TODAY SENATOR JOE BIDEN, vice chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading Democratic foreign policy voice in that body, voiced strong support for Paul Wolfowitz as President George W. Bush's choice to head the World Bank.
Biden described Wolfowitz, currently deputy secretary of defense, as a man with an "active and fertile mind" who believes in the work of multilateral institutions. Asked for his reaction to the selection, Biden responded with one word: "Solid."
He then elaborated. "Paul is a brilliant guy and a serious person. My differences with Paul relate to his assessment of what we would have to face in Iraq after the war." Wolfowitz's role as the chief intellectual architect of the Iraq war served as the basis for a question for President Bush at his morning press conference today from New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller.
She began: "Paul Wolfowitz, who was the-a chief architect of one of the most unpopular wars in our history-
Bush interrupted: "That's an interesting start."
Bumiller: "Is your choice to be the president of the World Bank. What kind of signal does that send to the rest of the world?"
Bush noted that he had called Silvio Berlusconi and other European leaders in advance of the announcement. "I explained to them why I think Paul will be a strong president of the World Bank. I've said he's a man of good experience." Bush added: "He's a skilled diplomat [who has] worked at the State Department in high positions. He was ambassador to Indonesia where he did a very good job representing our country. And Paul is committed to development. He's a compassionate, decent man who will do a fine job in the World Bank."
The position does not require Senate confirmation but depends on the approval of European leaders. Biden said he believes Wolfowitz will enjoy strong support in Europe. "I've had a lot of talks about Paul in European capitals. They know him as a serious intellectual and an engine of change."
Although some Democrats have criticized the selection, notably House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, others have praised the pick. "I know him to be an extraordinarily intelligent, creative thinker who has the potential to do a good job at the World Bank," said Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, regarded as one of the Senate's most partisan members.
Stephen F. Hayes is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.