Revelations make public ask ‘Why?’

During his 23 months as Treasury secretary in the Bush administration, Paul O’Neill frequently came under fire for his blunt way of speaking, a major contrast from the secretive and cagey manner of the rest of the administration. So it should come as no surprise that after being fired by President George W. Bush, O’Neill is the centerpiece of a provocative new book revealing some of the inner workings of the White House.

The book includes numerous internal documents, some of which show the Bush administration’s intentions to invade Iraq before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and concerns over weapons of mass destruction. “From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” O’Neill stated.

O’Neill’s accounts and observations provide a unique insight into the Bush administration and bolster concerns that the administration makes policy decisions based entirely on a partisan political agenda – even in the face of strong, analysis-based opposition.

At one point, the president raised steel tariffs against the wishes – and to the bewilderment – of his cabinet and advisers. Presumably, Bush deferred to his political adviser, Karl Rove, and the untenable, but influential, interests of the steel industry. When asked in a radio interview about the extent to which Rove played a role in Bush’s tariff decision, O’Neill stated, “I don’t know. You’d have to ask the president.” It goes without saying, that’s exactly what O’Neill wants the public to do.

Bush’s administration exerts unprecedented control over media coverage and public access to information. His political agenda drives the creation of policy to support it and seems to lack its own reasoned methodology. This election year should be no exception.