May 8, 2007 2:52 pm


When it comes to heading a large organization filled with an entrenched liberal/leftist elites, moderate/conservative wannabe change agents are hopeless babes in the woods argues David Brooks in Wolfowitz's Mistake . I wish I could disagree. They fall into the very same trap, writes Brooks.

Remember how Tomlinson was booted out of PBS?

Remember Larry Summers was forced to leave Harvard?

Couldn't they learn from the corrupt survivor Kofi Annan:

In most scandals, people adjust their standards of rectitude, depending on whether they support or oppose the person at issue. The subject’s enemies whip themselves into a fever of theatrical outrage, and the subject’s defenders summon up fits of indignation at the lies of the accusers. Scandals are playgrounds for partisans, and everybody else gets to play the role of the junior high school bully, ganging up on whoever seems weakest and most alone.

The Wolfowitz scandal is no exception. People who never called for Kofi Annan to resign amid the $12.8 billion oil-for-food scandal are calling for Wolfowitz’s head over a $60,000 raise. Employees at an institution that, according to one report, wasted $300 million last year, and where roughly 1,000 people make $175,000 to $200,000 a year, are suddenly outraged at lavish spending. Editorials and statements by critics around the world are carefully crafted to avoid mentioning any of the exculpatory evidence on Wolfowitz’s side.

There has indeed been an explosion of Machiavellian posturing. But the core reality is the context Wolfowitz allowed to develop. He let potential allies turn into enemies.

The fact is, you go into politics with the establishment you have, not the establishment you wish you had. For Republicans, this is an establishment that is initially suspicious, but is filled with human beings who can be worked with. They need to feel respected. They need to be consulted on things they know a lot about. If they feel disrespected, they’ll cut you no slack, and a small misstep could be career-ending. They will make it impossible for you to do your job.

This has happened to dozens of Republicans (and unpopular Democrats), and it is happening to Wolfowitz. And the only question is when will these appointees start learning the simple rules of effective democratic leadership?

Brooks is not just talking. He is surviving as the conservative columnist in the New York Times! To be honest, I identify with the sad threesome. I have never mastered the political skills Brooks described. Indeed, I have always wondered how men like Summers and Wolfowitz made it as far as they did with so many Elsworth Toohis gunning for them?

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