Hank Paulson, I think, has the proper attitude for a senior
US official when it comes to l’affaire Wolfowitz. He’s concentrating on the
process, but is leaving himself an honorable opening whereby he can support
Wolfowitz’s ouster so long as the process by which it is obtained is fair.
Condi Rice, on the other hand, is now actively
lobbying European foreign ministers on behalf of Wolfowitz. And apparently
she’s being joined by the White House: "the United States is shoring up
support for the former U.S. deputy defense secretary among a clutch of allies
like Canada and a few Asian and African countries," reports
The White House, which had previously deferred questions over the matter
to the U.S. Treasury, insisted on Wednesday it was not "hanging Paul
Wolfowitz out to dry" and that he had the Bush administration’s strong
The Treasury is officially responsible for U.S. World Bank policy, but Wolfowitz
is strongly identified with the White House as an architect of the American-led
invasion of Iraq.
In other words, Paulson is being overruled by Bush and Rice, which bodes ill
for any deal and makes it more likely that the Europeans will be forced into
an unwanted direct confrontation with the Americans on the World Bank board.
Wolfowitz has to go, for a multitude of reasons. He no longer has the support
or the respect of the Bank’s staff, for starters. He also gave his girlfriend
a monster raise, even after he had proposed recusing himself from any decisions
pertaining to her. And he has changed his story on exactly what happened a good
three or four times by now, which means he’s hardly been open and honest with
the board. It’s well worth reading the statement
of Ad Melkert, the director of the bank’s ethics committee
at the relevant time:
As the Ethics Committee had advised that Mr. Wolfowitz’ proposal for
recusal from personnel matters was insufficient because it did not include
recusal from professional contacts, it is completely incomprehensible that
subsequently Mr. Wolfowitz did exactly what he originally had proposed not
to do: to engage directly in personnel matters concerning his partner. It
would have been perfectly appropriate for him to instruct his relevant Vice
Presidents to resolve the issue in accordance with the advice he had received
from the Ethics Committee and with the Bank’s rules and practices, and
then to otherwise recuse himself from the negotiation and approval of the
terms and conditions.
It’s not obvious why the US is spoiling for a fight over this. Wolfowitz is
sure to go one way or another, so at this point the interests of the US are
in making his departure as painless as possible, and maximizing US control over
the choice of his successor. Unfortunately, the US seems to be acting in direct
opposition to both of those interests right now.