The World Bank’s Floundering CEO


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The World Bank does matter. If the world is ever going to turn the “developing nation challenge” around, the Bank has been and will continue to be a vital part of that process. But the place is coming unglued over the Wolfowitz-Riza scandal and the staff have become profoundly distracted by lapses by their leader.
It’s CEO, Paul Wolfowitz, is now declaring — in a very terse tone — that he has been treated “unfairly” and “shabbily” by the World Bank Board.
I would like to remind Mr. Wolfowitz that he started these problems — and they did not start with Shaha Riza. If anything, she is only the crescendo in a long line of misbehaviors and serious judgment lapses that range from inappropriately rewarding old Bush administration, political and SAIS pals like former Cheney spokesman Kevin Kellems, former Mitch McConnell staffer Robin Cleveland, and perhaps even former Dan Quayle chief-of-staff Karl Jackson.
Kellems became a spear-carrier continuing to defend Wolfowitz from those who wanted to critique his decisions and performance as Deputy Secretary of Defense and his key role in the Iraq War. Kellems reportedly led crusades against Bank staff who refused to yield to Wolfowitz’s views. Kellems instituted a “you are with us, or you’re with them” strategy inside the Bank.
Robin Cleveland, implicated but not investigated in the Boeing air tanker scandal by trying to get her brother a job, got the portfolio for being a lead on Wolfowitz’s anti-corruption effort.
Karl Jackson has been keeping his head very low — but he’s been a kind of roving “fixer” for Wolfowitz. Some like Jackson and others don’t. Most can’t figure out what he does as the “third” political appointment Wolfowitz made but who has escaped much press scrutiny. What can be reported though is that Karl Jackson has told numerous others that “Wolfowitz has no plan.” Jackson has stated that there is no benchmarking, planning, priority development, or any serious organizational scheme beyond the ad hoc and reactive that is driving Wolfowitz’s support of one World Bank program over another. Jackson has been trying to be of assistance to Wolfowitz and the Bank in his senior advisor role — but he has argued that there is no anchor and driving agenda at the top.
Jackson’s alleged comments are perhaps the most important and revealing. Wolfowitz should resign from the Bank not only because he has lost the support of his staff and may have engaged in behaviors with regard to his girlfriend’s employment circumstances that have triggered serious doubts about his own judgment, he also has been an ineffective CEO on substance.
If one of his closest friends and advisors says that the CEO is not scripting a plan for his staff to follow, then that should be enough for the World Bank Board to call for his resignation — and for Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to make the phone call to Wolfowitz calling it a day.
Wolfowitz will have a chance on Monday to defend himself with lawyer Robert Bennett silent but at his side. Odds makers think Wolfowitz is on his way out.
— Steve Clemons


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