would weaken the argument for quick action."

After a few paragraphs about the need to stress how this rate reduction would benefit low- and middle-income Americans and "stop the drumbeat about a tax cut for the rich," O'Neill unsheathed the blade.

In order to stay within your total tax reduction numbers and provide early implementation for marginal rates we will have to stretch out implementation of some of the other initiatives. We should argue that we will revisit implementation dates for other features, if the economy permits us to do so.

He read it, satisfied — the meat of fiscal reality, with a dash of conditionality, between two slices of political strategy — and typed in, "cc: Vice President Cheney, Larry Lindsey." Of course, the current proposal — even if it were retroactive to January — wouldn't provide much actual stimulus. But if they hitched their wagon to the need for stimulus, they'd be obligated to actually create something that resembles a stimulus...at some point.

• • •

"Pablo?"

"Mr. President."

"Let's get comfortable," George Bush said as O'Neill entered the Oval Office.

The President moved toward the wing chair near the fireplace, tucked between one of two sofa-and-chair clusters in the thirty-nine-by-twenty-two-foot oval. Bush sat in the wing chair facing the clock, where presidents always sit — and O'Neill sat on the near end of the small adjacent mustard-colored couch, where someone sits if he or she is the only visitor. As O'Neill navigated all this — he'd been here many times and knew the complex seating rules — his mind raced back to a conversation with George W. Bush just before the mid-December press conference in Austin, where the President-elect had announced his nomination...yes, there may have been a "Pablo" thrown in among the "Paul"s. O'Neill didn't think anything of it. He didn't know, back then, about Bush's odd enthusiasm for nicknames.

He knew now and settled into the couch...and his new identity: a sixty-five-year-old man named Pablo.

"So, whatta ya got?" the President barked, all business.

It was the afternoon of Wednesday, January 24, the third day of the Bush administration. The President calls the meetings. It is traditional protocol. One might suggest the need for a meeting to an Andy Card or Cheney, who would then pass it along, but the President issues the summons.

Bush had O'Neill's memo — Paul figured they'd talk about that — and then they'd discuss whatever came up. Cheney had said to him at one point that it might be valuable for Bush at the start of his presidency to have these meetings. To range around a bit.

O'Neill, as Treasury Secretary, institutionally designated to be the President's leading voice on the economy, offered a fifteen-minute overview on what he considered the informed opinion (that is, his and Greenspan's) and said that they were in the early stages of either an apparently mild recession or a pronounced inventory correction. The key was to remain sober. To watch the numbers. If we look concerned and talk up recession too much, he said, it will depress spending and encourage a downturn. O'Neill explained that the major problem was not the "encumbrances on capital" — there was plenty of low-cost capital out there, unable to find a profitable home. The problem was on the consumption side. The real numbers, he assured the President, did not support the bleakness of some "economic theorists."

O'Neill referred to items of his memo. Marginal rate cuts, if they were affordable, should be the priority. He said the tax cut plan, under almost any permutation thus far proposed, wouldn't provide measurable stimulus in the short term; what would create positive economic effects is "a sense that fiscal discipline has been preserved" — something that should boost equities markets and keep long-term bond rates in check. All that left the economy well suited to respond to a rate cut from the Fed.

There were a dozen questions that O'Neill had expected Bush to ask. He was ready with the answers. How large did O'Neill consider the surplus, and how real? How might the tax cut be structured? What about reforming Social Security and Medicare, the budget busters? How will we know if the economy has turned?

Bush didn't ask anything. He looked at O'Neill, not changing his expression, not letting on that he had any reactions — either positive or negative.

O'Neill decided therefore to move from the economy to a related matter. Steel tariffs. It was a simmering issue — the U.S. steel industry was hurting and pushing for protections. He said to the President, "You were admirably clear during the campaign about your stance in support of free trade — it's the only stance to take — and there's no way it can be squared with tariffs." He suggested that, as Treasury Secretary, he round up all the world's major producers and create a structure of shared incentives and sacrifices that would avoid tariff wars. He'd already tried some of this to good effect with the aluminum industry in 1993.

The President said nothing. No change in expression. Next subject.

Certainly, each president's style is different. But O'Neill had a basis for comparison. Nixon, Ford, Bush 41, and Clinton, with whom he had visited four or five times during the nineties for long sessions on policy matters. In each case, he'd arrived prepared to mix it up, ready for engagement. You'd hash it out. That was what he was known for. It was the reason you got called to the office. You met with the President to answer questions.

