Obama’s pick for World Bank chief shows that elections have consequences

Elections have consequences. And parties matter.

That’s my quick conclusion from the announcement by Barack Obama that poverty expert Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the current president of Dartmouth, will be his selection to head the World Bank.

As Daniel Drezner says, this is truly an “out of the box” selection. Here’s Fred Hiatt, who calls this an “inspired” pick:

Kim’s appointment to head the Bank is pioneering...The mission of the World Bank is to help lift people out of poverty, and Kim will be the first bank leader who has dedicated most of his professional life to working with and for the world’s poor...

Past World Bank presidents have included many eminent men...Most of them, however brilliant they were, had to learn on the job about the challenges of poverty and development. That won’t be a problem for Kim.

It’s very difficult for me to imagine John McCain, had he won the presidency — or a President Mitt Romney, for that matter — reaching out beyond the usual bankers and recycled government officials to choose someone like Kim. But it’s not at all hard to picture Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden or Chris Dodd picking him.

Presidents don’t make these types of picks on their own. They select them from a list (perhaps in some cases a very short list) that is generated for them by White House and agency staff. And the truth is that Clinton or Biden or Dodd would have either had the same people to turn to, or very similar people, and those people would have generated similar short lists — but McCain or Romney, would have had an entirely different set of advisors, and thus a very different short list.

It’s unlikely that very many of the people who volunteered on phone banks and went door to door for Obama in 2008 were thinking about the future head of the World Bank. But it’s probably safe to say that most of them will be pleased to see an expert on global poverty take over an organization that can really do something about it. It’s decisions like these that remind us why elections matter.

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