Now that he’s resigned that post, it’s clear Paul Wolfowitz should never have been named president of the World Bank.
He is by all accounts a legendarily bad manager and the job surely demanded exceptional administrative skills. Many Europeans didn’t want him because he was an early advocate and later an architect of the Iraq war. And he seems to have had an abundance of arrogance and a sense of entitlement.
Finally, that was what brought him down, the instant cause was engineering a lavish raise for his girlfriend when she was seconded from the World Bank to the State Department.
His defenders say he was sandbagged by the bank staff, but that seems very unlikely for a 35-year veteran and survivor of the snake-pit politics of college faculties, the State Department and the Pentagon. How could he have been so ethically thick-skinned as not to see how that nearly $60,000 raise would look? She was making more than the secretary of state and it was all tax-free.
The price of his departure was a letter from the bank’s board exonerating Wolfowitz of any wrongdoing, thanking him for his service and admitting, without assigning blame, that “mistakes were made.”
The World Bank can be as infuriating and maddeningly ineffective as any other international organization, but the importance of its prime function — funding project loans to lift struggling nations out of poverty — is indisputable.
The task for President Bush now is to quickly name a replacement, preferably with a high profile and ironclad credentials. One name that has been mentioned is Paul Volcker, former Treasury official, Federal Reserve chairman and all-around troubleshooter — he exposed the corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program. If, at 79, he’s willing to take the job, he would be an excellent choice.