It’s easy to see why this was probably the case since the Treasury undoubtedly would have opposed Wolfowitz’s appointment. He is not a banker, has done no work in the area of international economic development, and is not generally considered to be a good manager. Wolfowitz’s only qualification appears to have been that he was an early and ardent supporter of the Iraq war while serving as deputy secretary of Defense. For this, Bush took a liking to him and gave him the high-paying Bank presidency as a gift for loyal service.
Had President Bush followed the normal procedure of nominating a Bank president who had been recruited and vetted by the Treasury, he would have saved himself a lot of grief. It was a mistake for him to treat the World Bank presidency as a patronage job no more important than the ambassador to Bermuda, which is often given to someone with no qualification other than being a large campaign contributor.
In many cases, an ambassador is just a ceremonial position with no power. So it doesn’t really matter whether the person holding it is qualified or not. But the World Bank presidency is a powerful position that can meaningfully affect the lives of millions of people in the developing world, not to mention the thousands of people on its staff.
President Bush owes it to the Bank and everyone affected by it to be more responsible in choosing Wolfowitz’s replacement. He should let the Treasury do its job this time and find someone with the appropriate background and experience—and preferably a person who doesn’t have someone working there who is a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, child or whatever.
Since my endorsement would be the kiss of death, I won’t suggest any names to replace Wolfowitz. Let’s just say that there are plenty of people out there who have the skills and qualifications to run the World Bank without creating unnecessary controversy. The Treasury knows who they are. President Bush should follow its lead this time.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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