Dec 23 2008

The Price of Loyalty

Published by at 3:15 pm under Books

by Ron Susskind

A political history of of Paul O’neill’s two year tenure as Bush’s first Secretary of the Treasury told from O’neill’s point of view and with O’neill’s cooperation. So it is O’neill’s version of history and paints him wearing a very white hat. That bias acknowledged, it is probably close to the truth as it is very consistent with other descriptions of the way Washington has “worked” during the disastrous Bush presidency; driven by ideology, isolated, and politically controlled (in the worst sense of that phrase – do anything to win an election; implications be damned).

The descriptions of how the top level officials interact and communicate was fascinating. Alan Greenspan as a realistic, clear thinking, straight talking official. Dick Cheney is portrayed as the silent man behind the mirror; rarely displaying his position, often intimidating others, and acting as a dispassionate hatchet man. Bush a captive of who knows what; Rove, Cheney, lack of confidence, lack of intelligence, or what was once known as the Peter Principle? Almost all meetings with him involved scripted exchanges in which the “White House staff” tells attendees in advance what to talk about and for how long. Bush then sits and listens. Depressing but interesting!

Out of the gate, Obama seems to be heading in a better direction with his seemingly better grasp on what the job entails and his choice of a diverse group of senior advisers. But, we’ll have to wait and see what he and they come up with in the way of proposals, policies, and actions.

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