Say It Ain’t So!

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on February 16, 2012

World Bank president Robert Zoellick has announced that he will step down on June 30th of this year. I have long been a fan of Zoellick’s–having gone so far as to try to write him in as vice president of the United States in 2008. I venture to say that my admiration for Zoellick is justified, given what he has achieved as the head of the World Bank:

When Zoellick took the job in July 2007, he turned the attention of the Bank to a brewing food and energy price crisis that was stoking social unrest in the poorest parts of the world.

As the bank looked for ways to help, the global financial crisis of 2008 threatened to undermine more than a decade of strong growth in emerging and developing countries.

Under Zoellick, World Bank lending increased sharply to $44 billion in fiscal 2010 from $13.5 billion in 2008, reflecting the increased development needs of fast-rising countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

Zoellick also won approval for an $86.2 billion increase in the Bank’s general resources. It was the first increase in more than 20 years. He championed more voting power for emerging economies and convinced China, Brazil and others to contribute more funding.

Despite budget strains in the developed world, Zoellick lobbied for and secured more than $90 billion in pledges to replenish a separate World Bank fund for the poorest countries.

In an effort to modernize the World Bank, he has given a greater voice to emerging economies. He has also championed the need for better governance in regions such as the Middle East, where street protests toppled dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

So now, World Bank watchers are wondering who will replace Zoellick at the helm. Many think that Hillary Clinton will be the institution’s next president.

And this is where I find the nearest wall, and bang my head against it.

Look, Hillary Clinton is no dummy, but she is one of the most overrated public officials in living memory. Her chief accomplishment as First Lady was botching health care reform. She got elected to the United States Senate after carpetbagging her way to New York–which coincidentally had an open seat upon the retirement of Daniel Patrick Moynihan–and won thanks to her celebrity status. Quick: Without using Google, name a major legislative accomplishment Hillary Clinton was responsible for. Heck, name a minor one.

Couldn’t do it, could you? Don’t feel bad; for what it’s worth, neither could I.

Oh, and there is more. Embarking on a presidential campaign that was the beneficiary of massive amounts of hype, and starting as the overwhelming favorite in the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton turned out to be one of the worst candidates in recent memory. It took a while for her to lose her frontrunner status, but when she did, the fall was spectacular. And who was the beneficiary? A fellow United States Senator who had no legislative accomplishments to his name, and who four years earlier was a state senator in Illinois.

As our current secretary of state, Clinton has achieved no diplomatic successes of note. The Middle East conflict still rages. The “reset” with Russia has brought about no positive changes. We still don’t have a China policy worthy of the name. Leftist dictators in Latin America have not been marginalized in any meaningful way. About the only thing that has been achieved on Clinton’s watch is a needless war with Libya whose legacy may yet prove disastrous. It is worth noting that the war was one that Clinton pushed for. It is equally worth noting that if anyone–including members of Congress–questioned her judgment, Clinton felt free to question the patriotism of her critics in response.

What a change from the past.

I recognize that the rumors concerning Hillary Clinton’s move to the World Bank are, for now, just rumors. But it is worth speaking out preemptively against the idea that Clinton–whose star power far exceeds her list of actual accomplishments–should be the president of anything, let alone an institution as important as the World Bank. Surely, the Obama administration can find a better candidate for the position. There could hardly be a worse one.

  • Tung Yin

    Would Barack Obama be a better candidate? <.<

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