Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Bush Report: The Price of Loyalty
You may recall that while waiting for the library's copy of Scott McClellan's astonishing mea culpa about his lies as George W. Bush's press secretary, I have been reading accounts by other Bush Administration insiders about what has really been going on for the last eight years. Today's excerpt is from Ron Suskind's biography of Paul O'Neill, Bush's first treasury secretary. The book, The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House and the Education of Paul O'Neill, was written with the cooperation and approval of O'Neill, a life-long Republican, an old friend of Dick Cheney; hardly a left-wing liberal looking to take potshots at the Bush Administration.
At pages 57-58 of the book, O'Neill tells about a meeting he had with Bush on the afternoon of Wednesday, January 24, 2001, the third day of the Bush Administration. He had prepared a memo about economic policy and sent it to the White House in advance of the meeting. O'Neill thought they would talk about the memo and then discuss whatever came up. He started out with a 15-minute overview on the state of the economy; Bush didn't say anything, so he talked about proposed tax cuts. O'Neill expected about a dozen questions and was ready with the answers, but, "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."
So, O'Neill moved on to related matters: tariffs and free trade. "The President said nothing. No change in expression. Next subject."
"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."
Not until O'Neill started talking about Bush's "No Child Left Behind," program, did Bush say anything. When O'Neill said, "There's nothing more important than nurturing our human potential as a nation -- our future depends on it," Bush shifted in his wing-back chair and said, "Right, that's the concept of disaggregation. I have that covered." O'Neill wondered whether he should point out that the president was misusing that term, but decided not to.
One has to wonder: what are the 26 percent of the American public that still approves of Bush's job performance thinking? Aren't they paying any attention? Maybe they're waiting for the expose from Laura.