Inside the beltway - The US has the influence to challenge Europe’s nominees for the IMF. What we don’t have is tact

The United States of America needs a PR agency - fast. Most of all, the US needs media training, message development, presentation skills - the works. And considering the stakes, a flat rate of somewhere around dollars 1 billion should be about right.

The United States of America needs a PR agency - fast. Most of all, the US needs media training, message development, presentation skills - the works. And considering the stakes, a flat rate of somewhere around dollars 1 billion should be about right.

The United States of America needs a PR agency - fast. Most of all,

the US needs media training, message development, presentation skills -

the works. And considering the stakes, a flat rate of somewhere around

dollars 1 billion should be about right.



This judgement stems from a consideration of the current international

flap over the selection of a new managing director for the International

Monetary Fund. The pending retirement of Michael Camdessus has created a

vacancy in an organization about as likely to create international

backbiting and visible America-baiting as, let’s say, selecting a board

member for the New York Yacht Club.



But this year, what seems to be extra-clumsy blundering by the US has

created a nasty situation in which Europeans - chiefly the Germans - are

fighting us publicly on behalf of their candidate, the African and Asian

countries are opposing us on behalf of their candidate, and the

Japanese, whose co-prosperity sphere of influence seems to be shrinking

visibly, are supporting still another.



The IMF, a sister fund to the World Bank, lends money to poorer

developing nations, often requiring tight spending curbs in return.

Since this often requires an end to subsidies for the poor (food,

gasoline, cooking oil) - and since much of the proceeds of these ’loans’

are promptly paid to US and European banks that were unwise enough to

grant large credits - the IMF often finds itself a target for citizens

of those developing countries.



And since we put up most of the money, we get more than an equal share

of abuse.



The tradition is to have a European head, and this year the European

countries united behind a German deputy finance minister, Caio

Koch-Weser.



The Africans and Asians responded with support for Stanley Fischer, the

IMF deputy director. In a fascinating footnote of political

incorrectness, Fischer (born in Zambia to European refugees and now a US

citizen) seems to be an authentic African American, but without the

hyphen.



But Koch-Weser has now been publicly opposed by the US as too

bureaucratic and without the ’grand vision’ the job requires. Madeleine

Albright and other top foreign policy types have bluntly said - publicly

- that he just won’t do.



The Europeans, for centuries, have done this kind of thing better and

more subtly. Their messages are non-provocative, and they stay on

message.



But for our country, the leader of the free world as we like to call

ourself, we come across like bullies. After all, we sent Jesse Helms,

the John Rocker of the Senate, to the UN a few months ago to lecture the

other members on proper behavior. The battle continues; wait for our

RFP.



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