The Price of Loyalty

Ron Suskind

The Price of Loyalty is former Alcoa CEO Paul O’Neill’s account of his tenure as Treasury secretary in the Bush administration and his subsequent unceremonious booting. Conservative critics such as the Wall Street Journal have attacked O’Neill’s book as sour grapes and have painted the former Ford administration budget office official as “naïve” and lost in a “time-warp.” Ironically, they may be right, since O’Neill merely insisted that the policy-making process be driven by an open-ended and honest assessment of facts that leads to decisions based on known reality. Instead, he was appalled to witness decision-making determined by ideology first, whereby mere notions or unproven assertions ended up justifying the already-set agenda. He speaks of “scripted” policy meetings on tax cuts, the deficit or Iraq, where simply raising pertinent questions and analyzing multiple aspects was ignored or met with pained expressions; and of weekly one-on-one briefings with a president who seemed unprepared, blankly transported, and incapable of intelligent dialog. It would seem that O’Neill truly is out of step with modern governance.