"I wondered, from the first, if the President didn't know the questions to ask," O'Neill recalled, "or did he know and just not want to know the answers? Or did his strategy somehow involve never showing what he thought? But you can ask questions, gather information, and not necessarily show your hand. It was strange."

With steel tariffs left hanging, O'Neill shrugged — if this was to be a monologue, he'd better make it sing.

They'd both been at that education conference five years before, so he went with that. "No Child Left Behind, I like that," O'Neill said, "but the idea that really moves us forward — a real action plan — is One Child at a Time."

It was an idea he'd road-tested with educators for years — that we need "an individualized mandate, where children would be constantly be assessed, one child at a time, in order to help create a little strategic plan for each student," a personalized learning strategy to fill gaps and develop latent potential. "It's a rethinking of what's possible, Mr. President. There's nothing more important than nurturing our human potential as a nation — our future depends on it."

Bush shifted in the wing-back chair. "Right, that's the concept of disaggregation" — a term used by educational statisticians to break down test scores — "I have that covered."

O'Neill wondered if he should point out that the President might be misusing that term but thought again. Instead, he spoke of the need to rigorously assess how federal money is spent in key areas and how to get more value for each dollar and apply it "to the trillions we've spent in foreign aid over the years...what were the goals underlying those expenditures and what were the outcomes." Once that evidence is gathered, O'Neill said, it would be appropriate to examine whether institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund needed restructuring.

The President seemed to nod in affirmation. O'Neill couldn't be sure.

Using the same model, O'Neill proffered a structure to assess the value of America's role in international economic crises — such as Mexico in 1995 or Indonesia in 1997. O'Neill was no longer expecting a response. He discussed ways to apply "value analysis" to the reform of health care and shrink federal expenditures, an area where he is considered by many as one of the country's most original thinkers. Then he offered a similar analytical framework to approach Japan's economic woes and craft an appropriate role for the United States.

O'Neill took a breath. The Oval Office's eighteenth-century grandfather clock — eight feet ten inches of mahogany with satinwood inlays — was to his back. He glanced at his watch. He'd been talking for just over fifty minutes. The meeting was scheduled for an hour.

"All right, Mr. President, maybe to finish up we could talk about global climate change..." Along with his memo on the tax cut strategy, O'Neill had sent over a booklet Alcoa had produced in 1998 with the text of an extensive speech he had given — a thorough analysis of the issue, what was known and as yet unknown, and principles to guide future actions. Bush seemed to indicate with a tilt of his head that he'd read it. But, again, O'Neill wasn't certain.

He pushed forward, adding his current thoughts on what the President might do on the issue — a flash point for environmental policy. He assessed the flaws of the Kyoto treaty and offered thoughts about how they might be remedied.

Both men are precise. And the hour was up. They stood at the same moment to shake hands.

"Get me a plan on global warming."

O'Neill nodded, a bit surprised.

Bush said it again. "Get me a plan on it."

Yes, fine, he'd create a plan, O'Neill said. Then he slipped out of the Oval Office, wondering whether that meant he was supposed to call EPA administrator Christie Whitman — the person designated to handle that area — or to not call her.

Copyright © 2004 by Ron Suskind

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 First Appointment 1
Ch. 2 A Way to Do It 53
Ch. 3 No Fingerprints 87
Ch. 4 Base Elements 123
Ch. 5 The Scale of Tragedy 163
Ch. 6 The Right Thing 203
Ch. 7 A Real Cult Following 241
Ch. 8 Stick to Principle 265
Ch. 9 A Tough Town 307
Epilogue 319
Index 333
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Interviews & Essays

An Interview With Ron Suskind

Barnes & Noble.com: The Price of Loyalty is a candid look inside the Bush administration, as seen by former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, newly updated in paperback. What's been added for this new edition?

Ron Suskind: The new paperback has my afterword, which is essentially a new, added chapter about the havoc that ensued in the days and months after the book was released. Both the book, and public reaction to the book, became historically noteworthy. The paperback also includes complete copies of a selection of internal documents from the 19,000-document trove O'Neill handed to me (it was on two electronic disks -- for easy carrying).

