Paul O’Neill: President Bush is a stupid, scheming shrub

Paul O’Neill, former Treasury Secretary dumped by Bush in 2002, is certainly rocking the boat, describing his ex-boss as something of a cretin, and claiming he began architecting the invasion of Iraq as soon as he was sworn in.

None of this is new to those whose IQ is above room temperature, but it’s never been the focus of such a media feeding frenzy before.

President George W. Bush’s performance at cabinet meetings resembled that of “a blind man in a room full of deaf people”, according to Paul O’Neill (pictured), who was fired as Treasury secretary in 2002.

The remarkable personal attack is made by Mr O’Neill in a forthcoming book, according to excerpts from a television interview to be broadcast on Sunday.

In the CBS Sixty Minutes interview Mr O’Neill, the former chief executive of the aluminium company Alcoa, says there was little constructive dialogue between officials and the president.

Speaking about his first meeting with Mr Bush, which lasted about an hour, Mr O’Neill says: “I went in with a long list of things to talk about and, I thought, to engage [him] on.

“I was surprised it turned out me talking and the president just listening . . . It was mostly a monologue.”

The real bombshell is Iraq, though anyone who’s followed Bush closely know Saddam was Public Enemy No. 1 and marked for extinction upon GWB’s arrival at the White House:

The Bush Administration began making plans for an invasion of Iraq, including the use of American troops, within days of President Bush’s inauguration in January of 2001 — not eight months later after the 9/11 attacks, as has been previously reported.

That’s what former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill says in his first interview about his time as a White House insider. O’Neill talks to CBS News Correspondent Lesley Stahl in the interview, to be broadcast on 60 Minutes, Sunday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

“From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” he tells Stahl. “For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do is a really huge leap.”

O’Neill, fired by the White House for his disagreement on tax cuts, is the main source for an upcoming book, “The Price of Loyalty,” authored by Ron Suskind.

Suskind says O’Neill and other White House insiders he interviewed gave him documents that show that in the first three months of 2001, the administration was looking at military options for removing Saddam Hussein from power and planning for the aftermath of Saddam’s downfall — including post-war contingencies such as peacekeeping troops, war crimes tribunals and the future of Iraq’s oil.

“There are memos,” Suskind tells Stahl, “One of them marked ‘secret’ says ‘Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq.'”

A Pentagon document, says Suskind, titled “Foreign Suitors For Iraqi Oilfield Contracts,” outlines areas of oil exploration. “It talks about contractors around the world from…30, 40 countries, and which ones have what intentions on oil in Iraq,” Suskind says.

In the book, O’Neill is quoted as saying he was surprised that no one in a National Security Council meeting questioned why Iraq should be invaded. “It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this,'” says O’Neill in the book.

At least it’s all out in front of the public now with what sounds like tangible proof. It won’t change anything. Bush is our next president, the main factor that makes me want to keep living overseas. The idea of a Bush-appointed Supreme Court literally makes me sick.

I blame the Democrats as much as I blame the GOP. If only the Dems had a clue as to how to work together to achieve a mutually beneficial objective, they could win. Instead, they come across as infighting, whining, directionless turkeys, even Wes Clark, who for one brief shining moment I thought was going to change the shape of the race. As Dean’s power consolidates, I am far less sanguine, and believe we will look back at this election with the same sense of bewilderment as we did the Nixon-McGovern disaster of 1972.

Sorry for drifting off-topic.

The Discussion: 8 Comments

You seem to think that O’Neill’s bean-spilling about Bush is news-worthy. I suggest you take a look at ‘s comments today (1/1/04) on this point. Instapundit says that Clinton knew and said Saddam was a threat, so if Clinton, Bush’s predecessor, knew and said Saddam is a threat, what’s so odd about Bush making plans to eliminate Saddam as a threat?
Saddam did not materialize on this earth suddenly the day after Bush was elected. What’s news about Bush making plans about a known quantity?

January 11, 2004 @ 11:09 am | Comment

Sidney, I’m not making statements about whether Saddam was bad (he was/is) or a threat (he was, though probably not in the way Bush portrayed him to be). I am noting that a very most senior former Bushg official has gone public with strong allegations and apparently plenty of evidence that our leader is a dysfunctional moron who cannot interact with others on complex issues and who came into the White House with an obsession he was going to see carried out no matter what. Iraq is not the topic here, but rather Bush’s approach to it and how the man “thinks” and operates.

January 11, 2004 @ 11:15 am | Comment

Ummm, it’s now 2004. Political opponents of Bush have been using the line you’re using — “our leader is a dysfunctional moron who cannot interact with others on complex issues” — since Bush began running for office four or so years ago. That line was a silly insult four years ago. It was an obnoxious, silly insult three years ago. It was a boring, silly obnoxious insult two years ago. It was an excuse to click off the writer/speaker of the boring, obnoxious, silly insult last year. It’s a clear condemnation of the speaker/writer this year. If you actually believe those words about Bush, you obviously disqualify yourself from serious discussion. Try to keep your act up with the times, Richard. Try a new line, at least.

January 11, 2004 @ 12:20 pm | Comment

Darling, it’s Paul O’Neill who is saying it, I am reporting his words (and yes, I agree with them). These are not random, careless charges. My opinion of Bush as a shrub were years in the making, and are shared by many, many intelligent people out there, including Bush’s own top-level appointee! I despise senseless, emotional Bush-hating as much as I do Clinton-hating. I hate Bush for many specific reasons, not because I’m part of any pack mentality or a flaming liberal (I am neither). As to your suggestion that I “get with the times,” that’s not how I work. It’s not a matter of trends or what’s in or out, but about what I see and feel. I’m sorry I haven’t managed to convince you, but hopefully you’ll come around over time, just like Paul O’Neill did.

January 11, 2004 @ 12:34 pm | Comment

It’s extremely unlikely that I will come around like O’Neill. I will not be appointed to Bush’s Cabinet. I will not espouse policies that do not work. I will not be fired because I did not have the good grace to resign when I’m not wanted. I will not have my policies be proven wrong by history. I will not be a whiner. As to hating Bush, do try to be more creative. There doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of you left after you define all the “I’m nots.”

January 11, 2004 @ 1:07 pm | Comment

If you look at my post, you’ll see there’s not a lot of traditional “Bush hating” in it. I don’t like him and I don’t think he’s a good president, but most of the criticisms are from O’Neill. My main fear is about the Supreme Court, and I’m not alone there. I dole out criticism for both the GOP and the Dems. Anyway, thanks for dropping by and best wishes.

January 11, 2004 @ 1:13 pm | Comment

richard: Don’t be in such a hurry to drink the “Dean = McGovern” Kool-Aid. The public perception of him — fostered by the Branch Rovians and their media pals in the right-wing élite — as an ultra-liberal, angry, mercurial, dangerous dwarf, is simply wrong.

January 11, 2004 @ 6:32 pm | Comment

Vaara, I tend to agree, but the fact that Rove has pulled this act of mass hypnosis off so beautifully is further proof to me that the Dems are helpless. How can Dean turn this around? Don’t get me wrong — I hope he can. (An even better alternative would be for Clark to kick into gear, but he too seems mired in communications disasters, also coooked up by Rove, and also Dean, sadly.) No, I’m truly resigned. I’ll speak out against it, I’ll vote for the Democrat, but in my heart of hearts I believe GWB is invincible, Shrub Almighty.

January 11, 2004 @ 6:53 pm | Comment

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