It is doubtful that many people in this country are paying attention to the almost daily rumors being circulated by the Bush administration about candidates for the position of World Bank President, but as a former employee and sometime consultant for that fine (if flawed) institution, I am watching closely. The current President, Jim Wolfensohn, is stepping down this June at the end of his second 5-year term. In the corridors of the Bank, I've been critical of Mr. Wolfensohn, but on the whole I think his plusses outweigh his minuses. Although he seemed to crave sycophants (the heads of countless non-compliant vice-presidents testify), he's been a tireless, and I mean inexhaustible, advocate for the world's poor and for that I have to give him high marks.
If George Bush is serious about Bono (because of tradition and financial clout, the U.S. determines who the President of the Bank is, always an American), and the fact that Bono's not an American suggests he's not, then it would prove the administration has little regard for the Bank and multilateralism in general (as the appointment of John Bolton to be ambassador to the U.N. suggests). But there are other, more likely, candidates, who would be even more disastrous. Among them is the hated Paul Wolfowitz, who has no place in an institution as important as the Bank. Many of the other names are minor figures in the first Bush administration and, in my view, are far too political. Even Christine Todd Whitman, who had the good judgment to resign some time ago, is tainted.
The only name being floated, then, that seems to pass the smell test, is Carly Fiorina. I suspect her failure at HP was not completely her own doing; she has the experience of managing a huge organization; she is energetic, from what I can tell. The main question is whether she understands the critical importance of attacking poverty. Bush doesn't get it. But does Carly?