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

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,942 ratings  ·  86 reviews
The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published January 13th 2004 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2004)
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Start your review of The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill
Sep 12, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Frank Stein
The tropes of a DC political memoir come heavy and thick in this book. Paul O'Neill, a former aide in the Nixon and Ford White Houses, and recent successful CEO of Alcoa, comes to DC again with high hopes to accept his highest position ever, Treasury Secretary under George W. Bush. O'Neill announced that he wanted "to accept the challenge to return to public service," to reform Social Security and other big tasks. Yet by the end, there's the inevitable disillusionment: "It's a tough town...but m ...more
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
pretty cool book about a guy from pittsburgh! just looked up what he was doing now and still has his aol address listed. hm.

love data based decisions an no nonsense style that is o’neill. probably also good to read a few views outside of my own politics, but i was happy to see he was basically a climate change advocate and had a lot of very non-conservative views. smart people are cool people.

baby spoiler- the title is a little misleading, suggesting he pondered the price he would accept in re
Feb 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: blog-shelf
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
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
Sharon Joag
Aug 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Will Byrnes
This tells of Paul O'Neil's time in the Bush administration. It is a chilling portrait of a disengaged president driven solely by his closest advisors and his "base." It is a world in which cabinet meetings are scripted, and no unwanted information need apply. ...more
Jul 29, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found it hard to put down, and gained great respect for both Paul O'Neill and Ron Suskind. ...more
Joseph Stieb
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A useful book for peering into the decision-making process of the Bush administration. Paul O'Neill was the Treasury Secretary from 01-02. He was a black sheep in this administration because he was neither an ideologue nor a politico: he was a quant, a results and evidence oriented guy who believed first and foremost in thorough process in decision making. He found the evidence-gathering and decision-making process in the administration to be utterly slipshod and ideologically driven. The focus ...more
Anne Fox
May 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a frank exposé of how Washington's inner circle, and especially the White House, REALLY works. It appears that if you are analytical and a pragmatist, rather than an ideologue and "team player" (you can translate that to "adherent to the message"), you have little chance of survival in our government. Written from the perspective of Paul O'Neill, Bush 43's Secretary of the Treasury for the first two years of Bush's administration, it gives frank insight into the workings of our nati ...more
Nov 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction-bios
Former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill's account of his time with the Bush administration.

A first person account that had some interesting insights. For me, this was a slower read since the subject of politics, and especially taxes, can be a bit dull.

A lot has been written about the Bush administration since this book was published, and I imagine there are more in depth looks at the administration.

I read this book because it was on the Gilmore Girls reading challenge.
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
An enlightening account of Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill's time in the first two year's of George W. Bush's presidency. The author uses Mr. O'Neill's perspective to give us an insider's view of the inner workings of the White House and the professional relationship of President Bush and Secretary O'Neill. ...more
Len Boselovic
May 13, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great primer on how the Republican Party became what it is today, documenting an administration that too often chose ideology over facts. O'Neill may have been naive when he accepted the job, but his faith in facts and process was admirable. The way he was treated by politicos such as Karl Rove presaged the fate of other good people who tried to serve presidents who have an aversion to reality. ...more
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I still think about this book....
Incredibly well written and insightful
Jul 05, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poly-sci
written about Julie O'Neill's dad (W&M) ...more
John Harvard
Jan 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: current-affairs
Ron Suskind's book The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill is one of the first books to have hit the stands about the dysfunction within the 43rd President's administration. It is Paul O'Neill's version of his short stint in the administration that lasted for a little over two years until his abrupt resignation in 2003.

By now several other books have dealt with this topic in more detail, especially about the decisions behind the Iraq war and the l
This book was a little difficult to get into at first. Being a first-hand account of actual events in a political setting, the book is definitely not fast-paced. So much of the real action in this book happens behind the scenes, and even out of the direct view of the book's subject, Paul O'Neill, that the reader is left to infer what actually must have been happening behind those scenes. However, by the end of the book, no doubt is left as to the character, motives, activities, and ideologies of ...more
Frederick Bingham
Jan 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 31, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
David Sakrison
Feb 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Michael P.
Oct 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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.

Sep 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Angela Chang
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a very readable book! I learned a lot about how politics works from an insider, and it made me reconsider what I thought happened during Paul O'Neill's tenure at the treasury. I hadn't really read much about how political leaders made decisions before. I was saddened by the lack of direction shown by the leader of the US, and I hope we do not make the same mistakes again. I resonated with the ideal of trying to do the right thing, and making decisions based on facts. The book showed ver ...more
Jul 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Miebara Jato
Dec 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
People who achieve success in the private sector, find it hard to replicate that success when they go into the public sector. The problem, though, is not with the person in question, especially if that person is an appointed official, but the direction of the administration, the leader, and, of course, bureaucracy. In the case of Paul, On'neil, its was a combination of all. He was forthright and gave candid recommendations to President Bush. Whose implementation, in retrospect, could've helped a ...more
Colleen Clark
Sep 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
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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

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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.”
“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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