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Why Not Paul Farmer at US-AID

PEF2005 New Orleans After endless delays and speculation the Administration announced that Dr. Rajiv Shah, currently an Department of Agriculture official and formerly an executive with the Gates Foundation, would become the head of the United States Agency for International Development (US-AID) last week.  From all reports he sounds like a competent administrator and a first rate player in this area, but I keep looking under the rock to try and understand what happened to long reported likelihood of an appointment of Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health, Harvard hotshot, rock star do-gooder in Haiti, Rwanda, and elsewhere, and subject of a near fawning biography by Tracy Kidder?  I’m sure Farmer is not quite a saint, but certainly the Obama administration knew that his appointment at US-AID would have been a total game changer.  How – and why – did the Administration drop the ball after leaving Farmer’s name hanging out there for this job for more than 6 months?

Scouring the internet, the only comment I could find attributable to Farmer points to the overly intrusive vetting process.  Nicholas Kristof of the Times in a blog a month ago seem to say the White House was concerned about various public comments Farmer had made in the past.  Secretary of State Hilary Clinton lashed out at the delays in filling this position.  Former President Bill Clinton now a special envoy to Haiti seems to have pulled some strings and had Farmer named a UN Special Envoy for Haiti as well.  All of that seems orchestrated to make a hard pill easier for Farmer to swallow and the public to buy.

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