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EDITIONS
Friday, 6 December, 2002, 17:27 GMT
Paul O'Neill: Gaffe-prone secretary
Outgoing US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill with George W Bush
Mr Bush stood by Mr O'Neill for nearly two years
The outgoing US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill was being described as "outspoken" and "straight-talking" in the wake of his surprise resignation on Friday.

More outspoken, straight-talking commentators, however, said George W Bush's first Cabinet member to resign was simply prone to gaffes, sometimes even contradicting White House policies.


Not the sort of people you would want to help you think about complex questions

On currency traders
When his nomination as treasury secretary was announced in 2001, he caused outrage by announcing that he would keep nearly $100m worth of stock in the company he was leaving to take the new position.

The resulting uproar caused him to reverse himself and give up his shares in Alcoa, the world's largest aluminium producer, which he headed.

But Mr O'Neill continued to produce startling remarks throughout his tenure of just under two years.

On the collapse of energy giant Enron, which left hundreds of employees with no savings: "Companies come and go. It's part of the genius of capitalism.


If you set aside Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the safety record is really very good

On nuclear power
"People get to make good decisions or bad decisions, and they get to pay the consequences or to enjoy the fruits of their decisions. That's the way the system works."

On the stock market panic that followed the 11 September 2001 attacks: "The people who sold will be sorry they did it."

On currency traders: "People who sit in front of a flickering green screen ... not the sort of people you would want to help you think about complex questions."

On the US income tax code: "9,500 pages of gibberish"

On nuclear power: "If you set aside Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the safety record of nuclear is really very good."

On the Brazilian economy, shortly before a trip to South America: "They need to put in place policies that will ensure that as specific money comes, that it does some good and doesn't just go out of the country to Swiss bank accounts."

A run on the Brazilian real followed, causing it to lose more than 5% of its value the following day.

On intervening to protect the dollar: "There is a real doubt about the effectiveness of interventions or words about intervention. It is not possible any more to actually fool the markets for very long."

The result: A slide in the dollar to its weakest level against the euro in six months.

On himself: "If people don't like what I'm doing, I don't give a damn. I could be sailing around on a yacht or driving around the country.

"I hate doing scripted stuff because what it demonstrates to me when I see people doing scripted stuff, I don't know whether they can think or not. All is know is that they can read."

Mr Bush's spokesman Ari Fleischer stood up for Mr O'Neill at least once.

"The president enjoys his blunt, plainspoken approach," Mr Fleischer said.

Then again, Mr Bush himself caused panic in currency markets early this year by accidentally saying he had discussed "devaluation", rather than "deflation" with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.


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