It's Mine, You Can't Have It
Team Bush may know the rules of fair play, but following them is a challenge.
Wouldn't that be something if Paul Wolfowitz said to the World bank Development Committee, "You're right. I shouldn't have used my position to promote my girlfriend and arrange a huge salary for her that was twice as large as allowed by bank rules. I resign." Well, it sure would be something! Grown-up statements like that coming from anyone appointed to anything by an American president are at least two years away. Our current crop of presidential appointees tend to cling passionately to their apointments. "Wolfowitz is very focused on his own wants and needs, so being responsible just isn't a priority," explains Devesh Kapur, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and co-author of the official history of the World Bank.
As a valuable member of Team Bush, Wolfowitz understands that everything is "theirs," while the rest of the world suspects that only certain things belong to them. Smaller, more vulnerable nations chafe at being seen as mere extensions of the United States. As a result, they can be overprotective of their belongings.
Take Ecuador, for example. Its current president, Alfredo Palacio, has decided that forking over 90 percent of his nation's new oil wealth to the World Bank while 60 percent of its citizens live in brutal poverty is not a good plan. However, that was the deal that was negotiated by former President "Dirty" Lucio Gutierrez, who is now a fugitive. A deal is a deal, yet President Palacio has asked to keep an extra tiny percentage of his nation's oil revenue.
Where will it all end? 51 percent of the World Bank is owned by the United States Treasury. When these down and out third world countries need a loan from the World Bank, they understand that there are obligations...obligations to transfer their water systems, their railways, their telephone companies, their nationalized oil companies to multinational conglomerates. That's how Enron came to own the water system of Buenos Aires, Vivendi of France got Argentina's rural water systems, Fleet of Boston and Citibank took Argentina's banks, and how British Petroleum grabbed Ecuador's oil pipelines, all at bargain basement prices.
And that's why Condoleeza Rice replied to President Palacio's plea by calling for new elections in Ecuador. Valued members of Team Bush know they don't have to share, and that should make it clear why White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino says that Mr. Wolfowitz continues to enjoy the president's full confidence.
Conflicts are bound to arise. That's why the president needs a trusted ally like Paul Wolfowitz to sit with people like President Palacio. Ecuador's president may be frustrated because he wants to share, so he might not be receptive to a discussion about the importance of sending 90 percent of his nation's new oil wealth to George Bush's World Bank. Mr. Wolfowitz is there to remind him that sharing is easier on some than others.