B&N.com: Were you surprised at the reaction to the hardcover edition?

RS: I knew it would be noisy, but it was hard to imagine the thunderous reactions from the White House, the media, and the American public. The thing about being first -- the first full, unmanaged disclosure from inside the Bush White House -- is that there are no models to shape expectations.

In this case, the WH improvised, first trying to dismiss the book (that lasted only a day), questioning O'Neill's character, launching an investigation, then, through various surrogates of the president, attacking O'Neill directly. The media -- so hungry for disclosures after having to survive so long on the thin gruel of "official speak" from the administration -- embraced nearly two dozen key passages in the book, excerpting, citing, and writing or talking about how various disclosures altered prevailing views of Bush and his presidency. This was helped along by the unflinching testimony of O'Neill and others in the book and by the 19,000 documents -- it helped news establishments feel certainty without having to match the book's reportage.

As for readers, there was an early recognition that they were finally privy to a realm that had been off-limits for the past few years, though its generally accessible though writing and film to Americans in the media age: the inside of the White House, that most public of buildings.

B&N.com: The Bush Justice Department launched an immediate investigation of how O'Neill got a hold of the many official documents you cite in the book. What's the status of that investigation?

RS: The investigation -- ordered by the White House (according to various folks involved whom I've spoken with) -- was actually managed by the inspector general's office at Treasury, with assistance from lawyers at other departments in the government. The charge was that O'Neill had improperly received classified documents from Treasury when he approached them a few months into my research -- and then compounded the error by giving those documents to me. I possessed the documents from the start (Paul never even put the disks into his computer), so I quickly hired a legal team and, after chatting with O'Neill, moved to keep him out of the fray. After all, I was protected by the First Amendment and he wasn't.

There are lots of ins and outs to what occurred next. I started to release some documents on my web site (RonSuskind.com) and the lawyers fought it out. But, after two months, investigators said that we had done nothing wrong (there were no documents in the trove specifically marked "Classified") but that 140 documents should have been stamped classified but were not. There is still some legal back-and-forth going on, so I can't get into all the details, but suffice to say the documents in question are being carefully managed and are secure.

B&N.com: Vice President Dick Cheney, who subsequently described him as a "round peg in a square hole," personally recruited O'Neill. Since they're longtime friends, shouldn't Cheney have known that "honest broker" O'Neill would be a bad fit?

RS: The question, I suppose, is a bad fit for what? Presidents have always valued the role of the confident "honest broker," whose first priority is to speak frankly to the leader, and not care, firstly, what the president is hoping to hear. Bush didn't seem to want that sort of support, or guidance. Should Cheney have known that O'Neill was an expert on creating this sort of effective, rigorous decision-making system inside government and business? Of course, but it seems that Cheney -- and others -- didn't think this all through. This is something I'd heard from others, including John DiIulio, former head of the faith-based initiative, who was the first official to leave the administration and speak frankly: They're often sure of themselves without the benefit of investigation.

B&N.com: In O'Neill's view, Bush is seemingly disconnected from all but his closest aides and apparently has little or no grasp of the issues. Doesn't that fly in the face of the image Bush's handlers are fond of cultivating?

RS: Certainly. And it is an image that they've exerted enormous energy and care in projecting. There are various features of this strategy, most notably protecting the president from any unmanaged moments where he'll have to think out loud in public. They've been successful on that score. Bush has largely avoided the venues where other presidents' mastery or intellect has been on display: press conferences, long sit-down interviews with prominent television anchors, or teams from the leading newspapers. At one point, folks in the White House were proffering a list of books the president was reading, including some serious tomes, but that received such a disbelieving response that they backed off. The president is a canny and intelligent fellow, but he's not a reader, sometimes acts impulsively with little supporting evidence, and has a management style that has caused concern among several senior officials who've had regular access to him.

B&N.com: The Bush cabinet meetings appear to be completely scripted in advance. How common is this practice?

RS: I think one thing is important to clarify. The now-famous O'Neill quote about the president being like a "blind man in a room full of deaf people" refers to meetings large and small. Some commentators have misconstrued that quote as referring to cabinet meetings, which tend to be infrequent and unproductive affairs.

