Friday, March 23, 2012

The president makes what looks to be one of his best appointments -- and the Senate GOP devils don't get to say word one


Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim, President Obama's surprise choice to head the World Bank, is seen here giving Conan O'Brien an honorary doctor of arts degree at last June's commencement.

"This is a huge step forward. If Kim becomes World Bank President, he'll be the first qualified president in 68 years. Kim's nomination is a victory for all the people, organizations, and governments that stood up to the Obama administration and demanded an open, merit-based process."
-- Mark Weisbrot, co-director of
the Center for Economic and Policy Research

by Ken

We have the answers to two questions, it appears. Earlier this week I wondered: "Come Friday, is Larry Summers really going to be our World Bank guy?" And in an American Prospect piece I quoted extensively, "Pick Me! Pick Me!," Robert Kuttner asked: "Why does Larry Summers have more lives than a cat?"

The answers appear to be: (1) amazingly, no; and (2) at least one fewer than he -- and the rest of us -- thought.

Today, you'll recall, was the deadline for nominations to succeed the retiring Robert Zoellick as president of the World Bank. Oh, other countries are allowed to make nominations too. They just don't count, under the standing agreement between us and the European lords of the economic universe that they get to pick the IMF head and we get to pick the World Bank head.

Actually, that's why I didn't really think Larry was going to get this job, which he seemed to want rather badly. I guess when you're goods as damaged as he is, those high-profile jobs don't come as easily as they once did. It has something to do with burning your bridges behind you -- or, increasingly, while you're still standing on them. (I'm thinking particularly of his inelegant departure from the presidency of Harvard.) And from what I've been reading, probably more important than the considerable amount of anti-Larry outcry that's been cried out domestically over the last couple of months has been the apparently unexpected blowback the White House has been receiving from those European partners, whose cooperation is required to proceed with the coronation.

Still, it's one thing to have not expected Larry S to get the nod. I assumed the president would find some other establishment stooge for it. But as usual, I may be getting ahead of the story. So let's back up. From the Washington Post:
Jim Yong Kim, Dartmouth College president, tapped by Obama to head World Bank

By Howard Schneider and Zachary Goldfarb

President Obama on Friday nominated Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank, a move that would turn the organization over to a physician and development expert as opposed to the bankers, corporate leaders and political officials who have run it since its founding.

At a morning Rose Garden ceremony, Obama said Kim was the right person to lead the bank, a source of development aid and loans for both poor and developing countries, when current President Robert Zoellick leaves office in June.

"It's time for a development professional to lead the world's largest development agency," Obama said, with Kim, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton standing next to him.

Despite growing frustration from developing countries over the United States's historic hold on the nominating process, Obama's decision to choose Kim all but guarantees he will be appointed to the post by the World Bank board.

Citing Kim's global experience and work on expanding HIV treatment, the president said the Korean-born physician would further the work of an institution that was important to the health of the world economy.

"When we reduce hunger in the world, it strengthens the entire world economy," Obama said. "Ultimately when a nation goes from poverty to prosperity, it makes the world stronger and more prosperous for everyone." . . .

Kim drew quick support, and one other candidate for the job, Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs, withdrew from contention in praise of Obama's choice.

Kim "is a superb nominee," Sachs said, a "world-class development leader." Sachs had campaigned openly for the job, arguing that the bank’s next leader should be a development expert rather than someone who had spent a career in finance. . . .

Kim, Dartmouth’s leader since July 2009, is a physician by training and an anthropologist. His background is in global health, and he has worked extensively on health issues in the developing world.

Kim directed the Department of HIV/AIDS at the World Health Organization and led the agency's "3 by 5" initiative, which sought to treat three million new HIV/AIDS patients in developing countries with antiretroviral drugs by 2005. (The goal was accomplished in 2007.)

Before coming to Dartmouth, Kim held professorships at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. He was born in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to the United States at age 5, eventually earning degrees from Brown University and Harvard.

