Sunday, January 11, 2004

O'Neill Spills the Beans

Just got finished watching the Lesley Stahl segment of 60 Minutes with ex-Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill ... for a second time.

Stunning stuff, especially O'Neill's absolute certitude that nobody would try to do anything bad to him for telling the truth.

Some high points (not duplicating the stuff that had already been leaked which made it into WataugaWatch in earlier postings ... see below, "Former Cabinet Secretary Tells '60 Minutes' Bush is a Dunce" and "More on O'Neill's Revelations About the Prez").

O'Neill decided to go public by talking to former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind for a book titled The Price of Loyalty because O'Neill believed the Bush administration "has been too secretive about how decisions have been made."

"The President did not make decisions in a methodical way. There was no free flow of ideas or open debate." Often, Bush was "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people." President Bush was, in a word, "disengaged."

And, boy! Did O'Neill ever "go public." He turned over some 19,000 internal documents, including sensitive and secret briefing papers and notes from high-level meetings. Suskind also interviewed "hundreds" of others, including "several cabinet members."

O'Neill was called and warned not to do the book by none other than Don Rumsfeld. Suskind says the "White House was concerned, understandably, because O'Neill had spent extraordinary amounts of time with the president. They said this could really be the one moment where things are revealed."

We're not going to go deeply into what O'Neill reveals about the Bush White House plans for Iraq (since it's already been amply recorded how this administration lied to get the result it wanted ... an invasion.) They had a bull's-eye drawn on Saddam Hussein from day one.

But it is interesting to note that during his campaign against Al Gore, Bush had criticized the Clinton administration for being too interventionist. The 60 Minutes segment included a brief clip of Bush from one of his debates with Al Gore. Bush is shown saying, "If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world -- in nation-building missions -- then we're gonna have a serious problem coming down the road, and I'm gonna prevent that."

This is what Suskind finds most surprising among all the stuff he uncovered -- that is, "how emphatically, from the very first, this administration had said x during the campaign, but from the first day was off and doing y -- not just saying y, but actively moving toward the opposite of what they had said during the election."

Proving perhaps that O'Neill met his natural match in Suskind for naivete.

And as if we all didn't know this -- but it's nice to have it confirmed -- Cheney is the great Puppet Master. O'Neill says, "Cheney -- with a handful of others -- [was] part of a praetorian guard that encircled the president to block out contrary views .... This is the way Dick likes it."

When O'Neill protested the second Bush tax cut and said he worried about the deficit, etc., Cheney "showed his hand": "You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don't matter."

Just stunning information, all of it. And now we can watch the White House get into full Rush Limbaugh denial mode. And, of course, go on the attack against O'Neill. Poor, naive O'Neill. And against Suskind, too, who probably has a baby-dangling indiscretion somewhere in his past.

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