Amid the sensational and salacious details of charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn (and his subsequent resignation), it has been widely recognized that the "roots of the catastrophe" may have been in part the International Monetary Fund's lax attitude toward DSK's 2008 sexual harassment of an IMF employee. Less commented on is the media's double-standard treatment of that three year-old scandal as compared with its savage coverage of less serious controversy when the World Bank (a related institution, usually run by an American; the IMF traditionally is headed by a European) was headed by an internationally despised American neo-con.
Paul Wolfowitz became World Bank head in 2005, after serving as Deputy Defense Secretary under President Bush. A tireless advocate of African development, he also strengthened anti-corruption policies and emphasized "good governance." He spoke five languages, including Indonesian. But, as one of the principal authors of the preemption doctrine used to support the Iraq invasion, he was widely derided by Europeans and American liberals as an ideologue and war-monger.
Wolfowitz, who was divorced during his time at the Bank, became enmeshed in a furor about his long-time girlfriend Shaha Riza, a British subject born in Tunisia who had worked for the Bank since 1997. The relationship began well before Wolfowitz got the job, and was disclosed to the Bank Board upon his nomination. The Bank forced her to leave, after giving her a substantial raise and continuing to pay her salary in her new position at the State Department--requiring Wolfowitz to help negotiate her promotion and new job.
When the information became public in Spring 2007, Wolfowitz was forced to resign. This is despite the fact Riza wouldn't have worked directly for Wolfowitz, and the fact that two previous Bank chiefs had spouses working for the bank. France’s finance minister at the time, Thierry Breton, took the lead in challenging Wolfowitz, calling the Bank:
an institution whose governance and ethics must obviously be impeccable. I fully trust the governing board to draw the consequences it must draw.Most other Europeans were similarly outraged.
The media labeled recent charges against Strauss-Kahn as France's "Anita Hill moment." That's risible for equating alleged harassment with alleged rape (we've seen this movie before). But it's also a startling contrast to the press reaction to the 2008 revelation that Strauss-Kahn pressured a female subordinate into sleeping with him, as the May 27th Wall Street Journal recounts:
The IMF board gave Mr. Strauss-Kahn merely a wrist slap for a "serious error of judgment," along with board assurances that the episode would "in no way affect the effectiveness of the Managing Director in the very challenging and difficult period ahead."For the media, "Anita Hill moments" are invoked mainly against conservatives, not socialist aristocrats. And the world is worse for it, as Kenneth Anderson says at Volokh Conspiracy:
All this was dutifully reported by the press at the time as one of those nothing-to-see-here stories. It also made for a striking contrast to the media's overdrive when it came to trumpeting the unreal (in every sense) "scandal" that had brought down World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz the previous year. And one has to wonder why.
Remember that Mr. Wolfowitz's alleged sin was that he had arranged a job transfer, along with a substantial raise, for his companion Shaha Riza, a bank employee at the time Mr. Wolfowitz took the helm in 2005.
But any suggestion that favoritism had been involved quickly fell apart when it came to light that Mr. Wolfowitz had disclosed the relationship with the bank's board before taking the job; that he had sought to recuse himself from the matter; that the bank's ethics committee had forbidden him from recusing himself; and that the committee had also directed him to arrange a promotion and pay raise for Ms. Riza "on the basis of her qualifying record" and out of concern for the "potential disruption" to her career for a conflict of interest that was not of her own making.
That was it. Yet outside of these columns, few other news outlets could be bothered to report the facts. Was it because Mr. Wolfowitz, as one of the most prominent advocates for deposing Saddam Hussein, was such a convenient media villain? Or because the board and management of the bank were so resistant to Mr. Wolfowitz's aggressive anti-corruption agenda, and all too happy to leak selective and bogus information to suggestible journalists?
The answer was both. In the end, the bank board formally acquitted Mr. Wolfowitz of all charges of ethical misconduct, though it got what it most wanted, which was his resignation. Under successor Robert Zoellick the bank is out of the news and back to the business-as-usual of shoveling money out the door. How wonderful: Its annual claims on the American taxpayer now exceed $2 billion.
As for the IMF, his sexual pursuit of underlings forgiven, Mr. Strauss-Kahn was treated in the media as a hero for pushing vast sums on bankrupt economies like Greece. Even now, with the bailouts failing and their mastermind on bail, he is seen as a visionary brought low by his fatal flaw.
Yet what ought to be clear is that the reason Mr. Strauss-Kahn was so popular within the IMF (female company excepted) was that his own behavior was so in tune with the ethos of the institution. Here is a place where power can be exercised without electoral accountability, privileges can be enjoyed without scrutiny, salaries can be claimed without taxes, and other people's money can be spent with abandon.
He thrived because he enhanced the power of the IMF and did the political bidding of the same European countries that loathed Mr. Wolfowitz's independent streak.
On balance I regard the Bank as a valuable global organization, and the IMF as well. Still, wading through the tenured and untouchable staff commentary on l’affaire Wolfowitz as the staff lobbied in righteous anger against having had someone as horrible as Paul Wolfowitz imposed on them by the wicked George W. Bush caused me moments of doubt. One thing I am not in doubt of, however, is that the staff of international organizations, whether the IMF, the WB, or organs of the UN, would far rather be led by a DSK -- "errors of judgment" and what amounts to a droit de seigneur and $3,000 a night hotel suites and first class flights and all -- than a Paul Wolfowitz. Which is one reason why international organizations are what they are.And will remain so long as the media treats liberals more favorably than conservatives.
May 31st NY Post:
Another international moneyman has been busted for sexually assaulting a maid at a luxury Manhattan hotel, cops said last night.(via Hot Air)
Mahmoud Abdel-Salam Omar -- the 74-year-old former chairman of Egypt's Bank of Alexandria -- allegedly groped and "gyrated" against the maid in Room 1027 at The Pierre hotel on Fifth Avenue, a law-enforcement source told The Post.
He was wearing a bathrobe at the time, but it was not clear what, if anything, he had on under it.