Sunday, April 15, 2007

# Posted 11:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WOLFOWITZ UPDATE: I last posted about Paul Wolfowitz exactly one week ago. I ended that post with a vote of confidence in the World Bank president and former Deputy Secretary of Defense. I wrote that:
Looking at the big picture, I'm glad that Wolfowitz had made corruption a priority and is challenging the Bank to live up to his standards. I think that leadership from the top is the only way to get the Bank to take the issue seriously. Wolfowitz's predecessor took some critical first steps in that direction, but the fight against corruption has only just begun.
Since last week, further details have emerged that make Wolfowitz look quite bad. "Challenging the Bank to live up to his standards" now doesn't seem like a very effective call to arms.

Three questions come to mind. First, should Wolfowitz's actions be described as an instance of corruption? Second, should Wolfowitz resign? Third, should one connect the dots between this controversy and Wolfowitz's role in our early failures in Iraq?

With regard to the first question (and by extension, the second) the editors of the Financial Times write:
The answer is: an apparent violation of Bank rules; favouritism that borders on nepotism; and a possible cover-up. It is true Mr Wolfowitz and Ms Riza were put in a difficult position. Even so, what has come out would be bad in any institution. In an institution that spear-heads the cause of good governance in the developing world, it is lethal. (Hat tip: Anon)
Interestingly, the FT didn't use the word corruption. Or should one consider favoritism a form of corruption? I don't have a good answer to that question.

What may be most telling is that Wolfowitz chose to tell a series of half-truths about how the decision was made to give his significant other a promotion and and an unusual raise. If everything was on the level, why not be candid?

So, do I think Wolfowitz should resign? I could see a good case being made both ways. I guess I'll say this: if there were a strong candidate waiting in the wings who would make the fight against corruption his or her priority, then a new president may be the best thing.

On the other hand, I don't exactly buy the FT's argument that:
The president of the World Bank has one asset: his credibility...

In a world where curtailing corruption and improving governance have become central to the practice of development, the world’s premier development institution must, like Caesar’s wife, stand above suspicion.
Given how many notoriously corrupt governments have received major loans from the Bank over the years, I'm not sure that Caesar's wife was ever that pure. And the corruption of those governments involves the systematic theft of billions, not a questionable raise and promotion of the kind Mr. Wolfowitz gave out.

And finally, to my third question. Some might suggest that Wolfowitz's behavior reflects a disturbing sort of arrogance, poor judgment and inability to consider the opinions of others. Those same critics might then say those things are exactly what one should expect from Wolfowitz, because those are the same traits that he exhibited at the Pentagon and that contributed to our early (and perhaps ultimate) failure in Iraq.

More broadly speaking, when romantic attachments at the office result in a serious lack of professionalism, should one say that the culpable party is unfit to lead? Or should one say that the culpable party deserves a measure of forgiveness because we all make mistakes when romance is involved?

These seem to be the exact same questions we were all asking in the Clinton years, except that liberals and conservatives now have an incentive to contradict the answers they gave last time around.

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(18) opinions -- Add your opinion

An opinion column from the Wall Street Journal has a bit more context.
So ... you still haven't answered the question, though apparently you are leaning no given your excuse-making and comparison with Bill Clinton.

I particularly enjoyed the bizarre rationalization that ensuring that your girlfriend is paid far beyond what she is qualified for (never mind as well the very highly-paid clique of neocons around Wolfowitz, also without World Bank experience, who are drawing even better paid sinecures) is not corruption.
I get caught every time. I should say if it is to good to be true, wait for the truth to come out, sometines it does.

Fox news revowed all the documentatio and guess what! The woman was Wolfowitz's girlfriend before he went to the World Bank. Prior to taking up the contract with The World Bank Wolfowitz asked the ethics panel hiw best to resolve the girlfiend issue. The ethics panel reccomended the course of action taken. The Board could have reviewed this matter using its own ethics panel and declined.

Oh yes, another item of interst to thosw wondering why this matter came up now, The World bank is meeting this week. Politics as usual?
I was with you until the end. Drawing an analogy with Clinton just doesn't seem appropriate in this case.

In this case, Wolfowitz's error is promoting his girlfriend in the "company." He didn't cheat on his wife, and he didn't lie to a grand jury about it.

OTOH, Clinton was better at his job than Wolfowitz is at his (policy disagreements aside). By most accounts, Wolfowitz has done a lousy job of taking leadership of the World Bank, a critical issue given the controversy of his appointment in the first place.
An opinion column from the Wall Street Journal has a bit more context.

Actually, it ignores the fact that Wolfowitz acknowledged that he made a msitake and has apologized for it.

