Paul Wolfowitz has all but conceded that he is leaving his perch as CEO of the World Bank. The only question that remains is what gets scribbled in the last paragraph of the story on whether the “blame” for his departure is shared — and whether he resigned under his own steam or was actually, formally fired.
What is odd about this entire encounter is that “Wolfowitz the strategist” seems to be missing — and that may have been the problem all along.
Many officials in the Bank did not like Wolfowitz because of his central role in designing, planning and launching the Iraq War. But had the former Deputy Secretary of Defense come into the Bank with a compelling plan for global economic development that built on the strengths and addressed some of the weaknesses of the Bank’s relative skill sets, a relationship of mutual trust and respect, even if grudging, would have taken root.
Even one of Wolfowitz’s closest friends and the not-often discussed third political appointee (the other two were the more controversial Kevin Kellems and Robin Cleveland) brought in by Wolfowitz, Karl Jackson, has reportedly told numerous World Bank and diplomatic pals of his that “Paul has no plan. Everything is ad hoc, reactive — first we go this way, then we go that.” If his friends are saying that, imagine what Wolfowitz’s enemies think.
And in this sad public battle over whether Wolfowitz acted appropriately or not regarding the employment options, compensation, and performance evaluations of his girlfriend, Wolfowitz also seemed to operate in exactly the mode Jackson describes — without a plan, reactive, ad hoc, first this way and then that.
After the revelations of the stellar pay raises Shaha Riza, Wolfowitz acknowledged serious misjudgment and the mistake he had made. He apologized. But I guess people are getting sick of apologies with little other price being paid and little commitment to resolution of underlying problems.
So the problem continued and Wolfowitz and his big-gun lawyer Robert Bennett attacked his critics for launching from their perspective a vicious “smear campaign” against a now innocent and wrongly besmirched Wolfowitz.
Wolfowitz proceeded to blame the Bank’s Board and Ethics Committee for “giving him no choice” but what he did. He also blamed his girlfriend. He practically blamed everyone for his problems but himself.
Then he insisted he wanted his job and would not leave. The Bank in response was compelled to go through a formal, transparent process of reviewing all the circumstances involved — including his perspective and proffered evidence. And now Wolfowitz has heard the verdict — doesn’t like it — and wants to cut a new deal that if the Bank officially disavows its formally developed position, he will now leave.
If Wolfowitz had resigned expeditiously, not gotten ugly with the Bank’s executive directors, and arranged some form of elegant departure, the Bank Directors would have been glad to work out a deal, give him some handsome severance package, and not push hard on the actual reasons for his resignation. The investigative review that the Bank was formally committed to would have been shut down for the most part.
So Wolfowitz — the man with the ten year invasion plan for Iraq, who whether he got it right in the Iraq War or not, who is considered to be a strategist and mathematical wizard — failed to offer any serious strategy when he came into the Bank and failed to deploy a rational strategy when being forced out.
Whichever way the Bank’s board goes today in either allowing him honor as he exits, or just leaving things messy and not nicely packaged, Wolfowitz is done.
— Steve Clemons
Editor’s Note: I am blogging about Paul Wolfowitz and doing some media interviews on the World Bank controversy this morning down near Muir Beach, California and am at the rustic Pelican Inn. I’m here to spend some time talking foreign policy issues with some fascinating people here for a philanthropic board retreat.
Standing at the bar yesterday, I heard from the shadows, “Aren’t you Steve Clemons?” This was not a blog reader of mine but was my friend Jim Repath who is the bar manager here and who I used to run with. We have not seen each other or had contact in 24 years. If anyone has been out to the Pelican Inn, which I highly recommend, you might understand why the small world thing doesn’t quite capture it. Anyway, just a nice encounter I wanted to note.
— Steve Clemons