www.wolfowitzresign.com May 21, 2007

"Mission (Actually) Accomplished!" We are retiring. Good luck with the search for a successor.

Friday, April 27, 2007

News Round Up, May 3, 2007

New York Times - Committee Is Likely to Say Wolfowitz Broke Rules
Financial Times - World Bank rejects 'rush to judgment'
New York Times - Wolfowitz's Big Mistake by David Brooks (see comment for full story)

1 comment:

wolfowitzmustresign said...

The New York Times

Wolfowitz's Big Mistake

3 May 2007

Let me offer some advice.

Let's say you're a Republican appointed to an important job in Washington. You'll probably find that 90 percent of the people who work in your agency are Democrats, as are 90 percent of the media types who cover you and 90 percent of the academics who comment on your work.

But here's the thing to remember: There are Democrats, and then there are Democrats. A quarter of the Democrats you'll work with are partisans. They believe the rantings of the agitprop pundits, and they'll never be open-minded toward you. But the other three-quarters are honorable, intelligent people. If you treat these people with respect, and find places where you can work together, they will teach you things and make you more effective. If you treat them the way you treat the partisans, they'll turn into partisans and destroy you.

The choice seems pretty obvious, yet Republican after Republican mucks this up. Which brings us to the case of Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank.

Wolfowitz came to the bank with the heavy baggage of Iraq. Nonetheless, most of the (left-leaning) employees were open to him, and even saw ways his background could help him solve the bank's problems. Furthermore, you have to remember that the bank is staffed by people who are criticized from all directions and are desperate for approval and support.

Wolfowitz had an opportunity to be their champion, but he forfeited that opportunity by being aloof. As David E. Sanger and Steven R. Weisman of The Times have detailed, he entered a treacherous swirl of political, institutional and personal currents and navigated them poorly. Having failed to woo the open-minded people at the bank, it was inevitable they'd be out to get him.

Wolfowitz now argues that the scandal involving his girlfriend's pay raise is ''plainly bogus.'' He tried to recuse himself from her case but was forbidden by the ethics committee. Moreover, last year the committee looked into the general arrangements he'd made for her and concluded ''after careful review'' that the allegations ''do not appear to pose ethical issues appropriate for further consideration by the Committee.''

Wolfowitz has a point. The conflict of interest charge is out of proportion to the hubbub. But scandals are like that -- they are never about what they purport to be about. The Clarence Thomas scandal wasn't about a hair on a soda can. The Larry Summers scandal wasn't about comments at a conference. Most scandals are pretexts for members of an establishment to destroy people they don't like.

In most scandals, people adjust their standards of rectitude, depending on whether they support or oppose the person at issue. The subject's enemies whip themselves into a fever of theatrical outrage, and the subject's defenders summon up fits of indignation at the lies of the accusers. Scandals are playgrounds for partisans, and everybody gets to play the role of the junior high school bully, ganging up on whoever seems weakest and most alone.

The Wolfowitz scandal is no exception. People who never called for Kofi Annan to resign amid the $12.8 billion oil-for-food scandal are calling for Wolfowitz's head over a $60,000 raise. Employees at an institution that, according to one report, wasted $300 million last year, and where roughly 1,000 people make $175,000 to $200,000 a year, are suddenly outraged at lavish spending. Editorials and statements by critics around the world are carefully crafted to avoid mentioning any of the exculpatory evidence on Wolfowitz's side.

There has indeed been an explosion of Machiavellian posturing. But the core reality is the context Wolfowitz allowed to develop. He let potential allies turn into enemies.

The fact is, you go into politics with the establishment you have, not the establishment you wish you had. For Republicans, this is an establishment that is initially suspicious, but is filled with human beings who can be worked with. They need to feel respected. They need to be consulted on things they know a lot about. If they feel disrespected, they'll cut you no slack, and a small misstep could be career-ending. They will make it impossible for you to do your job.

This has happened to dozens of Republicans (and unpopular Democrats), and it is happening to Wolfowitz. And the only question is when will these appointees start learning the simple rules of effective democratic leadership?