Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Straining at the Gnat

The amusing thing about the Paul Wolfowitz -World Bank scandal -- apart, of course, from the pleasure of seeing at least one of the crew responsible for our disastrous war in Iraq put on the hot seat for something -- is how trivial the whole thing is. Paul Wolfowitz, the man who told us that the reconstruction of Iraq would be self-financing, when in fact Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost the U.S. more than $500 billion (it'll go to $746 billion if Congress approves the Administration's current fiscal requests), is now getting nailed for getting his girlfriend an improper raise of about sixty thousand dollars.

Sixty thousand dollars? Couldn't he have found that amount in his own pocket? You might think that someone accustomed to wasting hundreds of billions of other people's dollars wouldn't have bothered to debase himself for such a small sum. But I guess the flip side is that once you've blown away $500 billion in public money it doesn't occur to you that anyone could complain about $60,000.

By the way, Christopher Hitchen's defense of Wolfowitz conveniently omits some important facts. Yes, Wolfowitz got advice from the Bank's ethics committee that it was OK to get his girlfriend an "in situ" promotion and a transfer to a position outside the Bank as compensation for the disruption to her career. But, as the Bank's General Counsel recently made clear, no one told him it was OK to give her an extraordinary raise, to guarantee favorable performance evaluations while she was on her outside job, and to guarantee her another promotion on her return. No, Wolfowitz had his hand in the cookie jar. I'm just surprised he would bother to reach for such a small cookie.

No comments: