Bruce Bartlett makes some excellent points at

Mr. O’Neill would have us believe that he was the only honest man in an administration of sycophants. Another interpretation would be that he was simply ill-suited to the job he had been given, too used to being the boss and incapable of taking direction, too interested in doing things his own way instead of the way his boss wanted them done, and too easily led to believe that outspokenness is the same thing as honesty. Even without the details made public in this book, we know that Paul O’Neill was not a very effective Treasury secretary. Looking through my files I find headlines like these from his tenure:

“All Thumbs at Treasury,” Washington Post (5-20-01)
“Mr. O’Neill’s Gaffes,” Washington Post (8-1-02)
“Treasury Secretary Gets Into Hot Water On U.S. Cuba Policy,” Wall Street Journal (3-15-02)
“O’Neill Solidifies Maverick Status With Public Jabs at Bush Policies,” Wall Street Journal (3-18-02)

On Oct. 2, 2001, the New York Times had this to say: “Mr. O’Neill’s erratic statements have sometimes rattled investors and “marginalized him as a policymaker and spokesman.” You get the idea. Yet O’Neill never improved. He continued to go out of his way to be out of step with the Bush Administration, both substantively and stylistically, right up until the end. The only question is why he wasn’t fired sooner. Mr. O’Neill may think he is getting revenge on a president he believes treated him shabbily. But I think that all he has really done is remind people of why he never should have been named Treasury secretary in the first place.

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