The answer to your question: Yes, meetings of all sizes are, not infrequently, scripted. Principals will often get a note in advance (you'll speak third and talk for three minutes about this or that, etc.). There tends to be very little of the kind of free-formed search-and-find for answers that many other presidents have enjoyed and prospered from. And no, scripting meetings with top aides is not something that other presidents have done with any regularity.

B&N.com: By Secretary O'Neill's account, the Bush economic policy was heavily weighted towards tax cuts for the wealthy, no matter the overall state of the economy. Didn't Bush himself question this approach at one point?

RS: Yes, one of the most interesting, and oft-noted, scenes in the book is a large and -- after a few minutes, thoroughly unscripted -- meeting with Bush, Cheney, Rove, O'Neill, Hughes, the senior economic team, and the senior political team. Bush is engaged in a way that participants in the meeting say was extremely rare, prodding and poking at most of the administration's accepted verities. The subject is the second large tax cut (the 2003 initiative to end the double-taxation of dividends) and Bush wonders, several times, if they haven't already given a break to "the top end," and if they need to do it again with this second big tax cut. Various aides attempt to guide him this way and that, and Rove seems to assert his prominence at the finale. Bush, along the way, asks, "What are we doing on compassion?" and then asserts, at day's end, that the only way to get rid of economic uncertainty (much of caused by consumer and investor skittishness as the administration was selling its plan invade Iraq) is to "get rid of Saddam Hussein."

The meeting, it should be noted, is the product of one of the transcripts I received from an unnamed administration official, which was then checked against notes and recollections of others in the room. What's in the book is what various sources agreed about. The word-for-word record of this long meeting of November 26, 2002, is an extraordinary disclosure from an administration that has worked to create very few records of internal deliberations.

B&N.com: From his seat on the National Security Council, Secretary O'Neill was privy to the kind of insider information that would have revealed whether Saddam had WMDs. What was his conclusion on this key issue, one used to justify the invasion?

RS: O'Neill was the first person with direct knowledge of the top-level workings of the administration to say, emphatically, that there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. He says he read every dossier from the CIA and other agencies delivered to the NSC.

B&N.com: O'Neill's close relationship with Fed chairman Alan Greenspan is a major facet of the book. Why wasn't Greenspan more critical of the Bush tax cuts at the time they were being proposed, in your opinion?

RS: Greenspan did make his case for "triggers," meaning that tax cuts would be stopped by a trigger if there were not surpluses or available funds (meaning: no deficit-funded tax cuts). But it was overwhelmed by his other comments that the tax cut in 2001 was worthwhile fiscal policy. Greenspan is a master of studied ambiguities, and in this case, the party in power took part of what he said and inflated it into a bold affirmation of their policies. In his comments to O'Neill, Greenspan was clearly dispirited that the key condition -- triggers -- was left behind.

B&N.com: Global warming was an important issue for O'Neill, both before and during his tenure as Treasury secretary. Do you think he'd lend his support to a Kerry administration initiative to address it?

RS: O'Neill is a lifelong Republican, and, in general, no fan of the Democrats or many of John Kerry's prescriptions. Yet, on the other hand, he believes strongly in concerted action to arrest global warming and has many friends, and admirers, who are Democrats. In other words, if asked to help, I'm sure he'd consider it seriously with his usual nonpartisan mien.

B&N.com: O'Neill also served in the Nixon White House. How do you think he would compare and contrast Nixon and W?

RS: O'Neill, like a lot folks I interviewed who worked for Nixon, tend to have a very complex view of that very complex man. One thing that O'Neill and most of Nixon's former aides agree about: Nixon was an extremely ardent and thorough analyst of government and what government can achieve. I have a few sections in the book where Nixon's process of carefully distilling choices and consequences on various issues, both foreign and domestic, are rendered.

I think O'Neill saw a similarly serious engagement by other presidents he's known and served, and expected something similar from W. Not finding it, and finding resistance to his efforts to create effective research and deliberation on key issues from Cheney and others, left him dispirited and, as a citizen, concerned about the reign of ideologues who repelled inquiry.

B&N.com: What most surprised you about what O'Neill had to say?

RS: I suppose, thinking back, I was most startled by O'Neill's comments, early in my reporting, of meetings where the president would sit and say nothing, sometimes for an entire hour. I would respond with probing disbelief. How could that be? He just sits and says nothing? He asks no questions? The "blind man" quote comes from a moment when O'Neill, somewhat frustrated at my skepticism, tried to make me understand how strange this was and how odd he found it to be. After that, others offered me similar recollections of meetings with Bush.

