Who’s Next at the World Bank?


Forget the rumbles from overseas about the possibility of a non-American being chosen to head the World Bank. The Bush regime, as is custom, will get to appoint an American to replace Paul Wolfowitz as bank president.

Thanks to Wolfie’s poor performance, it won’t be another neocon.

Wolfie has no one to blame but himself. I broke the story back in September 2005 that Wolfie had set up a sweetheart deal for his sweetheart, Shaha Ali Riza, at the State Department. But Wolfie’s hubris made his fall inevitable. The smartest comment I’ve read comes from one of his friends, Fred Ikle, in Karen DeYoung‘s perceptive piece this morning in the Washington Post:

Others, including some friends and admirers, saw the seeds of Wolfowitz’s demise in the arc of his 34-year Washington career — a steady rise through the State Department and the Pentagon, interrupted only to become dean of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies during the Clinton years. Throughout, Wolfowitz built a reputation as a foreign policy iconoclast, a mild-mannered intellectual with a steely ideological core, and an inept manager.

Wolfowitz, they concluded, should never have been in charge of a multinational institution owned by more than 180 governments and with 10,000 employees.

“At the World Bank, you’re not as well protected” as in government, said Fred Ikle, a veteran national security official who brought Wolfowitz to the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in 1973. “You don’t have somebody above you who will endorse what you want to do.”

Another former colleague who served with Wolfowitz in four administrations said that “the kinds of problems he got into were predictable for anybody who really knew Paul.” Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the source voiced admiration for his intellect but said Wolfowitz “couldn’t run a two-car funeral.”

And think of the funerals Wolfie was responsible for as chief architect of the Iraq debacle.

At the bank, no one was killed on his two-year watch, thankfully. The guy’s reign of error did permanently damage U.S. clout, but only to the extent that the Bush regime won’t be able to shove another neocon down the world’s throat. So don’t worry that some ideologue like Wolfie — or John Bolton, the neocon who used to be the U.S.’s U.N. rep — will be thrust upon the bank again.

As the New York Times noted this morning:

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. said Thursday that he would “consult my colleagues around the world” before recommending a choice to Mr. Bush, in what seemed to be an effort to assure allies that the United States would not repeat what happened in 2005 when Mr. Bush surprised them by selecting Mr. Wolfowitz, then a deputy secretary of defense and an architect of the Iraq war.

Paulson himself is a good bet. The Europeans (including the Financial Times, the most influential newspaper in the hallways of the powerful development bank) call him “Hank Paulson,” and he was careful to distance himself from the Bush regime when it came to Wolfie’s steadily worsening situation.

Another name, Jim Leach, has popped up, and that would be really intriguing. Leach is a liberal Republican, from the Ripon Society arm of the GOP, which continually tries to keep the religious wing-nuts from controlling the party.

Leach also knows banks. The former congressman chaired the House Banking Committee and in the ’80s famously referred to S&L scandal figure Charles Keating (John McCain‘s former sugar daddy) as a “financiopath.”

No one had to coin that delicious word for Leach. He thought it up himself, his staff assured me at the time, and I believe them. He’s a very clever guy.

Leach would be the perfect guy to put a face on fighting corruption, but he probably won’t get it because he’s jousted with the GOP’s right wing so often. A decade ago, Robert Parry, dissecting the influence of Sun Myung Moon‘s Unification Church, wrote:

At times, Moon’s penetration of conservative ranks has raised red flags among Republicans. In 1983, the GOP’s moderate Ripon Society charged that the New Right had entered “an alliance of expediency” with Moon’s church. Ripon’s chairman, Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, released a study which alleged that the College Republican National Committee “solicited and received” money from Moon’s Unification Church in 1981. The study also accused Reed Irvine‘s Accuracy in Media of benefitting from low-cost or volunteer workers supplied by Moon.

Leach said the Unification Church has “infiltrated the New Right and the party it [the New Right] wants to control, the Republican Party, and infiltrated the media as well.” Leach’s news conference was broken up when then-college GOP leader Grover Norquist accused Leach of lying. (Norquist is now head of Americans for Tax Reform and a prominent ally of House Speaker Newt Gingrich.)

You may recall Norquist as one of Wampumgate scandal figure Jack Abramoff‘s old college pals. Karl Rove is, of course, another of those former GOP College Republican leaders, as we know from his interview by Dan Rather circulating on YouTube.

Can’t see the Bush regime forgetting all that history and naming Leach. If so, it would mean that Bush is the lamest of lame ducks.

But Leach would help suck the poison out of the damaged relationship between the U.S. and the rest of the world.

So would another candidate, Dick Lugar, former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Lugar, like Leach, is a pragmatic Republican pol. But he, too, has spent some time trying to dismantle neocons.

Considering the Bush regime’s antipathy toward Leach and Lugar, its best choice would be Paulson, who already has solid relations with his European counterparts.