Monday, March 26, 2012 at 5:29 AM

Obama Nominates Korean-American to Head the World Bank

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Hillary has pooh-poohed reports about her heading to the World Bank [WB] with the same conviction with which she has pooh-poohed reports about her running for VP (or president again). But I am convinced that she could not resist the former if it’s handed to her on a silver platter; whereas, given the disappointment of 2008, she would clearly be loathed to pursue the latter.

Accordingly, I urge Obama to have his White House aides begin shining that platter.

(“Hillary: Running for VP or Heading to WB,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 16, 2012)

Well, so much for my advice: because instead of Hillary, Obama nominated South Korean-born U.S. academic Jim Yong Kim on Friday to be the next president of the WB.

Kim is a Harvard-trained medical doctor and former WHO official who is currently the president of Dartmouth College. For political junkies like me, however, what is most intriguing about his nomination is that it was Hillary herself who reportedly recommended him. Indeed, showing that they are still very much a 2-for-1 team, here is how her husband Bill weighed in:

Jim Kim is an inspired and outstanding choice to lead the World Bank… [Not least because of his] years of commitment and leadership to development and particularly health care and AIDS treatment across the world.

(The Envoy, Yahoo News, March 23, 2012)

More significantly, though, this is perhaps the surest sign yet that team Hillary intends to spend the next four years laying the groundwork for another presidential run in 2016. All indications are, however, that she’ll have to compete with VP Joe Biden for that top job. And there’s no question about which of these two will get Obama’s endorsement—even if political protocol will prevent him from announcing it before the end of the nomination process.

Meanwhile, in an ironic attempt to inject principles of democracy into the traditional process of handing the WB presidency from one American to another, a coalition of African states has nominated a Nigerian and a coalition of South American states has nominated a Columbian to challenge Kim.

Alas, it is almost certain that, just as it was with similar challenges to the EU’s nomination of Frenchwoman Christine Lagarde last year to head the IMF, these challenges will amount to little more than political grandstanding.

[T]he irony is not lost on me that a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ exists between the United States and Europe which calls for an American to head the World Bank and a European to head the IMF.

(“Lagarde to Replace DSK at IMF,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 16, 2011)

This is an untenable and unsustainable arrangement in an increasingly multi-polar world of course. Not to mention that the nominee of the African States, internationally acclaimed economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is easily the most qualified; or that, as a woman, she appeals to my political sense that women would be far better stewards of global finance. (Which is why I was so pleased to write Lagarde to Replace DSK at IMF, The iPINIONS Journal, June 16, 2011.)

It’s just that my racial sensibility (or pride) is such that I’d rather the Third World wait until the next White man is president to humble that good ol’ boy – instead of rallying for the first time in history to defeat the nominee of a U.S. president who just happens to be the first black president of the United States.  The racial irony in this would be too much to bear; to say nothing of the fodder it would provide the right-wing nuts who have been proselytizing the conspiracy that Obama was elected solely to undermine America’s power and influence in the world.

Besides, it is clearly a sign of Obama’s respect for the growing influence of these Third World countries that he nominated not just the first American of minority background to head the WB, but one who was actually born in a Third World country. Surely that is concession enough – from this U.S. president – for now….

Related commentaries:
Hillary: Running for VP or Heading to WB

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