Wolfowitz or a Caricature? All Bets Are Off.

By Al Kamen
Monday, May 7, 2007

The memo from World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz to the bank staff -- published on Foreign Policy magazine's Web site last week -- was a shocker.

"As long as I remain bank president," the secret memo said, "I intend to continue enforcing my signature anti-corruption initiative. . . . My past life as deputy secretary of Defense under Donald Rumsfeld has taught me the importance of carrying out a plan with unwavering certainty.

"In that regard, I am writing to you with a stern warning," Wolfowitz wrote. "It has come to my attention that many of you are turning your internet browsers to TradeSports.com" -- where, he pointed out, there is active betting on the likelihood of a Paul Wolfowitz resignation.

"I hope you understand that any attempt by World Bank Staff to buy or sell these contracts will be considered insider trading in clear violation of my anti-corruption guidelines," Wolfowitz said. He then turned to discussions of the 42 former top officials of the bank calling for his ouster, or reports that his own deputy, Graeme Wheeler, told him he should resign. He naturally dismissed that option out of hand.

The stunning dispatch went on from there, saying detractors need to understand "the facts of life," namely that the president of the World Bank is picked by the president of the United States. "That's life; stop whining."

The respected French daily Le Monde, which had obviously been watching l'affaire Shaha here a bit too closely, put up a link to the memo -- with the headline "Paul Wolfowitz wants to prevent World Bank employees from betting on his resignation" -- and a translation of the memo.

A few hours later, Le Monde posted an "Oops" note on its site, Foreign Policy reported, after someone pointed out the "memo" was a spoof, written by Harvard economics professor Kenneth Rogoff, who worked a while back at the International Monetary Fund and is here as a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution.

The situation has gotten so strange that even obvious spoofs sound plausible.

The Decider Is a Commander Guy, Mostly

Correction of the week: Remember President Bush's speech last Tuesday to the Associated General Contractors of America, in which he excoriated Congress for meddling with military decisions in Iraq?

"The question is, who ought to make that decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear -- I'm the commander guy," Bush said, according to the White House transcript.

Seemed right. He was "The Uniter," and when that proved somewhat inaccurate he became "The Decider." And now "The Commander Guy."

The remark was much commented upon, including by our colleague columnist Eugene Robinson, who then did a flamenco on Bush's head in the form of an op-ed on Friday. That, in turn, may have prompted White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino to ask the transcribers to double-check. And sure enough, he actually said "a" commander guy. Thus the correction issued on Friday.

It's a critical distinction. The change means that all Bush really was saying was that he's someone who sides with the commanders. Except of course when he doesn't, such as when he rejected their recommendations at the outset to double the troops invading Iraq, or more recently, when he overrode strong misgivings among the brass and ordered the "surge." So he's "The Surger Guy."

Bremer's New Occupation Is Not Occupation

Spotted . . . Walking sans desert boots into a gathering of White House fellows around lunchtime Friday, former Iraqi viceroy L. Paul Bremer. Bremer, Medal of Freedom winner and author just like former CIA director George Tenet and retired Gen. Tommy Franks, now a consultant, could offer the fellows excellent advice on the next occupation.

An Unlikely Friend to Prostitution's Foes

The folks who are trying to fight human trafficking for prostitution may be surprised at the source of their latest boon: Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who operated an escort service, rid them of deputy secretary of state (and Palfrey client) Randall Tobias.

The anti-trafficking groups and allies in Congress had tussled with Tobias as recently as March 30, when Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) wrote her Appropriations pals Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) to object to a Tobias plan to let Agency for International Development officials at embassies -- where they would be subject to pressure from trafficking local officials -- determine funding for anti-trafficking programs.

Wolf had written to State a week earlier protesting a preliminary decision to cut all funding -- $8.5 million yearly -- for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. That "was an error," Tobias wrote back on April 16, just 11 days before he resigned. "The correct allocation . . . is $6.4 million," he said, a cut of less than 25 percent.

From Treasury to the Private Sector

Moving out . . . Longtime federal prosecutor and more recently Treasury Department inspector general Harry Damelin is headed for the private sector, becoming a partner in the D.C. office of Blank Rome. Damelin, who was inspector general at the Small Business Administration before moving to Treasury in 2005, had been chief counsel for the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and then senior counsel on the Senate's committee investigating 1996 election finances.

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