For those of you who missed the Swift-sized op-ed by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times yesterday, here goes…

More Con Than Neo
By Maureen Dowd for The New York Times
Saturday 14 April 2007

In a festival of nepotism, Shaha Ali Riza reports to Liz Cheney at the State Department

Usually, spring in Washington finds us caught up in the cherry blossoms
and the ursine courtship rituals of the pandas.

But this chilly April, we are forced to contemplate the batrachian
grapplings of Paul Wolfowitz, the man who cherry-picked intelligence to sell
us a war with Iraq.

You will not be surprised to learn, gentle readers, that Wolfie in love
is no less deceptive and bumbling than Wolfie at war.

Proving he is more con than neo, he confessed that he had not been
candid with his staff at the World Bank. While he was acting holier than
thou, demanding incorruptibility from poor countries desperate for loans, he
was enriching his girlfriend with tax-free ducats.

He has yet to admit any real mistakes with the hellish war that claimed
five more American soldiers as stunned Baghdad residents dealt with the
aftermath of bombings of the Iraqi Parliament, where body parts flew, and of
a bridge over the Tigris, where cars sank.

But he admitted on Thursday that he’d made a mistake when he got his
sweetheart, Shaha Ali Riza, an Arab feminist who shares his passion for
democratizing the Middle East, a raise to $193,590–more than the taxpaying
(and taxing) Condi Rice makes. No doubt it seemed like small change compared
with the money pit of remaking Iraq–a task he once prophesied would be
paid for with Iraqi oil money. Maybe he should have remunerated his
girlfriend with Iraqi oil revenues, instead of ripping off the bank to
advance his romantic agenda.

No one is satisfied with his apology. Not the World Bank employees who
booed Wolfie and yelled, “Resign! Resign!” in the bank lobby.

Not Alison Cave, the chairwoman of the bank’s staff association, who
said that Mr. Wolfowitz must “act honorably and resign.”

Not his girlfriend, who says she’s the suffering victim, forced by
Wolfie’s arrival to be sent to the State Department (where, in a festival of
nepotism, she reported to Liz Cheney).

And not his critics, who say Wolfie has been cherry-picking again, this
time with his anticorruption crusade. They say he has used it to turn the
bank into a tool for his unrealistic democracy campaign, which foundered in
Baghdad, and for punishing countries that defy the United States.

Wolfie also alienated the bank by bringing two highhanded aides with him
from Bushworld, aides who had helped him with Iraq. One was the abrasive
Robin Cleveland, called Wolfie’s Rottweiler. The other was Kevin Kellems,
known as Keeper of the Comb after his star turn in “Fahrenheit 9/11,” where
he handed his boss a comb so Wolfie could slick it with spittle for TV.
(Maybe his girlfriend didn’t get enough of a raise.) Like W., Wolfie is
dangerous precisely because he’s so persuaded of his own virtue.

Just as Ms. Riza stood behind her man on the Iraq fiasco, so Meghan
O’Sullivan stood behind W.

Ms. O’Sullivan, a bright and lovely 37-year-old redhead who is the
deputy national security adviser, is part of the cordon of adoring and
protective women around the president, including Condi, Harriet Miers, Karen
Hughes and Fran Townsend.

Even though her main experience was helping Paul Bremer set up the
botched Iraq occupation and getting a reputation back in Washington “for not
knowing how much she didn’t know,” as George Packer put it in “The
Assassins’ Gate,” Ms. O’Sullivan was promoted nearly two years ago to be the
highest-ranking White House official working exclusively on Iraq and
Afghanistan.

It was clear that she was out of her depth, lacking the heft to deal
with the Pentagon and State Department, or the seniority to level with W.
“Meghan-izing the problem” became a catchphrase in Baghdad for papering over
chaos with five-point presentations.

But W. was comfortable with Meghan, and Meghan-izing, so he reckoned
that a young woman who did not report directly to him or even have the power
to issue orders to agencies could be in charge of an epic bungle, just as he
thought Harriet Miers could be on the Supreme Court.

This vacuum in leadership spawned the White House plan to create a
powerful war-czar to oversee Iraq and Afghanistan, who could replace Ms.
O’Sullivan when she leaves. The push to finally get the A-team on the case
is laughably, tragically late.

The Washington Post reported that at least five retired four-star
generals have refused to be considered; the paper quoted retired Marine Gen.
Jack Sheehan as saying, “The very fundamental issue is, they don’t know
where the hell they’re going.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.