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Book Review - The Price Of Loyalty: George W. Bush, The White House, And The Education Of Paul O'Neill

Rajiv Ramarathnam

The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill
by Ron Suskind

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (January 13, 2004)

This work by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Suskin is nothing short of a revelation. It is based on documents provided by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill to Suskin These documents range from thank you notes and meeting minutes to detail reports.

The year was 2000. The Bush Presidency had just begun. A maverick of the private sector, the former CEO of Alcoa, the nation's leading Aluminum industry, Paul O Neil was invited to serve as Treasury Secretary. Disregarding the unsavory intuitions of his wife, O'Neil took up the offer and looked forward to working with his former colleagues of the Nixon and Ford era, Dick Cheney and Alan Greenspan.

He was soon thrust into a world where decisions are not based on sound reasoning and educated guesses but on pre-conceived ideologies. The first move of the Bush administration was to lower taxes. Doubtless, it would win votes but would this act be beneficial to the nation in the long run?

Suskin describes the first meeting between O'Neil and the President, which just turns out to be a monologue from O'Neil's side. The President merely listened without asking a single question. Many jokes have been made of the President’s intelligence (or lack there of). This book confirms many of our suspicions.


He also says that taking out of Sadam was planned as soon as Bush took office and not after the happenings of 911. The wheels were already in motion for an attack on Iraq the day the Bush administration took office. 'Why take Sadam out now?' was a question never answered.

After 911 and taking over
Iraq, the Bush administration planed its second round of tax cuts. O'Neil vehemently spoke against this move, citing the growing deficit as a reason that this was a bad idea. However Cheney intervened saying that Regan proved that deficits did not matter.

Suskin(or is it O'Neil) says Cheney and a few ‘chosen’ others served as a protective shield around the President, in an effort to keep the President away from any other opposing point of view. O'Neil, at one point mentions that it was impossible to tell where the President began and where Cheney ended. O’Neil ‘almost’ alleges that the president was often coached to answer press questions.

An official  trip to
Africa would see O'Neil make friends with the most unlikely of allies, rock group U2's Bono. Bono, according to O’Neil was well informed of the amounts developed countries gave to underdeveloped countries, particularly Africa. Bono insisted that they should provide more. O’Neill, ever the penny pincher had to convince himself, firsthand that this money was well spent. The duo, O'Neil and Bono would visit several countries across the continent and experience first hand, the sorrowful plight of children growing up in abject poverty.



When O'Neil returned home, the President allegedly said to him 'You have won a fan following haven’t you?' This according to O'Neil was no joke. The President started to address him by the nickname 'The Big O', a ploy according to O'Neil, to bully the latter.

Then when Bush proposed another round of tax cuts, O'Neil opposed him again and this time Bush fired him. In a phone call, Cheney advised O'Neil to tell the world that he was returning to private sector. O'Neil would have none of it. He would come clean and tell the press that his job was eliminated because of a Presidential restructuring. He would soon go public to tell the world that he was forced to resign and then narrate the happenings in the administration he witnessed when he served his term as treasury to Suskin. Suskin, in turn would write this book.


 This is a fascinating account that gives us a glimpse into one of the most clandestine of recent Presidencies. Whatever your political affiliation, this book is a must read.

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