O'Neill Submits Resignation Letter to President Bush (Update3)
By Simon Kennedy and Brendan Murray
Washington, Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Paul O'Neill, who brought corporate and government experience to the Bush administration and an outspokenness that roiled financial markets and offended Wall Street, Congress and foreign officials, said he is resigning as U.S. Treasury Secretary.
The resignation will take place in the ``next few weeks,'' Treasury spokeswoman Michele Davis said.
President George W. Bush hasn't named a successor, which would be subject to Senate confirmation.
The White House had no immediate comment.
``It has been a privilege to serve the nation during these challenging times,'' O'Neill said in a letter today to President Bush.
In his 23 months as the nation's 72nd Treasury chief, the self-described straight talker with a no-nonsense approach generated criticism that the Bush administration lacked economic leadership as it fought a sluggish rebound from recession.
The administration is ``going to move and pay a lot of attention to the economy,'' Senator Richard Shelby, the incoming chairman of the Banking Committee, told Fox News.
Throughout it all, Bush backed the longtime friend of his father's, former President George Bush, saying he appreciated O'Neill's judgment and ``refreshingly candid'' advice.
His departure may slow Bush's effort to overhaul the U.S. tax code, which the 67-year-old O'Neill was leading.
The White House loses the personal relationship between O'Neill and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.
O'Neill's tenure was marked by calls for his resignation or predictions of his imminent sacking by legislators, analysts and a string of publications, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
In nominating the former chief executive of Alcoa Inc. in December 2000, Bush described O'Neill as a ``steady hand'' who would be able to soothe financial markets.
Within two months O'Neill sent the dollar plunging by telling a German newspaper the U.S. didn't follow a strong dollar policy, suggested Bush's tax cut wouldn't boost the economy as much as the White House calculated and told Wall Street traders he could learn their jobs in a few weeks.
He visited 20 states in the two months before the Nov. 5 congressional elections, helping Bush retain Republican control of the U.S. House and win it in the Senate.
O'Neill's relationship with Wall Street deteriorated when he derided traders as ``not the sort of people you would want to help you think about complex questions.'' It didn't help when he traveled to Central Asia in July 2002, as the Standard & Poor's 500 Index posted its largest decline since the October 1987 crash.
He claimed special standing for that position, having served three presidents before his business career.
O'Neill criticized the pace of lawmaking, calling the corporate environment from which he had come ``the real world.'' He tried with mixed success to introduce elements of it into the Treasury Department.
He persuaded international governments to boost the amount of grants made by the World Bank and crack down on financing of terrorism.