Shocking News About the Next World Bank Boss

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So it's Kim after all. Amazing. It's a free and fair selection process, as we've been assured, yet the World Bank board has chosen America's nominee--just like last time, and the time before, and the time before...

Bloomberg reports,

The candidacies "enriched the discussion of the role of the president and of the World Bank Group's future direction," the board said in an e-mailed statement. "The final nominees received support from different member countries, which reflected the high caliber of the candidates."

Oh I'm sure they enriched it enormously. The system works. The American got the job, and there was a rich discussion too.

Plainly Kim's an outstanding man, even if not ideally qualified for the post. He might turn out to be exactly what the Bank needs (and better had do, after all this fuss.) I wish him well. But I hope that even he would agree that the process by which he was appointed is a disgrace and needs to be changed.

The Economist has a good and balanced note on the news. But I think I disagree with their commentator on one point.

[A]s Dan Drezner of the Fletcher School at Tufts University pointed out, Barack Obama was never, in an election year, going to give his opponents any unnecessary ammunition by failing to get his choice for the World Bank accepted.

True, once Obama nominated Kim, he was never going to accept any other outcome. The mistake was to nominate him--nominate any American, I mean--in the first place. In future, Drezner wants "the Americans and Europeans to gracefully and jointly commit not to nominate anyone for the next go-around of IFI leaders". Good idea! But why next time? What was wrong with this time?

Obama could have struck that bargain this year. It would have been a notable act of global statesmanship and would have won wide international applause. You say the Republicans would have attacked him for it? How, exactly? (a) The Bank is a waste of space and should be shut down. (b) It's vital than an American should be in charge. It doesn't really hang together. Fact is, the issue has no weight in domestic politics. Few voters care either way. (And for the few who think that America, on a point of principle, should never relinquish such prerogatives, Obama had a talking-point: Next time round an American would be eligible to run the IMF.)

It was a missed opportunity to do the right thing at little if any political cost. Those moments should be seized.

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Clive Crook is a senior editor of The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He was the Washington columnist for the Financial Times, and before that worked at The Economist for more than 20 years, including 11 years as deputy editor. Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics. More

Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics.

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