By his own account, Mr O'Neill actually warned the president-elect and his deputy not to hire him. When he was flown in for a secret meeting in a Washington hotel, he took a list of his past pronouncements that could prove embarrassing to a conservative administration.
He had called for a petrol tax, and worse still, he believed global warming to be a real threat. But in the Washington hotel room, the book suggests, Mr Bush was not listening. Mr O'Neill was telling a long anecdote about an encounter with an environmental pressure group when Mr Bush held up his hand and asked: "Where's lunch?". The president then upbraided his chief of staff for failing to produce a cheeseburger on time.
Wall Street was less impressed. The trip [to Africa with U2's Bono] confirmed it in its view of Mr O'Neill as a lightweight, blissfully unaware that his words and behaviour had a direct effect on the markets' faith in the US economy. In his first months he had caused a small run on the exchange markets by suggesting to a German newspaper that the administration did not have a strong dollar policy. Events have since proved the remark to be true, but it broke a taboo.
The fundamental question remains as to why any of them were hired at all by an administration that had no time for their views. Mr O'Neill concludes they were there simply as "cover", to make the Bush White House appear reassuringly moderate. In that case, the president and Mr Cheney made the wrong choice in Mr O'Neill. He was never going to be happy serving as someone else's window dressing.
It's an honor to be fired by a petulant son-of-a-bitch brat. It took more testicular fortitude for O'Neill to say what he actually thinks than for Bush to thoughtlessly mouth what his speechwriters and political advisors hand him — without comprehending a word or being held accountable for the outcome.
Still no one within the administration is talking about the truth of O'Neill's remarks. The next State of the Union speech is on its way. What new lies will Bush disavow later this year?