Tuesday, May 15, 2007

An Eye for an Eye, Chutzpah-Style

The panel of executive directors that reviewed Paul Wolfowitz' case for the World Bank has now made its recommendation, reported by BBC NEWS as follows:

The directors said the full board of the World Bank should consider whether Mr Wolfowitz was still able to provide effective leadership.

He is due to appear before the full 24-member board in Washington.

The board has the power to dismiss Mr Wolfowitz, reprimand him or report a lack of confidence in his leadership.

Last month Mr. Wolfowitz received a Chutzpah of the Week award for his unflagging defiance in the face of the World Bank's effort to investigate accusations of his wrongdoing in a systematic and disciplined matter. There certainly was no sign of chutzpah in the way in which the directors' panel went about their business; but all is not (yet) quiet on the chutzpah front.

The gauntlet has now been picked up by David Rifkin, one of Mr. Wolfowitz' friends who also happens to be a former lawyer for the Department of Justice. The way the BBC has reported the story, Mr. Rifkin seems to have recognized that, when logic does not support your case, your only recourse is a heavy dose of rhetoric:

Many people viewed the row as an anti-American power play by European countries, he said.

"If this attempted coup against Mr Wolfowitz succeeds, it would poison US relations with Europe for quite some time to come," he warned.

"This is not an effort to oust him by people from regions in the developing world who supposedly may have not been happy about his anti-corruption efforts, they are all for him. It is about the Europeans and it is about in essence poking this administration in the eye."

Now taking the alleged unethical (if not criminal) behavior of a single man and pumping up the rhetoric to the neoconservative scale of a clash of civilizations is chutzpah enough; but the poke-in-the-eye metaphor makes for some nice icing on the cake. Mr. Rifkin seems to be casually overlooking the extent to which the non-American members of the World Bank raised the eyebrows when President Bush used his prerogative to appoint to the World Bank presidency one of his own comrades-in-arms, who had been so instrumental in leading the United States into its current misadventures in Iraq, thus alienating almost all the member states of the European Union. Mr. Rifkin's metaphor practically clamors for the question of just who has been poking whom in the eye!

Nevertheless, it is too early in the week to be handing out a Chutzpah Award; and, in the cast of characters for this particular drama, Mr. Rifkin's is still a bit part. Still, the week is young. If the pro-Wolfowitz rhetoric continues to escalate and Mr. Rifkin gets more lines in this particular scene of the play, he may yet be in the running by the end of the week!

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