Aide Decamps; Wolfie’s Next


Paul Wolfowitz‘s move from the Pentagon to the World Bank in April 2005 was accompanied by music, a parade of marching soldiers, plenty of photographs, and flowery speeches — and even a guest appearance by his estranged wife and their daughter.

(See my May 1, 2005 item, “Wolfowitz Leaves Pentagon Without Causing Further Casualties.”)

His impending exit from the World Bank will be quieter. Likely his security guards will usher him out the back door.

Photo opportunities are unlikely, especially now that his personal photographer, Kevin Kellems, has left the building ahead of him. Kellems, the former aide to Dick Cheney whom Wolfie brought to the bank as a $240,000-a-year publicist (he shot the photos of Wolfie with Bono and Bob Geldof back in ’05), has quit the bank.

Kellems will always be remembered from his bit part in Fahrenheit 9/11 as the “keeper of the comb” for Wolfie.

But good grooming does not a war architect make.

We still have time to reflect that Wolfowitz made the same kind of grave miscalculations as he prepared to move to the World Bank as he made while chief architect of the Iraq invasion. Wolfie’s ham-handed attempts before he even took over the bank to land his gal pal, bank employee Shaha Ali Riza, more money and a cushy post at the State Department were what doomed him. (I broke the story back in September 2005 of that move.)

Just as he and his aides did in the Iraq debacle, Wolfie and Kellems underestimated the reaction to their foolish personnel moves at the bank. Back in early 2006, the Washington Post‘s Paul Blustein noted:

Kellems, who attracted notice in the movie Fahrenheit 9/11 as the Wolfowitz aide who helped comb the deputy defense secretary’s hair, shrugged off concern over the personnel moves. “Anytime there’s a transition to a new leader, especially one at a public institution, it’s only human nature that that will bring with it varying levels of unease,” he said. “There’s been far less of that unease to date than many of us expected.”

Yeah, far less. The result of that bad planning? The ignominy of Wolfie having to write in a letter recently to Herman Wijffels, head of the bank panel investigating him:

“I urge the committee to reject the allegation that I lack credibility.”

The only question remaining is who will leave the bank next: Wolfie or his aide Robin Cleveland, the former Boeing-scandal figure who Wolfie brought to the bank from the White House budget office and who signed off on Riza’s move.