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President Bush will nominate former U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick to be president of the World Bank, that's according to White House official who said the president will the announcement tomorrow. Zoellick will replace Paul Wolfowitz, who was forced out of the position. Wolfowitz came underfire for how he handled a promotion for his girlfriend and for his leadership of the bank.
NPR's Adam Davidson is following this story and he's with us now. Adam, Robert Zoellick, now at Goldman Sachs, former U.S. trade representative, former deputy secretary of state - one can hardly imagine a better resume for becoming president of the World Bank.
ADAM DAVIDSON: Yeah. Robert Zoellick has, especially for Republican Washington insiders, he's about as golden as it gets. He's had very prominent positions in President Reagan's cabinet, in the first President Bush's State Department, and this president has appointed him already to two prominent positions.
Although Zoellick has - let it be known quite openly - that he was very upset that he was not named Treasury secretary in 2005, and he was also upset that he wasn't named World Bank president in 2005, when Wolfowitz was given the job. So Zoellick, sort of, gave up Washington, joined the private industry at Goldman Sachs, which is one of the world's most powerful and important financial institutions.
So almost, probably had the same access to world government leaders the last few years.
SIEGEL: And we should note that when he didn't become Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson left Goldman Sachs to take that job, and he went to Goldman Sachs.
DAVIDSON: Exactly. Yeah. Goldman Sachs has famously given a lot of major - traded a lot of people to Washington - Robert Reuben. President Clinton's Treasury secretary also came from Goldman Sachs, so it's folks from both sides of the aisle.
SIEGEL: Now, there is a process for approval of the U.S. president's choice over president of the World Bank. We assume it will be approved, but explain again what the process is.
DAVIDSON: Well, by practice, ever since the World Bank started in 1946, the practice or the tradition has been that it's always an American, appointed by the U.S. president. Technically, that person doesn't need to get approval from the World Bank's executive directors, who are an international group of 24 folks from different countries all over the world.
But nobody expects them to turn this guy down. There were some calls to reform that system, but it doesn't look like the U.S. is interested in reforming that system and opening up the leadership of the bank to the world, just like the International Monetary Fund, traditionally a European runs that. And Europe doesn't seem very interested in opening that position up.
SIEGEL: Now, apart from Paul Wolfowitz' part from the issues over his companion, there were questions about some of his approaches to running the World Bank, the way he managed it and his concern with corruption, say. What challenges face Mr. Zoellick when he takes over?
DAVIDSON: Well, yeah. Paul Wolfowitz' problems at the bank started long before any issues about his girlfriend, his companion. This is one of the most complex bureaucratic institutions I think that man has ever devised - its 10,000 people from all over the world, very different politics. One of these places where you really need a brilliant bureaucratic mind to negotiate, and Wolfowitz just was seen as unsuccessful.
Now, Zoellick, almost universally, is considered a brilliant, capable person, but he has never run a huge staff. In fact, at the State Department, he was technically in charge of much of the State Department's staff. And people say he didn't do a great job at the politics, so that's a concern. Is he an idea man? Yes. Is he a manager? We'll have to see.
SIEGEL: Thank you, Adam.
DAVIDSON: Thank you.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Adam Davidson speaking to us from New York.