Wolfowitz's problem is that he's too good at math.

Military analysis.
May 18 2007 5:59 PM

Paul Wolfowitz's Real Problem?

He's too good at math.

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He came to the World Bank unchanged in this regard. The controversy over his "girlfriend" was only the tipping point in the tale of his downfall. Long before that disclosure, Wolfowitz had steadily incurred the wrath of senior staff members by simply being his cliquish, dismissive, politically insensitive self. Only this time, he enjoyed neither the protection of superiors nor the obligations of subordinates. (He was the superior; and the bank's rank-and-file officials are appointees of other nations' governments.)

Wolfowitz fomented resentment from the start of his tenure, when he brought in Kevin Kellem from Vice President Dick Cheney's office, to run his unusually aggressive PR machine, and—more alienating still—Robin Cleveland, a national-security analyst from the White House's Office of Management and Budget, to serve as his "senior counselor" and, in effect, the abrasive intermediary between himself and the senior staff.

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Bank officials worried, from the outset, that Wolfowitz would always be fundamentally a Bush man—that he wouldn't get the special qualities needed to run an independent organization like the World Bank—and their worries proved true. An excellent article by Karen DeYoung in today's Washington Post reports that, once, when Wolfowitz wanted to travel to Africa and the logistics seemed difficult, he told a senior World Bank official that he'd simply hop on a Defense Department plane. The official "expressed horror." DeYoung quotes the official recalling, "Several of us said, 'Uh, we don't think so. Actually, this is an international institution.' It was a kind of odd blindness that took people aback."

An "odd blindness"—that's been Wolfowitz's trouble everywhere he's been for the past decade. It took, perhaps, an odd optimism to imagine it might somehow be otherwise.