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

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  1,263 ratings  ·  69 reviews
Updated with a new afterword and including a selection of key documents, this is the explosive account of how the Bush administration makes policy on war, taxes, and politics -- its true agenda exposed by a member of the Bush cabinet.
This vivid, unfolding narrative is like no other book that has been written about the Bush presidency. At its core are the candid assessmen
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Paperback, 432 pages
Published September 2nd 2004 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2004)
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Nathan
Sep 17, 2007 Nathan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Proprietary legal issues.
It's scary that this book alone didn't cause Bush to be defeated in 2004. Ron Susskind's work is excellent, and one can't help but admire former Treasury secretary O'Neill for his courage. It is also noted as being the earliest book by a Bush insider to accuse him of planning an invasion of Iraq prior to 9/11, and it remains one of the most lucid, coherent, politically sound accounts of the scope of incompetence and corruption in the Bush administration. This is not a book written by an angry li ...more
Hannah
The two things in this book that stuck out most to me, aside from its consistent focus on how idiotic it is to ignore and avoid evidence of actual, current situations as a means to make decisions, in favor of pushing your ideologically and fantasy-based decisions, is 1) the fact that the author pointed out, VERY clearly, that the administration was 100% focused on invading Iraq to replace Saddam long BEFORE the 9/11 attacks. This was during Bush’s FIRST term. Iraq was the focus of the administra ...more
Brett
Most of what were revelations when this book was first released are just something that pretty much everybody knows about the Bush administration. Bush was not intellectually curious? Bush and his advisors wanted war with Iraq long before 9/11? Bush wasn't really concerned with deficits? All these seem pretty obvious to those of us that lived through the administration. Yet, O'Neill/Suskind's book was the first to say many of these things that are now cliches.

Now that time has passed since the
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Sharon
May 11, 2009 Sharon rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Politically Savy
Recommended to Sharon by: NPR News Radio
Shelves: current-events
I am a quarter of the way through this book and each time I read another page, I have a "Wow" reaction, completely different from the "Wow" reaction I had on the page before.

Its unbelievable how blind we all were during the Bush Administration.

I'm half way through this book. It amazes me still. I cannot believe that Bush actually would zone out at meetings. He focused more on food than on anything else. Any how that's how it is depicted in Ron Suskind's book.

We watched the movie Produced by Oliv
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Brian
It was interesting to re-visit the first George W. Bush presidency. There are a lot of great insights in this book, and I think Paul O'Neill's reputation as a straight shooter and the fact that Ron Suskind worked a long time for the Wall Street Journal give the book a lot of credibility. I think it's interesting both from a historical perspective to gain insights on the GW Bush first term's thinking but also for those interested in public administration and management due to O'Neill's (also an i ...more
Frederick Bingham
The story of Paul O'Neill, Bush's first treasury secretary, from '2001 until he was fired in December '2003. He describes the inner workings of the Bush administration. He discusses how the intrigues and political backstabbing worked. How Cheney pulled the strings from behind the scenes. How moderate members of the administration, like Colin Powell and Christine Whitman, got screwed over. How Bush was completely clueless when it came to complex issues like global warming and tax policy. How Bush ...more
Aaron Crossen
I ate this book up. Another revealing look at some of workings in Washington in a critical time, the first two years of the Bush presidency. As is more or less commonly understood now, Bush comes off as an insulated and uninterested president with a personality that stifles real debate and deliberation in a White House and a city that could really use it.

O'Neill, for his part, is a sympathetic character. Suskind's narrative paints a portrait of a man who, from very humble beginnings, developed a
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Michael
Sep 10, 2007 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes modern history, domestic policy, or US Administration History
Shelves: non-fiction
Awesome book, just wonderful. I picked this up on a whim at the American Library in Paris of all places, and sped right through it.

As a someone who describes themselves as "center-left" (whatever that means) I didn't think I would enjoy reading about the Bush administration, much less some cabinet member.

But very shortly into the book I found Paul O'Neail (Bush's first Sec. of Treas. to be a fascinating, very bright, pragmatic, and moderate-right policy maker. I really enjoy reading about 'beh
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Mike Jensen
This is a must-read book for anyone who wants to understand the administration of George W Bush, his commitment to invading Iraq, and his disastrous financial policies. It is the story of Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill as told to the author, who attended the first Cabinet meeting far in advance of 9/11, yet all the talk was of finding a way to invade Iraq and making it work. It reveals his meetings with the secretive Dick Cheney, and how these were about saying what Cheney wanted to hear. He re ...more
David Sakrison
A chilling look inside the Bush White House, from the perspective of a cabinet member--Bush's ex-Treasury Secretary. If you had any doubts that George W. Bush is the most insulated, most anti-intellectual, and possibly least competent president in recent history, this book will settle the matter.
Suskind's book and O'Neill's testimony make it absolutely clear that Bush and his cronies came into the White House determined to attack Iraq, long before 9/11. The book paints a convincing portrait of a
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Mark
While I don’t agree with many of O’Neill’s stances – privatizing Social Security, tax cuts, etc. – I do agree with his condemnation of the Bush Administration’s insular and political decision making. As O’Neill notes, there are no “honest brokers” in the Administration who are able or willing to give the President a briefing based on facts rather than on “what the base likes.” Routinely, Bush is portrayed as a simpleton who either has no curiosity or doesn’t know what questions to ask.

