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For Washington Insider, Job Was an Uneasy Fit
At Odds With the Bank
"Everyone who has been appointed president of the World Bank knew almost nothing about the bank, its business and its operations," said Moisés Naím, the former executive director of the bank who is editor of Foreign Policy magazine.
As member governments grumbled their displeasure at Wolfowitz's appointment by Bush, bureaucratic expectations were perhaps lower than usual. Wolfowitz's outreach was encouraging, but it came with signs that eventually became part of the indictment of his leadership.
Beyond the dispute over Riza, the negative stories about Wolfowitz now flowing from the bank focus on his travel and perceived self-promotion, his distance from the staff and his unilateral decision-making.
Everyone agreed with Wolfowitz's emphasis on stopping corruption in the governments that received World Bank loans. But when Wolfowitz unilaterally canceled loans in Cambodia, Congo Republic, India, Kenya and other countries on corruption grounds, the executive board ordered him to come up with a coherent policy -- and then rejected his proposals.
Wolfowitz's emphasis on increasing the World Bank footprint in Iraq was a contentious subject with staff members who argued that Iraq was dangerous and, because of its oil reserves, too rich for lending.
Although he indicated at the start that he planned to limit his travel, Wolfowitz spent much time on the road. One senior bank official expressed horror at Wolfowitz's suggestion, when logistics for an Africa trip seemed troublesome, that he would simply hop on a Defense Department plane.
"Several of us said: 'Uh, we don't think so. Actually, this is an international institution,' " the official recalled. "It was a kind of odd blindness that took people aback."
Many staffers expressed outrage at the media entourage that Wolfowitz brought along on his travels with the apparent purpose of raising his profile on the institutional Web site. Kevin Kellems, who joined Wolfowitz at the bank by way of Vice President Cheney's office, managed his public persona.
Kellems's unpopularity with bank staff and managers, however, paled beside that of Robin Cleveland, a former White House Office of Management and Budget national security official brought in by Wolfowitz as a "senior counselor." He delegated much of his managerial authority to her. It was Cleveland -- with no international development experience and a demeanor widely considered abrasive -- who often met with senior staffers on behalf of Wolfowitz.
In his statement to the bank board on the Riza deal earlier this month, Wolfowitz seemed to recognize that "what this is really about" was "my leadership and management style." He said that "there are some significant things that I need to change in order to regain the trust of the staff." He had "relied too long on advisers who came in with me from the outside."
Wolfowitz acknowledged the need for "more direct and frequent engagement with staff on substance," he said, adding: "I truly believe I can do much better."
Staff writers Rick Atkinson, Walter Pincus and Thomas E. Ricks and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.