O'Neill choice reassuring

Posted: Thursday, December 21, 2000

The following editorial appeared in today's Washington Post:

President-elect Bush made a reassuring choice in picking Paul O'Neill as treasury secretary. The chairman of Alcoa has a reputation as an open-minded pragmatist and a history of extraordinary success in both business and government. He fits within the moderate rather than ideological wing of the Republican Party.

His government career was spent mainly within the Office of Management and Budget, in which he rose to the highest level of the civil service, then became deputy director in the Ford administration. There is no better vantage point from which to understand thoroughly the full span of government. When the Democrats took over the executive branch in 1976, Mr. O'Neill moved into industry, becoming the president of International Paper Co. and in 1987 chairman of Alcoa, an international company that, as Mr. Bush observed, has 140,000 employees in 36 countries. His style there has been unorthodox. The emphases have been not just on profitability but on worker safety and a style of management in which workers have been to some extent encouraged to participate in decisions that historically were management's prerogative. The openness has won him some praise from union leaders.

In the Ford OMB years he worked with both Alan Greenspan, who was chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, and Dick Cheney, who was Mr. Ford's chief of staff. He has stayed close to both. He said this week no surprise that he found the president-elect's proposed economic policies congenial, and that he could be expected to be an ardent advocate. But he is not an ideologue, as tend to be some of the people who served Mr. Bush as economic advisers in the campaign. Nor are his interests confined to economic issues; in the past he has shown a concern with national health-care policy, for example. As with all nominees, we look forward to his confirmation hearings, but he embarks on them from a promising position.

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