Lessons of the fall

Today’s Wall Street Journal editorial addresses the World Bank’s cashiering of Paul Wolfowitz while clearing him of ethical misconduct. The Journal derives lessons from the events:

There have been plenty of outrages in the bank’s treatment of Mr. Wolfowitz, but for sheer chutzpah nothing exceeds the argument of last week’s report by the investigating committee of the board that he had put the institution “in a bad and unfair light” by daring to defend himself publicly against selective and false media leaks designed to smear him. Had Mr. Wolfowitz taken that advice, he would have been out on his ear without so much as the benefit of the formal acquittal he has now received.
As for the Bush Administration, it might be in a better position now had it defended its man as vigorously as he defended himself. Instead, its officials were slow to understand what was happening and–with the exception of President Bush himself–largely mute as the coup unfolded. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson took the line that the U.S. would allow the bank process to work itself out, when it ought to have been clear that the process itself was rigged.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice remained on the sidelines until the very end, and her reported “quiet diplomacy” on Mr. Wolfowitz’s behalf was precisely the wrong way to fight a battle being waged on front pages. Her behavior in this case is reminiscent of her pre-emptive capitulation on the famous “16 words” in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union, words that Britain’s Butler Report later concluded were “well-founded” but which now are a defining myth of the left’s “Bush lied” theology.
Mr. Paulson and Ms. Rice may think that by staying on the sidelines of the Wolfowitz fight they have safeguarded their own political capital. Perhaps, but the precedent being set by Mr. Wolfowitz’s departure will damage not just the Bush Administration in the time it has left but U.S. interests for years to come.

The New York Times discredits Wolfowitz’s exoneration by the bank board, “most” of whom “by all accounts” anonymously disavows their own statement:

By all accounts, the terms of Mr. Wolfowitz

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