Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill reacted with stunned disbelief when 60 Minutes correspondent Leslie Stahl suggested the Bush administration might regard his widely reported criticisms in a just-published book as a case of "sour grapes."
O'Neill said he couldn't imagine why anyone would be upset with him "for telling the truth." He said he didn't see his contribution to the book The Price of Loyalty by former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind as being anti-Bush - that he was just trying to "cause people to stop and think about the current state of our political process ..."
O'Neill, sacked by the president from his Treasury secretary's post a year ago, couldn't be more disingenuous. Or more contemptible. Loyalty in O'Neill's world is to stab the president in the back and then claim that's not what he did.
Usually, former Cabinet members don't kiss-and-tell - at least until the administration they worked for is out of office. But O'Neill couldn't wait to disrespect the president who appointed him to one of the most important positions in government.
The notion that he didn't intend to hurt the president is belied by everything he said, including describing Bush as "a blind man in a room full of deaf people" at Cabinet meetings.
Another O'Neill charge is that the administration planned from Day One - and not just as a result of 9-11 - to oust Saddam Hussein.
But so what? It had been official U.S. government policy for several years, starting with the Clinton administration, to try to bring about regime change in Iraq. Of course the new administration would discuss it! The point is, the plan didn't begin to crystallize until after 9-11.
Just as despicable as O'Neill's so-called "tell-all" disparagement of Bush is his denial that that's what he's doing. Basically, he's reinforcing every negative stereotype that Bush-bashers believe about the president - that he's not too bright, that he's disengaged, that he's indecisive and that Vice President Dick Cheney is pulling all the strings.
Oddly, except for his enemies, O'Neill is the only person to perceive Bush as a weak, unsure, vacillating leader. Notice how the Democratic presidential wannabes are treating the former Treasury secretary's put-downs as manna from heaven.
It couldn't be clearer that O'Neill isn't concerned about telling the truth or making people think. He's about sour grapes and disloyally attacking the president to distract from his own failures in government. The nation is far better off without O'Neill than it would be without Bush.
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