Overall,
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Mike Eckhardt
This is an excellent book for anyone interested in how to effectively manage complicated organizations; and also how to completely fail to manage complicated organizations. Spoiler alert: Dick Cheney is the Devil.
Amanda
An interesting book given the current Iraq situation and Bush's reelection victory and reconfiguration of an even tighter cabinet
John
Paul O'Neill was G. W. Bush's Treasury Secretary for the first two years of his administration. He had a reputation for speaking truth to power during his two years in office, until he was fired at the end of 2002. Having worked in both the Nixon and Ford administrations, he provides intelligent commentary on what the Bush administration was lacking - mostly a process to consider and vet policy options. This is a must-read for any policy wonk (regardless of political affiliation), or anyone inte ...more
Colleen
My friend Lis recommended this book. I think I picked it up once and had trouble getting into it, but after the first 40 pages or so, it is definitely worth reading. If there is any book that I would read before the November presidential election, it would be this one. What is truly frightening is Secretary O'Neil's description of the inter-workings of the Bush presidency and their financial dealings during the Secretary's time in office.

I wish someone would do a movie/documentary on the federal
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Susie
I actually still think this is one of the best criticisms of the Bush White House that is out there. It doesn't go off on a screed, but it is completely devastating. Through the microcosm of their treatment of Paul O'Neill, you get a really thorough understanding of what the hell went wrong. Everyone (except for the loony 25% fringe) says it now, but it is important to remember that O'Neill was the first insider to realize the problem of letting politics trump policy. And Suskind does a great jo ...more
Colleen Clark
Sep 30, 2007 Colleen Clark rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: citizens
Shelves: politics-terror
This was one of the first reports from life inside the Bush White House. A lot of what was shocking then has become well known since. However, it's still an eye opener to read about how a long-time Republican (O'Neill) with a lot of government experience was astonished by the Bush administration. In his first interview with Bush he expected a lot of questions. Bush said nothing. There's stuff about Greenspan, early (pre 9/11) discussions about invading Iraq etc etc etc.
Ronald Wise
A welcome confirmation of my gut feelings about the current administration — I'm not going crazy! This is an informative read for anyone who noticed the major discrepencies between "news" as presented by the White House propoganda organs (CNN, FOX News) and information from alternative sources since the summer of 2002. Also very instructive as to how those large corporate contributions to W's campaign coffers reap practical results.
Boris
How Bush screwed up the treasury department and turned a Clinton budget surplus into a huge deficit. How they gutted the treasury for no good reason. How everything was about politics and rewarding the base. How competent people (Paul Oneill) were thrown out of the Bush administration. How decisions were made without any regard for facts or reality.
Why it really matters who we elect as president.
Lil
Gripping read about former Secretary of the Treasury, Paul O'Neill's experience of the first two years of the Bush Whitehouse. Fascinating and did not feel dated to me. This has been on my TBR shelf for about seven years...yay for clearing one out! But, now has bumped up another Suskind book I owned but haven't read and put at least two more books on the TBR list!
Brady Dale
Read this a long time ago, but I find myself thinking about Paul O'Neill's views a lot. He's a lifelong Republican, so I don't agree with him on everything, but he's nearly idealistic about his views on the value of an ethical bureaucracy. I find his thinking that secrecy is almost entirely pointless very compelling.
It's a really solid story and book.
Marco
Non ho potuto dare più di 5 stelle per questo libro, gli avrei dato tranquillamente 5+. Veramente esilarante, l'amministrazione Bush messa a nudo svelandoci in mano a quale cricca è stata l'Ameriaca prima ed il mondo intero poi. Libro assolutamente da leggere e se lo si fa dopo avere letto Osama di Jonathan Randal è veramente il massimo.
Gillian Anderson
I may not agree with O'Neil's old conservatism, but jesus, this many has integrity. An excellent window into W's executive style (passive and unquisitive). In no way did he bash Bush- which is what I liked---but be reading the facts--you are totally astonished at how unleader-like and halfhazardly our President #43 operated.
Michael
May 29, 2009 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
This was one of the first expose-style books from an ex-member of Bush's cabinet. Unfortunately, it was largely overlooked by the American public which was still under the hypnotic spell of W.

