Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Zoellick named to head World Bank

The speculation is over: President Bush will nominate Robert Zoellick to succeed Paul Wolfowitz as the new head of the World Bank.

A seasoned veteran of politics both inside the Beltway and on the international stage, Zoellick, 53, has a knack for mastering intricate subject matter and translating it into policies. He is known for pulling facts and figures off the top of his head. He also has a reputation for being a demanding boss.

Bush's selection of Zoellick must be approved by the World Bank's 24-member board.

The White House expects Zoellick to gain the board's acceptance. The senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of Bush's announcement, said so far other nations have had a positive reaction.

Bush would have been stupid to pick a controversial nominee, and he didn't. Zoellick's got experience and international credentials. He helped push through CAFTA, which might be an issue here at home but doesn't bother other countries too much -- with the exception of health-related groups like the Global AIDS Alliance, which don't like the drug patent protections Zoellick helped negotiate. In fact, he was so noncontroversial that he was the only rumored candidate I failed to discuss in my previous post on potential nominees! (Well, okay, that was just a boneheaded oversight on my part.)

The more interesting question is whether he will try to continue Wolfowitz's anticorruption drive, which (along with his Iraq war baggage) is what generated such antipathy for Wolfowitz. I hope so: Wolfowitz aside, I'd like to see things cleaned up a bit in that regard, as long as moral purity doesn't end up actually hindering the bank's main goal of reducing poverty.

Finally, for those of you who like suspense and intrigue, consider this statement from the World Bank:

The bank's executive directors, in a statement late Tuesday that made no mention of Zoellick by name, said it is essential the next president have a proven track record of leadership, experience managing a large international organization, a willingness to tackle governance reform and political objectivity and independence. While it had been informed that the United States will be nominating a candidate, the board also noted that nominations may be made by any executive director.

Allowing the United States to nominate the head of the World Bank is tradition and good politics, because the United States is the bank's biggest financial backer. But it's not a rule or a right. It would be interesting (though highly unlikely) if the directors decided to reject Zoellick for one of their own. First, it would be intriguing to see who their choice would be. Second, what would Bush's reaction be> Would he accept it if the person chosen is ideologically acceptable? Would he attempt to slash World Bank funding or even withdraw altogether?

That uncertainty -- and the turmoil that would likely ensue -- are the main reason Zoellick or some other U.S. nominee is a safe bet to run the place. It would be indicative of great disrespect for the Bush administration if the Bank decided to flout him.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew it wouldn't be long before some of the Dems started dumping on him, though. In typical fashion, Dem Barney Frank immediately had this to say:

"The second, high-ranking George W. Bush administration foreign policy, national security official in a row, I think is a mistake," said Rep. Barney Frank."

5/30/2007 10:34 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Er, so? People have opinions. Clinton's nominees were criticized by various people, most of them (shockingly) Republicans. You were expecting Zoellick to be appointed by acclamation, perhaps?

BTW, what does "in typical fashion" mean?

5/30/2007 11:07 AM  
Blogger "The Rake" said...

His platform is now set. Watch him preform on his own stage until he is removed.

5/30/2007 11:27 AM  

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