George W. Bush: Important Issues

Ron Suskind once recounted former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill's first meeting with president-elect George W. Bush:

"It was at the Madison hotel. It's Bush's first full day in Washington as president-elect, December 18, 2000. O'Neill sits with Cheney and Bush. They have cheeseburgers ordered in advance. That's the way it works...

"O'Neill's got a three-page handwritten list of the good reasons why he should not be the Treasury secretary, things that the president ought to think about...

"O'Neill believes global warming is a real, important issue. Some people might not agree with him on that. O'Neill had supported Bush's father's tax increase. A lot of people might have a problem with that. He recommended at one point a gasoline tax to reduce consumption and have money left over for the environment. These were all things that could cause trouble. And O'Neill likes to speak his mind. He wanted Bush and Cheney to know that. He comes to his own conclusions, and it might be hard for him to be just another bird in the nest.

"Meanwhile, the cheeseburgers haven't arrived, so Bush, as O'Neill tells it, kind of snaps up from the conversation and says, 'Where are the cheeseburgers?' Andy Card, the new chief of staff, is summoned, and he says to Card, 'You're the chief of staff. You think you're up to getting some cheeseburgers?' You know, not friendly. Card all but runs out of the room..."

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