Friday, May 18, 2007

Wolfowitz agrees to leave

Big surprise.... He leaves at the end of June. President Bush, meanwhile, has promised to move quickly on naming a successor.

Among those mentioned as a possible replacement for Wolfowitz were former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who was Bush's former trade chief; Robert Kimmitt, the No. 2 at the Treasury Department; Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson; former Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa; Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.,; Stanley Fischer, who once worked at the International Monetary Fund and is now with the Bank of Israel; and former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker.

That list seems filled with pure speculation. But let's go through them.

Volcker would be an interesting, noncontroversial pick, and likely to attract bipartisan support. And his experience investigating the United Nations oil-for-food scandal may indicate that he'll continue Wolfowitz's anti-corruption drive.

Paulson would be a mistake, unless Bush just likes playing "musical Treasury chairs". There's no real good reason to shake up Treasury one more time simply to fill a slot at the World Bank.

Kimmitt would be a solid choice. He's a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran, has ambassadorial and foreign policy experience and previously served on a World Bank arbitration panel. He's shown an ability to get along with other countries throughout a long career.

I'm not sure why Bush would consider Jim Leach, since he's a liberal Republican who opposed the 2002 Iraq war resolution and even opposed the president's 2003 tax cut. This sounds like a case of Leach supporters floating the name, not anything eminating from the White House.

Lugar would be a more business-as-usual pick for Bush -- a fiscal and social conservative who could probably be counted on to continue Wolfowitz's policies. There's also a bit of political calculation involved. Lugar is 75, and thus unlikely to run for the Senate again. Giving him another job would let the Republican governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, appoint a Republican replacement. Lugar just won re-election, so the successor would serve for nearly six years and have the advantage of incumbency when s/he stands for re-election in 2012 -- thus increasing the odds that the seat will stay in GOP hands.

Stanley Fischer I don't know much about. He's an economist, served as chief economist at the World Bank under Bush's dad before moving over to the International Monetary Fund. Sounds qualified, but I have no idea what his politics are.

Of course, I half expect Bush to nominate Harriet Miers just to prove he can....

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