Certainly, among the most surprising passages in the book comes from O'Neill and several other people I interviewed in the first NSC meeting on January 30, 2001. Starting from the first meeting, it was all about how to get Saddam Hussein, including the use of U.S. military ground forces, repairing of the 1991 Gulf War coalition, along with issues of what we would do once we owned the country, in regard to war crimes tribunals, peacekeeping forces, and dividing of the oil fields. That is now the accepted version of events, but when I first heard it from O'Neill and others, and found corroborating evidence in the documents, it was an eyebrow raiser. The reaction, I think, was similar when, months later, it officially became news.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2004

    A Must Read

    After reading this book I was astonsihed as to how the Bush cabinet runs the country, it really scares me. Unfortunately I am not of voting age yet but I am encouraging those who can vote to get Bush and his cabinet out of office.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2004

    Office Gossip or Just One Man's View??

    It's fair to say that Paul O'Neill disagreed with the policies of the Bush Administration. He's 'a disgruntled ex-employee,' but it's hard to know what is just his opinion and what's a legitimate concern.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2004

    A Must-Read before the 2004 Election

    This book was a tremendous eye-opener for me. With all the confusion and finger-pointing in the news reports about the Bush Administration's Policies, it was very refreshing to hear from a former member of 'Team Bush'. Suskind does a great job explaining former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's experience as an insider of the Bush Administration. More truth and clarity of the inner workings of the Bush White House is revealed in this book than all of the major new media combined. You owe it to yourself to read this book before going to the polls to vote in November.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2004

    Chilling inside view of ineptness of Bush White House

    This book reads like a novel - I didn't want it to end. Suskind keeps you riveted to the unfolding story of O'Neill's inability to engage the President in a meaningful dialogue on issues, and documents his frustration at the artificial nature of process and management under Bush. Anyone who reads this book and then continues to support this President, hasn't understood a thing O'Neill has said. An absolutely gripping read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2004

    Execellent book

    This is an execellent book to read. I recommend this book to anyone who is interest in politics. I was surprise how George Bush and Don Cheney (I think that his name) makes decisions based on what they think is good for America rather than making decisions based common sense.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2004

    in-line with the anti-Bush trend

    The book should be titled, 'The Price of Ineptitude: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Griping of Paul O'Neill' the price paid by O'Neill being his termination of employment for lack of capability. As noted by other reviewers, the author is clearly upset he was fired and timed the publication and release of his story as part of his personal agenda to retaliate. For leftists, it's another great opportunity to unite in the hatred of President Bush and all his policies; because they're his policies. And for the media to herald its obvious bias. What about that book by Alain Hertoghe, 'La Guerre a Outrances' (The War of Outrages), about the gross distortion in the French media's coverage of the Iraq war?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2004

    1-star Reviews are an Enigma

    The book rings true with me. It's no stretch to realize that the White House is not particularly interested in facts or doing what's right. O'Neills's book simply puts their shenanigans in perspective. How in heaven's name can the 1-star reviewers think that climate change is not an issue (as the Bush Admin does) and how can they belittle the effort on O'Neills part to bring clean water to Africa (in spite of Bush's non-interest)? Do they really doubt that O'Neill refused to lie about being fired (as requested by the Administration) or that his entire staff of hundreds lined up to applaud him as he left? How come these 1-stars are so angry that someone would report accurately? The papers from which the book was drawn are avaiable to anyone interested enuf to look them up onlline. It's the 1-star reviewers that are frightened and angry that 'their' administration is exposed. Read the book and you'll see what I mean.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2004

    We have a chance to save our country.

    This is probably the most important work of non-fiction you could read this year. What it tells of is happening now. More than just the story of Paul O'Neill, it exposes the inner workings of the Bush administration and offers an education in the principles of effective and proper government process. It is bone-chilling! Whatever your politics, give this book a careful read. Then decide for yourself if you're comfortable with government conducted in secret and powered by wealth and special interests, where information communicated to the public is carefully scripted. Read it now, while there is still time to prevent four more years of damage from government that operates in a near-void of leadership, ethics, and intelligent process.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2004

    A must read for every American who votes!

