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January 15, 2004
Kinsley: O'Neill A Lame Man In Room Full Of Heavyweights

While I am not normally a fan of Michael Kinsley, today's review of Paul O'Neill's book at Slate made me laugh out loud:

O'Neill, according to O'Neill, is a man on whom praise and compliments fall thick as a winter snowstorm. "Paul, you have the balls of a daylight burglar," he quotes a subordinate as telling him years ago. He also quotes himself telling the story to another subordinate. Elsewhere he recounts, with prim disapproval, watching George W. Bush call on White House Chief of Staff Andy Card to rustle up some cheeseburgers. O'Neill believes, he says, that a CEO should be judged by how he treats "whoever is at the very bottom," a remark Card may find somewhat more insulting than the cheeseburgers that inspired it. Later, with characteristic subtlety, O'Neill quotes himself offering to get his secretary a cup of coffee. Very nice. But she might be thinking that getting her own coffee—or even getting his—would be a small price to pay if it meant not having to hear and praise the boss' self-congratulatory anecdotes again and again.

Gee, I don't think Mike likes Paul, do you? O'Neill certainly seems thoroughly impressed with himself, a quality that comes through during his interviews as well. It explains why O'Neill appears so nonplussed when being challenged on his intent, especially in regards to the "blind man in a room full of deaf people," a phrase which Kinsley tries to parse:

Speaking of blindsided, howzabout that killer quote describing Bush in Cabinet meetings as being "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people"? O'Neill says this is "the only way I can describe it," and I fear that may be the case. It's vivid, and it certainly sounds insulting enough. ... I'm sorry, but how is being uninterested in policy like being a blind man in a roomful of deaf people? Are blind people uninterested in policy? Or, more accurately, do blind people become less interested in policy when they find themselves in a room with deaf people? Does a blind man surrounded by deaf people talking policy issues think: "Oh, hell. These folks are going to go on and on and on about the problems of deaf people. Who needs that? I've got problems of my own." Is that O'Neill's point? And even if there is something about a room full of deaf people that makes a blind man disengage from policy issues, what does this have to do with President Bush and his Cabinet?

Make sure you read Kinsley's review all the way to the final assessment.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 15, 2004 6:49 PM

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