Thank god that's over! If only people had payed more attention to books like this one, we might have booted Bush out in '04.
Brian Steed
A smart insider’s look at how the Bush administration operates. Paul O’Neill’s account of the (lack of a) decision-making process in today’s White House is scary. “I can guarantee you that they don’t know what they’re doing,” or words to that effect. Coming from Paul O’Neill, I believe it.
Liz Meyers
Anyone who is not all that appreciative of how the current Bush Administration has functioned should read this book for some insights into how he has based his most important decisions. For that matter, if you are a Bush lover, you should read this book and see how mislead you've been!
Amber MacPherson
Jul 05, 2008 Amber MacPherson rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all human beings, Americans in particular
Really, a special book. Special because it is based off of every official White House document that crossed the desk of Paul O'Neill in the course of his stint as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.

Difficult to read in parts if you aren't an economist, but well worth the effort.
Paul
Ramblings of a disgruntled employee who unwittingly reveals the only difference between him and the rest of the herd is a bloated paycheck. Best use for this book is to rip it in half and use one part as kindle for summer barbecues and the other as compost to grow tomatoes.
Wedwabbit
This was a really good book about how despite the facts the Bush administration pushed through tax cuts that weren't needed and financially screwed the country. Also interesting to note that the surplus from the Clinton administration didn't exist it was merely a projection.
Rose Paluch
This book is one-sided, so there is more to the story than meets the eye. However, I found myself intrigued by Paul O'Neill's experience and have compassion for the man. The book was easy to read and thought-provoking which is perfect for this period of time.
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Ron Suskind is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and best-selling author. He was the senior national affairs writer for The Wall Street Journal from 1993 to 2000 and has published several books: A Hope in the Unseen, The Price of Loyalty, The One Percent Doctrine, The Way of the World, Confidence Men, and Life, Animated. He won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for his series ...more
More about Ron Suskind...
A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism

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“The phone rang. It was a familiar voice.

It was Alan Greenspan. Paul O'Neill had tried to stay in touch with people who had served under Gerald Ford, and he'd been reasonably conscientious about it. Alan Greenspan was the exception. In his case, the effort was constant and purposeful. When Greenspan was the chairman of Ford's Council of Economic Advisers, and O'Neill was number two at OMB, they had become a kind of team. Never social so much. They never talked about families or outside interests. It was all about ideas: Medicare financing or block grants - a concept that O'Neill basically invented to balance federal power and local autonomy - or what was really happening in the economy. It became clear that they thought well together. President Ford used to have them talk about various issues while he listened. After a while, each knew how the other's mind worked, the way married couples do.

In the past fifteen years, they'd made a point of meeting every few months. It could be in New York, or Washington, or Pittsburgh. They talked about everything, just as always. Greenspan, O'Neill told a friend, "doesn't have many people who don't want something from him, who will talk straight to him. So that's what we do together - straight talk."

O'Neill felt some straight talk coming in.

"Paul, I'll be blunt. We really need you down here," Greenspan said. "There is a real chance to make lasting changes. We could be a team at the key moment, to do the things we've always talked about."

The jocular tone was gone. This was a serious discussion. They digressed into some things they'd "always talked about," especially reforming Medicare and Social Security. For Paul and Alan, the possibility of such bold reinventions bordered on fantasy, but fantasy made real.

"We have an extraordinary opportunity," Alan said. Paul noticed that he seemed oddly anxious. "Paul, your presence will be an enormous asset in the creation of sensible policy."

Sensible policy. This was akin to prayer from Greenspan. O'Neill, not expecting such conviction from his old friend, said little. After a while, he just thanked Alan. He said he always respected his counsel. He said he was thinking hard about it, and he'd call as soon as he decided what to do.

The receiver returned to its cradle. He thought about Greenspan. They were young men together in the capital. Alan stayed, became the most noteworthy Federal Reserve Bank chairman in modern history and, arguably the most powerful public official of the past two decades. O'Neill left, led a corporate army, made a fortune, and learned lessons - about how to think and act, about the importance of outcomes - that you can't ever learn in a government.

But, he supposed, he'd missed some things. There were always trade-offs. Talking to Alan reminded him of that. Alan and his wife, Andrea Mitchell, White House correspondent for NBC news, lived a fine life. They weren't wealthy like Paul and Nancy. But Alan led a life of highest purpose, a life guided by inquiry.

Paul O'Neill picked up the telephone receiver, punched the keypad.

"It's me," he said, always his opening.

He started going into the details of his trip to New York from Washington, but he's not much of a phone talker - Nancy knew that - and the small talk trailed off.

"I think I'm going to have to do this."

She was quiet. "You know what I think," she said.

She knew him too well, maybe. How bullheaded he can be, once he decides what's right. How he had loved these last few years as a sovereign, his own man. How badly he was suited to politics, as it was being played. And then there was that other problem: she'd almost always been right about what was best for him.

"Whatever, Paul. I'm behind you. If you don't do this, I guess you'll always regret it."

But it was clearly about what he wanted, what he needed.

Paul thanked her. Though somehow a thank-you didn't seem appropriate.

And then he realized she was crying.”
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“I'm [Paul O'Neill] an old guy, and I'm rich. And there's nothing they can do to hurt me.” 1 likes
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