Hell hath no fury like a scorned former corporate big wig. Just ask former Alcoa boss Paul O'Neill (search), who was dumped as President Bush's Treasury secretary last year and is coming out with guns a-blazing this year.
In what some call his own kiss and tell, "The Price of Loyalty," O'Neill blasts the president as disengaged on economic policy and maybe even deceitful on foreign policy.
Now, I have no idea what was going on behind the scenes. But I've seen these scenes before.
Does anyone remember Don Regan? (search) He was Ronald Reagan's Treasury secretary and later became chief of staff. He came over from Merrill Lynch – a big company -- but he ran into a big obstacle: Nancy Reagan. He ticked her off and suddenly he was off the team.
He avenged himself months later with a blistering critique of the Reagan White House and Nancy's own fondness for astrology.
Is there a connection? I think so.
Don Regan was incensed the president didn't have the decency to fire him in person. Paul O'Neill was incensed the president didn't have the decency to fire him in person.
Don Regan was rich. Paul O'Neill is rich.
Don Regan had a temper. Paul O'Neill has a temper.
Don Regan was proud. Paul O’Neill is proud.
Proud men. Big men. Powerful men. Rich men. They don't like being slighted. They don't like being embarrassed. Indeed, in the corporate world they come from, they put a premium on "don't embarrass."
Image is everything. Decency is an uppermost thing.
There are ways of firing people. President Reagan and President Bush weren't good at it. And I'm convinced had each intervened personally, these tomes never would have made the light of day.
Had President Bush told O'Neill, "Look, Paul, it's not working out. I'd like to change direction, but I very much value your counsel," well maybe O'Neill wouldn't have left in a tiff.
But no, the Bush folks kept assuring O'Neill that they were happy with him, loyal to him and standing by him until, out of nowhere, they stuck it to him.
Little guys might roll with the punches. But do that to big guys and they start throwing them.
Just ask Nancy Reagan. And now, just ask President Bush.
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