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CNN BREAKING NEWS

O'Neill to Step Down as Secretary

Aired December 6, 2002 - 09:24   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Once again, CNN has confirmed now Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill will step down from his post as secretary of the treasury. All of this news happening right now.
Let's talk to Andy Serwer about the implications involved here -- surprise you?

ANDY SERWER, EDITOR AT LARGE, "FORTUNE": It doesn't really surprise me, Bill. There has been all sorts of speculation that Paul O'Neill would be stepping down, would be going.

The president's financial team has been under attack, really for the past couple of years. You think about it, Harvey Pitt is already gone, Paul O'Neill perceived as being a loose cannon, someone who spoke a little bit too freely, was at odds at various points in time with other people in the administration. The last person standing in the president's financial team is Larry Lindsey, the president's chief economic adviser, and the question is, will he also be a victim? Will he also leave his position, too.

HEMMER: If you think about the economic team over the past two years, the criticism has come against O'Neill and others because a lot of people frankly did not think there was one person spearheading this operation, was a good spokesperson. You look at the previous administration, Robert Rubin was pretty strong in that area.

SERWER: Yes, and Robert Rubin had an excellent relationship with Greenspan. O'Neill's was a little more questionable, but you look at three legs of the stool. The economy, the stock market, and corporate scandals, and a lot of people said that this team was not getting the job done.

HEMMER: OK, Quickly. The markets -- job numbers are out, and it is not nearly as good as people thought?

SERWER: No, not at all. The unemployment rate in November up to 6 percent, that was higher than expected. They were looking for 5.8. October was 5.7. We were looking to add jobs. We actually lost 40,000 jobs. The markets are going to be under pressure today. And of course, we have the United Airlines situation hanging over everything. Not a good picture.

HEMMER: Opening bell, three and a half minutes. Thank you, Drew.

SERWER: OK. We'll talk to you.

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