Kim co-founded the global health organization Partners in Health. When he took the helm at Dartmouth, he became the first Asian American president of an Ivy League institution. . . .

President Kim had this to say to those of us in the "Dartmouth Community" (I may not be the most cherished of alumni, but I still get the e-mails):
March 23, 2012

To the Dartmouth Community,

I write to share the news that President Barack Obama has asked me to stand for nomination as president of the World Bank. This is one of the most critical institutions fighting poverty and providing assistance to developing countries in the world today. After much reflection, I have accepted this nomination to national and global service.

When I assumed the presidency of Dartmouth, I did so with the full and deep belief that the mission of higher education is to prepare us for lives of leadership and service in our professions and communities. While President Obama's call is compelling, the prospect of leaving Dartmouth at this stage is very difficult. Nevertheless, should the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors elect me as the next president, I will embrace the responsibility.

As Chair of the Dartmouth Board of Trustees Steve Mandel ’78 and I have discussed, if I am elected, our Board will take appropriate steps to ensure continuity of leadership and determine the timing of a search. For now, I remain president of Dartmouth. Steve and I will keep you informed of the nominating process and timing of a final decision by the World Bank next month.


Jim Yong Kim
President, Dartmouth College

This is from the CEPR release that contains the enthusiastic response to the appointment of co-director Mark Weisbrot (the other CEPR co-director, you probably recall, is one of our chief go-to economists, Dean Baker):
Weisbrot noted that much of Kim's career was with Partners in Health, which Kim co-founded. "Partners in Health is a uniquely dynamic and enormously capable organization that has implemented important changes in approaches to preventing and treating diseases and other health problems, and Kim deserves much credit for that."

Weisbrot noted, "However, the Bank's process is still deeply flawed because the majority of the world's countries are not really involved and I hope that for the next presidency, they will come together long in advance to agree on a candidate."

Weisbrot noted the importance of Jeffrey Sachs’ candidacy as having busted open the process and raised the bar for whom could be nominated. Sachs’ campaigning for the Bank's presidency was unprecedented in its openness, in Sachs' platform of reform for the Bank, and in terms of Sachs' qualifications as an economist with extensive experience in economic development and as a health expert, who, like Kim, has worked to fight diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

"Once Sachs was nominated, it was clear it would be very difficult for the Obama administration to follow past practice and simply choose, again, a political insider or a banker," Weisbrot said.

It appears to have been Secretary of State Clinton who suggested Kim to the president for the World Bank job. And since this nomination doesn't require Senate confirmation or input of any kind, for once the president doesn't have to play his familiar (and not very successful) game of footsie with "Miss Mitch" McConnell and his pack of Senate GOP jackals. Good going, Secretary Clinton -- and you too, Mr. President.

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At 1:15 AM, Blogger John said...

Senate approval may not be required but I predict the standard, manufactured, reich-wing outrage over the nominee's name, which is suspiciously similar to some of those North Korean devil-enemies of ours!!!!

John Puma

At 7:24 AM, Anonymous robert dagg murphy said...

We can only hope this appointment foretells some great leadership on the part of the President, going forward, and is another good reason to reelect him.

Thus far it has seemed he has put only the same old bunch of hacks in key positions starting with Rahm Emanuel, Larry summers and Tim Geithner. There must be better minds out there. Paul Krugmann comes to mind although he is doing great work now trying to inform.

We must get to universal health care and guaranteed annual incomes. Both of these progressive ideas were proposed by Richard Nixon, basing our economic system on our real condition which is abundance and not scarcity.

It is time to throw out Malthus and bring in Fuller.

At 4:40 PM, Anonymous me said...

some great leadership on the part of the President, going forward

Why would there be? I have seen precious little in three years.

another good reason to reelect him

Another? I have yet to see the first good reason.

At 9:04 PM, Anonymous robert dagg murphy said...

Because he's not a hateful, raciest, sexiest, anti-science, lair like all the Republicans.

He's also not a traitor.

Your ignorance astounds me me.


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