From "The Price of Loyalty"

I just finished Suskind’s The Price of Loyalty about Paul O’Neill’s experiences as Treasury Secretary under Bush. It’s a remarkable book. One particular passage really stayed with me. It’s on page 292, and follows Dick Cheney’s extraordinary assertion: “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” I’ve taken the liberty of quoting the whole thing in the extended entry, here.

As he walked back to his office, to prepare for that evening’s flight to Rome and then Pakistan, O’Neill took Cheney’s statement and started to pull it apart. Of course, one of the most significant things Ronald Reagan had proved was that deficits do matter – a fact that defined nearly twenty years of fiscal policy.
“I though that, clearly, there’s no coherent philosophy that could support such a claim”; and then O’Neill pondered the difference between philosophy and ideology….
He started to deconstruct.
“I think an ideology comes out of feelings and it tends to be non-thinking. A philosophy, on the other hand, can have a structured thought base. One would hope that a philosophy, which is always a work in progress, is influenced by facts. So there is a constant interplay between what do I think and why do I think it….
“Now, if you gather more facts and have more experience, especially with things that have gone wrong – those are especially good learning tools – then you reshape your philosophy, because the facts tell you you’ve got to. It doesn’t change what you wish for. I mean, it’s okay to wish for something that’s, you know, outside of your fact realm. But it’s not okay to confuse all that….
“Ideology is a lot easier, because you don’t have to know anything or search for anything. You already know the answer to everything. It’s not penetrable by facts. It’s absolutism.”

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