Of course this is the same WSJ editorial page that also said Clinton's replacement of US attorneys was unprecedented, while ignoring the fact that Ronald Reagan had done the same thing.

The WSJ editorials are arguably among the most tendentious in journalism.

sorry but at the very end of the WSJ op-ed, it does mention the fact the Wolfowitz apologized:

Mr. Wolfowitz has apologized for any mistakes he's made, though we're not sure why. He's the one who deserves an apology.

This tries to turn a first-person apology into a third-person non-apology. Still, the WSJ piece is a crafty Right Wing reinterpretation of the factual narrative, and the finale is typical WSJ 'can we sell you the Whitewater report for $10' bombast.

Where they lost me was:

Only then did Mr. Wolfowitz instruct Mr. Coll on the details of Ms. Riza's new job and pay raise.

Only then.
Sorry, that I missed that. You nailed the rest, by the way.
So, another David prophecy?

He is good at these...
Randy, anon 404, can you make arguments against the substance of the WSJ editorial rather than dismissing it based on where it was published?

This is Randy. For some reason it says my password is wrong.

Apparently, this is not the first time Wolfowitz has used his position to arrange perks for his girlfriend:

The Defense Department directed a private contractor in 2003 to hire Shaha Ali Riza, a World Bank employee and the companion of Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense, to spend a month studying issues related to setting up a new government in Iraq, the contractor said Monday.

The contractor, Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC, said that it had been directed to hire Ms. Riza by the office of the under secretary for policy. The head of that office at the time was Douglas J. Feith, who reported to Mr. Wolfowitz.

The stench is even older than they thought.
It’s nice that the World Bank is attracting a great deal of attention by its corruption, but we should notice the World Bank is playing an important role in the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.
Unfortunately, our political leaders are not making enough commitment to make it happen. We should put pressure on our leaders to achieve the plan they already agreed to, the plan to end world hunger.
The plan to end world hunger is underway but receiving very little support from U.S. political leaders. Without the world’s agenda-setter making the Millennium Goals a global priority, according to The Borgen Project, 600 million people will remain in poverty that otherwise could live healthy, productive lives.
It’s not so hard if we really try to make it work.
Thanks Randy, but I have to say I'm not convinced. Certainly if the contractor paid lavishly one could make an argument of nepotism, but your article makes no mention of her pay (beyond that she took leave from the World Bank to go to Iraq.) Or are you arguing that a 5 week trip to Baghdad was a gift in itself?

If I am to become outraged that the evil neocons arranged contracting work for their loved ones in Iraq, must I give up the outrage that the evil neocons send other people's family members to their doom in Iraq without risking anything personally?
In 2003 Iraq was a safe kush gig and flush with cash. That's why so many contractors went there, for the money.

This is Randy. I doubt if there is anything that would convince you, but as anonymous points out, you're paying no attention to the timeline. April and May 2003 predated the Fallujah uprising, the UN and Jordnaian embassy bombings, pretty much anything other than the museum looting.

In short, it doesn't hold water.
Randy, your response to my request to offer specific criticisms of the WSJ editorial has been to cite a NYT piece that you've apparently used to redefine 'perk' to mean 'a job not in a war zone'. So I agree, I doubt you will convince me of anything.
The specific criticism is that yes, Wolfowitz has something to apologize for. This is the same WSJ that repeatedly accused Valerie Plame of using her position to get her husband a boondoggle trip to Niger. Pot kettle black.

You still ignore the timeline, btw.

Wolfowitz, in claiming to fight corruption has abused his position in two locations by engaging in cronyism. I have little doubt that had this been a democratic administration doing this, you would have been howling. So would I and thereby hangs a tale.
Randy, the allegations against Wolfowitz were blown out of the water by the WSJ editorial. You claimed the editorial was tendentious, which I took to mean there was something wrong with it. In a lengthy exchange, you have made precisely zero criticisms of any statement made in that editorial. It appears you are unable to do so. (It also appears that you think "Wolfowitz has something to apologize for" is a specific criticism, which suggests you are unfamiliar with either the word 'specific' or the word 'something'.) I am forced to conclude that the editorial was entirely correct, and that the charges against Wolfowitz are unmerited.

Here's a timeline for you:
1) you say there are problems with the WSJ editorial that exonerates Paul Wolfowitz of charges of corruption at the World Bank,
2) I ask what the problems are,
3) you start talking about Valerie Plame.
The comparison to the Clinton "affair" is so silly that it defies belief that anyone would bring it up except as a smokescreen. Did Clinton provide his "girlfriend" with a top paying tax exempt promotion at a major international institution? Or was she working as a White House aide?
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