Book review: Price of Loyalty
Bush according to the insiders
FeedbackBy Preston Hunt, 07 August 2004

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"The president is like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people. There is no discernible connection." -- Paul O'Neill, U.S. Treasury Secretary, 2001-2003

A look at the cover of "Price of Loyalty" tells you right away that this isn't going to be just another Bush-bashing book. On the cover are the smiling faces of ex-Alcoa CEO Paul O'Neill and George Bush standing side by side.

This book was written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning senior Wall Street Journal reporter based substantially on interviews with Paul O'Neill, a man whom Bush "43" chose as one of the most senior members of his cabinet when he appointed him as Secretary of Treasury. There is also quite a bit of material about Christine Whitman, whom Bush appointed as the head of the EPA.

Most political books are easily discounted by the other party; it's hard to make an argument to a conservative using material from Al Franken, just like it's hard for a liberal to buy into anything that Bill O'Reilly says. But in this book we have a reporter from a very conservative newspaper and a conservative economist from Bush's very own cabinet speaking out against him.

What unfolds in the book is a fascinating glimpse at what goes on behind the closed doors of the White House, as told by man renowned for his truthful straight-talk. Bush emerges as an idealogue surrounded by a close-knit circle of other idealogues (namely, Cheney, Condi, Rumsfeld, and Rowe) that loyally reinforce their leader's faithful pursuit of his ideals.

Bush makes decision after decision on important issues as tax cuts, social security, the environment, terrorism, and war based almost entirely on idealogy, with little regard for the facts or for the advice of experts who have been studying these subjects for their whole lives.

A few memorable sections include:

Page 51: Paul O'Neill praised the fiscal discipline and economic stability of the Clinton administration and heralded Clinton as a role model, much to the ire of Bush.

Page 67: Paul O'Neill and Alan Greenspan didn't think tax cuts would help the economy, but they weren't opposed to them either, with the understanding that tax cuts should be conditional. If the government went into deficit, the tax cuts should automatically roll back. Bush ignored their input, saying he "wouldn't negotiate with himself".

Page 75: The Bush administration wanted to "get" Iraq as far back as early 2001. Bush felt that Clinton's efforts in Israel and Palestine were a waste of time and pulled out completely in order to focus entirely on Iraq, instantly negating 10 years' worth of diplomacy in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Page 109: Bush made false statements to the American public about how much tax relief the federal government could give back to the people without jeopardizing its financial stability.

Page 128: Bowing to the pressure of political lobbying from the energy industry, Bush broke his campaign promise to curb CO2 emissions.

Everybody who is considering voting for George W. Bush in the 2004 election owes it to themselves and to America to read this book. You will gain a better understanding of the man you are voting for and can better decide whether you want him running the country.

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