Summing Up Paul O’Neil In Two Words: Sour Grapes

I’m not going to spend too much time talking about Paul O’Neill’s latest accusations against the Bush administration, because quite frankly, I consider them to be little more than sour grapes from a crybaby whose big ego couldn’t take the indignity of being fired. But, I did want to address a couple of claims that are getting a lot of press.

First off, O’Neill claimed that he never saw any evidence of WMD,

“In the 23 months I was there, I never saw anything that I would characterize as evidence of weapons of mass destruction. There were allegations and assertions by people.”

Well, I’d say that’s not terribly surprising given that he was the Treasury Secretary, not the head of the CIA or the Secretary of Defense. As Time quoted “a top Administration official” as saying,

“That information was on a need- to-know basis. He wouldn’t have been in a position to see it.”

Of course, he wouldn’t “have been in a position to see it”. O’Neil knows that too, but you don’t get people to pay attention to your book by alleging the President spent too much time listening to what you had to say and not enough time asking questions.

Then there’s this “startling revelation“….

“And what happened at President Bush’s very first National Security Council meeting is one of O’Neill’s most startling revelations.

“From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” says O’Neil, who adds that going after Saddam was topic “A” 10 days after the inauguration – eight months before Sept. 11.

“From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime,” says Suskind. “Day one, these things were laid and sealed.”

As treasury secretary, O’Neill was a permanent member of the National Security Council. He says in the book he was surprised at the meeting that questions such as “Why Saddam?” and “Why now?” were never asked.

“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. “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.”

And that came up at this first meeting, says O’Neill, who adds that the discussion of Iraq continued at the next National Security Council meeting two days later.”

Paul O’Neill, the book’s author Ron Suskind, and all the other people in the know who are trying to act as if this is some sort of surprise should be ashamed of themselves for trying to mislead the public about the significance of this.

The implication here is supposed to be that the Bush administration planned to get rid of Saddam no matter what and just used 9/11 as an excuse. But, in reality, regime change in Iraq has been the official policy of the United States government since the Clinton administration. Furthermore, as Glenn Reynolds points out, George Bush openly said that he wanted to get rid of Saddam during the Presidential debates,

MR. LEHRER: With Saddam Hussein, you mean?

GOV. BUSH: Yes, and —

MR. LEHRER: You could get him out of there?

GOV. BUSH: I’d like to, of course, and I presume this administration would as well.

So to present this as “new” and “startling” information really shows how far O’Neil and for the matter the media covering this book are willing to go to try to stick it to Bush.

Oh…and how much chutzpah does it take to call a snarky hit piece on your former employer, “The Price of Loyalty”? It’s like Jenna Jamison writing a book called “The Price of Celibacy” or Jayson Blair writing “The Price of Honesty”. In any case, that’s enough of Paul O’Neil’s petty complaints. I don’t think they’re going to get much more traction anyway…

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