“Former treasury secretary Paul O’Neill has chosen to tell his story about his two unhappy years in the Bush Cabinet in a form that’s as weird as he is: the Third Person Memoir.”
–Much-maligned Washington Post columnist Tina Brown
I must confess I’ve sorta enjoyed the O’Neill flap. O’Neill, last seen in his wraparound Bono shades, just seems so’so’well, as is sometimes the case, Tina Brown got it right’weird. “Even now, it doesn’t occur to O’Neill that when he went in to see Bush and talked for an hour without interruption, the president’s silence might not mean he was ignorantly disengaged, as the book asserts. It might mean that he was just so bored with O’Neill’s pedantry he tuned out. It’s the difference between stupidity and stupefaction.”
As a member in good standing of the cultural elite, Tina Brown doesn’t like Bush. But that hasn’t stopped her from having fun with O’Neill. “Paul O’Neill was always an odd duck, a man, as one colleague puts, who is ‘a stranger to his unconscious.'”
Syndicated columnist Robert Novak’s soberer assessment of O’Neill as “Cheney’s Big Mistake” also deserves a read. Noting that O’Neill’s book portrays Cheney, who brought O’Neill into the administration, as a “sinister force,” Novak states that the Republicans at Treasury, unlike Democrats Lloyd Bentsen or Robert Rubin, had had little to do with the rough and tumble of politics before becoming secretary. He also tells why Arthur Laffer, the supply side guru, warned the administration not to hire the funny little man from Alcoa.