The Bush administration’s poor judgment has come back to haunt it, but in the intriguingly unexpected form of Paul O’Neill, the former Treasury secretary, talking about Iraq.
He was on hand early in the administration, before its disastrous economic policy and response demanded a complete turnover in its money managers. So he’s able to illuminate how the administration’s Iraq policy came together, as he will tonight on “60 Minutes” and in the inevitable soon-to-be-released book and newsweekly articles.
The short version: The story that 9/11 “changed everything” is nonsense; Iraq was on the agenda from the very beginning of Bush’s time in office. The Boston Globe’s piece today, to which my friend Carl has drawn my attention, notes some early tip-offs that got largely lost, and puts the lie to the theory that Bush was honest about his “humble” foreign policy and only shifted tactics after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
There’s little to add to the Globe piece, beyond perverse Orwellian delight in observing the language of the White House in responding to O’Neill’s charge.
Hussein “was a threat to peace and stability before Sept. 11, and even more of a threat after Sept. 11,” press secretary Scott McClellan said yesterday. “It appears that the world according to Mr. O’Neill is more about trying to justify his own opinions than looking at the reality of the results we are achieving on behalf of the American people.”
The second part is a classic nondenial denial, if more blatant than usual. The first part is interesting because the part about Hussein being “more of a threat after Sept. 11” is completely off the wall. I curse the media for not asking: “Really? Why?”