Finally, a sex scandal for Bush

The Bush administration has had its scandals — conflict of interest, incompetence, influence peddling, political vendettas — but it’s never had a sex scandal. Until now.

And it’s a most unlikely Lothario — World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz.

Wolfowitz is a lifelong veteran of academic, think-tank, foundation and government jobs of the kind that have “policy” in the title, not what the gang at Wal-Mart thinks of as “real jobs.” That resume has made him a skilled bureaucrat, but not so skilled at what might be called the “real world.”

That made him a natural to be one of the Bush administration’s leading architects of the war in Iraq as the No. 2 Pentagon official. He was among those who maintained that the war would be fought with minimal troops, at minimal cost and that grateful Iraqis would install the neocons’ favorite son, Ahmed Chalabi, as their leader. By now, the war would be long over and we would be pretty much finished with tidying up the rest of the Mideast.

We know how that turned out.

Acting under the McNamara Principle that if you botch a war, you get to be president of the World Bank, President Bush in 2005 named Wolfowitz president of the global-poverty-fighting World Bank, with a tax-free salary of about $400,000.

Problem: His girlfriend, Shaha Riza, worked for the World Bank. Nothing wrong with having a girlfriend. Wolfowitz was divorced. But having a girlfriend on your payroll is a big problem in Washington.

Wolfowitz personally arranged — and, given how Washington bureaucracies work, this must have taken a lot of his time — for Riza to be seconded to the State Department at a $60,000 pay increase to $193, 590, what the boys at the bait-and-tackle shop call “real money.” In fact, Riza was now making more than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s $186,000. One other thing: Rice has to pay tax on her salary; Riza, as a World Bank employee, does not.

Houston, we’ve got a scandal.

Wolfowitz kept his girlfriend on the payroll, but took personal charge of her career and gave her a fat raise. And it’s not clear from a distance what it is she actually does. She is variously described as a communications specialist or a senior gender coordinator. She is now working, still on the World Bank payroll, at something called the Foundation for the Future.

It also turned out, rather late in the game, that when Wolfowitz was at the Pentagon, one of his deputies arranged for a big defense contractor to sponsor Riza on a one-month tour of post-Saddam Iraq to report back on, well, something. Given the way the war turned out, we doubt she’s clamoring to go back.

All of this has put Wolfowitz’s job in jeopardy. The Bush White House has expressed “full confidence” in him and said the president wants him to remain in the job.

This is hardly one of the lusty, robust scandals of the Clinton years, but for the Bush administration it will have to do. Wolfowitz may beat beleaguered Attorney General Alberto Gonzales out the door for a return to what non-Washingtonians like to think of as “real life.”


(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)


  1. Sandy Price

    Most of the Bush appointees need to abuse their positions to flex their muscles. Is Wolfowitz otherwise qualitifed to run the World Bank? It is not a conflict of interest that he was very much a neoconservative wanting America to become an Empire? This is a conflict of our interest in an American Sovereignty which is protected in the Constitution. But hell, who is keeping tract of the Constitution these days?

    That poor old document took another hit yesterday when the Christian Legislation was passed to protect the unborn. Not the born! Never the born! Christians flexed their muscles yesterday and will continue to smear common sense even in the World Bank.

    Can America learn from this Bush force? Tom Delay’s wife was employed by Abramoff at $130,000 a year to keep his files in order. That was a tax deduction making all of us pay for this silly waste of money. Don’t talk to be about ethics in the Bush Administration.

  2. Cobaltkid

    Why is it that there is a different set of standards for those “inside the beltway”? Wasn’t it just the other day that a former National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, was caught filching classified documents.

    Wolfowitz’s qualifications for the World Bank position were zero. His goal of going after graft and corruption is admirable; however, how stupid can you be to put yourself on a different standard.

    Sandy, the lack of ethics is not limited to the Bush administration – it just seems thar way since so many problems have become public knowledge recently.

  3. suzyf921

    AS a girlfriend she fails in the sock department — no one should let their dude go out in socks like these, let alone to a Muslim country where it’s likely he’ll have to take off his shoes. Check it out…

    Clearly they’re not spending his $400,000 and her $193,000 on socks.

    But seriously as a former WB staff member (in the McNamara days) there has been a long line of poor choices by US administrations for WB president. AW Clausen — terrible former head of Bank of America. Barber Conable — bet you never heard of him. Wolfensohn — ok, maybe better than most but a truly impossible character. and now Wolfowitz who, as Cobaltkid points out above, had ABSOLUTELY NO qualifications for the job. Time to rethink the division of labor of the US getting to choose the WB head and the Europeans selecting the IMF head. That is old time thinking.