Where Was I? Oh, Yeah, Wolfowitz.



Kevin Kellems/World Bank


He’s with the band: Back in the summer of 2005, Bono and Bob Geldof chat about poor people or record contracts or something, while Wolfowitz soaks it in like any other rock groupie. The photo was snapped by Dick Cheney‘s ex-flack Kevin Kellems, whom Wolfie brought over to the World Bank at an annual tax-free salary of $240,000. Kellems has a sweet contract; he’ll be at the bank long after Wolfie is gone.

As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted on February 7, 2006, the very idea that Paul Wolfowitz had the “moral authority” in the first place to take over the World Bank is preposterous.

See, everybody’s talking about whether Wolfie has the “moral authority” to continue, considering that he gave his girlfriend, run-of-the-mill World Bank flack Shaha Ali Riza, a package that’s probably bigger than his. Let’s not even dwell right now on the sweet deals he’s bestowed on aides Kevin Kellems (Dick Cheney’s former flack) and Robin Cleveland (former White House budget aide with a juicy role in a Boeing scandal). Start with Sebastian Mallaby‘s piece in the April 13 Washington Post for details on all three.

While you’re at it, go to this Post page for lots of links to lots of Wolfie stories.

Just last night, Wolfowitz suffered a staggering blow when the Financial Times editorial page called for his ouster:

Should Paul Wolfowitz leave the World Bank? The answer to that question is “yes”. Will Mr Wolfowitz leave the World Bank? The answer to that question is murkier. The US put Mr Wolfowitz in his job and the US will decide whether he is to stay. George W. Bush will hate to abandon a loyal henchman. He should do so, none the less.

Bank insiders tell me that the London bidness paper is by far the most influential newspaper in the halls of the bank and among the Europeans and others who take the bank seriously.

And this just in from the Times (U.K.):

Wolfowitz’s hold on his job was slipping this weekend as finance and development ministers gathered in Washington for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s spring meetings. The bank’s 24 executive directors are expected to meet again [Sunday, April 15] to decide whether to reprimand him or demand his resignation.

Hank Paulson, the US treasury secretary, offered only tepid support for Wolfowitz, saying he would not comment on what the board should decide. “This should not be read as any lessening of the United States’ support for Paul Wolfowitz,” he said. Pressed to endorse Wolfowitz’s continuing tenure he added: “I said what I said.”

Some ministers believe that Wolfowitz can no longer command the moral authority to demand an end to nepotism in the financial affairs of developing countries that he has criticised for corruption and poor governance.

Sorry to smirk, but before the Bush Beat was canceled by new management, I was the person who broke the news way back in September 2005 that Wolfie had set up a sweetheart deal for his gal pal at the State Department — where she works with Liz Cheney, daughter of you-know-who.

Take a look at “Wolfowitz Sends His Gal to State Dept. — To Work With Cheney’s Daughter.”

Or if you want confirmation from a fair and balanced outlet, see last Thursday’s Fox News story by Richard Behar:

News of Riza’s move to the U.S. State Dept. was first broken in 2005 by a blogger for the Village Voice, but the story gained traction in late March 2007, when the Washington Post ran a column based on information from Riza’s personnel records at the bank.

For more, check out Inter Press Service’s Emad Mekay and Jim Lobe for coverage of Wolfie’s nepotism, like this story and that one. (Full disclosure: Mekay credits me by name for breaking the story.)

And on what might be the eve of Wolfie’s ouster from the presidency of the world’s largest and most important bank, let’s take a look at just one result of his hubris.

Wolfie has taken full advantage of his celeb status to hang with Bono and Bob Geldof. As for the people who work for him, like the 7,000 World Bank employees in D.C., well, he’s been about as charitable as Frank Capra‘s banker, Mr. Potter. Tim Shipman, filing from D.C. tonight for the Sunday Telegraph (U.K.), notes:

Mr Wolfowitz’s critics accuse him of bringing the same moral fervour and bunker mentality to the World Bank that characterised his time at the Pentagon as deputy defence secretary, where he will be forever linked with the miscalculation that Iraqis would welcome US troops as liberators.

He created an ethics police to monitor bank employees’ expenses and even scaled down the office Christmas party — something that sparked cries of hypocrisy when Miss Riza’s package was exposed.

Bank staffers have already booed and hissed him. An anonymous post last night on the bank’s private, internal bulletin board sums up the developing feeling in the halls of the development bank:

Mr. Wolfowitz, at this point, it’s not about the technicalities. It’s not about which rule was broken, according to which memo. It’s about a profound distrust in you, your advisers, your policies. . . . We need a strong world bank now and you are a distraction. You leaving will certainly not solve all of the problems faced by the institution but judging from the commitment, passion and will to change things expressed in [other staff] comments over the past few days, I have no doubt that staff is ready to do things differently and better.

Our clients do not trust you, our partners do not trust you, staff does not trust you. The only one who as expressed support is GW Bush and we all know his shortcomings. So my plea is: Don’t be like that. Don’t hang on to the last bit of power until you are kicked out, by the board or by the staff. Act with dignity. You must leave now. If you don’t, you will be booed at townhall, people will mock your op-eds, clients will turn to others, and not only will you not be effective, you will contribute to bringing this institution further down the lines of irrelevance and obscurity. Leave now.

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