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"Companies come and go. Part of the genius of capitalism is people get to make good decisions or bad decisions, and they get to pay the consequences..." — Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill on why he didn't help Enron.


Pretzels, Death "Part of the Genius of Democracy," Says O'Neill

Washington, D.C. ( — Two Bush cabinet members today admitted they received several phone calls from the President as he choked on a pretzel Sunday, but said they never considered intervening to stave off the President's collapse, nor informing First Lady Laura Bush.

In calls to Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, the President reportedly expressed hope that someone in the administration would intervene on his behalf with the pretzel, which was lodged in his throat and seriously jeopardizing his corporeal viability. The President fainted briefly during the incident.

bush dreams of heaven
While passed out, Bush reportedly had a "frightening dream" that heaven was Catholic.

While White House records revealed Bush has been a major supporter of both cabinet members, O'Neill and Evans said it was not unusual for them to take calls from the nation's chief executive, and insisted they had not used their positions to influence action in favor of the President.

Accounts of the calls, however, were contradictory.

"My recollection of the phone call was that it was informational in nature and that Mr. Bush was not specifically asking for government help," Evans told a reporter for ABC News. "But he was out of breath. It was difficult to understand."

Appearing on "Fox News," O'Neill said Bush was "simply looking for all the possible ways that we could stabilize his condition" and asked that the Treasury Secretary consider contacting a doctor or his wife. ``I considered it and said, 'Thank you for the call,''' O'Neill said.

"I didn't think it was worth running across the street to tell the First Lady," he explained later on CBS News. ``I don't tell the First Lady every time somebody calls me.''

After being rebuffed by O'Neill, Bush also reportedly had "six to eight" conversations with Treasury Undersecretary Peter Fisher, who was asked to call paramedics, or the Secret Service, or "somebody, damnit." Fisher said he informed O'Neill of the calls, and was told it was "not a federal government responsibility" to intervene.

Asked why he chose to do nothing, O'Neill said the President's collapse was "part of the genius of democracy."

"Presidents come and go," he said. "Part of the genius of democracy is people get to make good decisions or bad decisions, and they get to pay the consequences. The President should not have decided to eat pretzels."

But Sen. Joseph Lieberman, chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, said his panel would investigate the President's collapse, and would look into the administration's lack of action.

"I find it highly unlikely that the President of the United States was on the brink of collapse, and no one thought it important enough to inform the First Lady," said Lieberman. "I think the American people have a right to find out: What did the First Lady know, and when did she know it?"

Investigating the case, however, may prove difficult, as Justice Department officials said some of the evidence had already been destroyed.

"By the time we arrived at the President's residence, all the pretzels were gone," said a Justice Department spokesman. "All we saw were a bunch of guys from Arthur Andersen standing around with crumbs on their chins."


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