Get rid of Wolfowitz and nobody gets hurt

Europeans have a deal for Bush.

Published May 8, 2007 12:42PM (EDT)

A World Bank committee has found Paul Wolfowitz guilty of breaking bank rules by arranging a sweetheart deal for his sweetheart, and European governments are now offering the United States a deal: You still get to pick the next World Bank president, but only if Wolfowitz takes it upon himself to step down now.

As the New York Times reports, the European governments are trying to avoid a "public rupture" over Wolfowitz's fate among members of the bank's board. The Bush administration wants Wolfowitz to stay on the job, possibly after accepting some sort of reprimand from the board. Many European members want him gone. With the "deal" they're offering, the Europeans hope to wipe their hands of Wolfowitz while avoiding a head-on confrontation at the board. The theory they articulate: Even if the board votes only for a reprimand, it will be "effectively ... impossible" for Wolfowitz to stay on, the Times says.

One of Wolfowitz's top aides resigned Monday. Kevin Kellems, who worked for Wolfowitz at the Pentagon during the run-up to the Iraq war and later as Dick Cheney's communications director, quit as Wolfowitz's World Bank spokesman, a job in which he used to claim that the deal Wolfowitz arranged for his girlfriend had been "made at the direction of the bank's board of directors." As the Washington Post reports, that claim is no longer operational. Bank documents show that the board wasn't informed of all the details about the deal, and Kellems wouldn't repeat his claim about the board's involvement Monday.

A senior European official tells the Times that Wolfowitz's credibility is now "beyond repair." That may well be, at least among those who know, or care, what the word means. What the senior European official may not understand: Credibility among high-ranking officials doesn't always matter much to the fellow who lives in the White House.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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