    Sometimes I have to get up and walk away, and calm myself in disbelief. I couldn't put it down. I was a life long Republican before Bush, and before I read this book. Like many, I listened to the evening News and I assumed it to be accurate, clearly it's filtered,and controled. Every American should read this book, and then every American would take back our country from Bush and his henchmen as they systematically destroy our nation and economy behind our backs. If every voter read this book, voter turn out would be the likes of which history has never seen coming out, against Bush, and for a return of America to the people.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2004

    The reason things are the way they are . . .

    A very interesting and insightful book. It lets us know how this administration got to where they are now.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2004

    Our Country in Trouble

    This is a must read by the American People. It is no longer politics as usual. It is about the dangerous leadership we have in power right now. They have taken us down a slippery slope based on keeping control of their power instead of the interest of the people of our country and for that matter the rest of the world. I commend Mr. O'Neill for his integrity and candor. He is a true patriot.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2004

    Disturbing!

    A Bush ideologue will tell you that this book is lies, but if you look at the facts, you will find that what is said in here is the truth. <p>As O'Neill says in the book, 'Ideology is much easier than philosophy because ideology has no basis in fact, just belief'. (paraphrased) <p>This is a must read for anyone sitting on the fence for the next election.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2004

    The Truth at Last

    The truth shall set this country free.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2004

    A wake up call to all the sheep who follow Bush

    This is by far the most important book to come out and expose the lies and crimes of the Bush Administration. I personally thank Paul O Neill for his courage to speak the truth and expose the corruption within our government.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2004

    Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill

    This obviously is just a man whose mad because he was fired. I wonder... would this book have been written if he was still employed by the Whitehouse? Sour grapes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2004

    a must read, shocking

    The best political book in a long time. Finally a credible source with credible proof to prove Bush for the deceiver he is. Bush has deceived Americans and tried to deceive the world since his election to office and now his own administration is telling the truth. Truly a must read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2004

    Naughty Naughy Mr.Bush

    Hooray Mr. Suskind, the truth shall set you free. The G.O.P. will undoubtedly deny all as sour grapes. Perhaps Mr. President could pen a volume in his defense? Oh sorry, I forgot, he is the only president to have absolutely nothing published, with no command of the language.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2004

    A view into the caldron?

    The narrative accounts of Paul O¿Neill, if truthful and correct, are delivered in essentially a ¿facts-only¿ manner with subjective interjections typically limited to single line musings that he recalled having at the time of the events chronicled. I was not overly surprised and much of what was written only confirmed what I already suspected. I was impressed by his numerous inside observations, especially as to how well organized the Bush transition team was; brings to mind the counterpoint of how disorganized the Clinton White House was well into the second half of their first term. One interesting thing that is referenced is that the Vice President was present at some of the official proceedings after 9/11 in the form of a video image displayed from an ¿undisclosed location¿. One would normally assume that the undisclosed location was a secure government facility, but could it have been from a suite in one of those alleged right-wing think tanks? While it might be prudent to assume that the undisclosed location would be both secure and staffed with cleared individuals if it were a government facility, would it be so for a private suite in some right wing think tank? Since FDR¿s administration, the lion¿s share of the work of the executive branch has been done in the Executive Office Building; with the West Wing eventually evolving into a kind of window dressing used to impress visiting campaign contributors and the like. One wonders how much of the work of this administration, the likes of which was successfully prototyped by the Reagan administration, is done in the Executive Office Building and how much is done from an ¿undisclosed location¿. If the musings about some of the official meetings feeling as though they were ¿scripted¿ are correct, then one wonders just who the scriptwriters might be? Are they US citizens or are they foreigners who might be members of some ancient international Mafia-like organization, the likes of which might have had JFK done in so that they could develop their nuclear capability? Could it be suggested that a certain individual mentioned might have the unofficial title of ¿Official Events Director¿ in addition to his official title? Are these people Republicans or elements of that international Mafia posing as such? If the later, what is to stop them from usurping a Democratic administration as well?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2004

    I won't vote for Bush anymore, I changed my mind...

    My friends were rigth all along...I waisted my time supporting Bush(it)...Thx O'Neill for telling the truth!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2004

    The Course of American Politics

    A sad and truethful commentary on the current course of our elected officials. We've taken a few steps backwards from the Founding Fathers that lead through interacting, inclusion and mediation. This is an eye opener for me. Jeff

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