May 09, 2005

Not Such a Priority After All

Per an earlier post about public diplomacy, the exciting new era that will begin when the legendary Karen Hughes takes charge as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs will not be getting underway right this minute.

Maybe by the end of the summer. Said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher last April 18:

"We're not just dealing with slots and bodies and we have to take into account the individual's circumstances and wishes. We have a very strong public affairs and public diplomacy team now....We are reinforcing the team and that team will be further reinforced when Karen Hughes arrives."

Translation: Karen Hughes is a big shot from the campaign, she's tight with the President, and that means she gets here when she gets here. When her son's graduation is over, or she's moved him into his freshman dorm at college, or whenever.

One nice thing about nominations in the Bush administration: they sometimes generate fireworks once they get to the Senate, but before they arrive there you have plenty of time to comment on them if you missed the announcement for some reason.

Did I mention I wasn't too excited about this particular nomination? The impression I've had is that we've had some public diplomacy failures in this administration, and that both its supporters and critics are agreed that public diplomacy needs to be a priority. To be honest, I've also had the impression that to the President himself public diplomacy is just one of the things that the bureaucracy does, and it is just really neat that a friend of his recognized by all of political Washington as a big shot wants to try to make it better by sharing

"...the America I know with the people of the world, a country whose strength is our goodhearted people, a country where children, including my granddaughter, went door to door to collect money to help victims of the tsunami half a world away, where volunteers deliver meals to shut-ins and offer food to the homeless and visit prisoners, and where our government contributes billions to fight AIDS and improve basic services like water, electricity and health care that touch people's lives throughout the world."

But Ms. Hughes isn't quite ready to start sharing yet, which is OK because we have a very strong public diplomacy team at the State Department. Not strong enough that it couldn't stand further reinforcement whenever she decides she wants to show up, but really, really strong nevertheless.

Posted by at May 9, 2005 05:40 AM | TrackBack (8)

Whatever her talents or the lack of them, Ms. Hughes sittith at the right hand, and that empowers her tremendously. When she tells Egypt to mute the anti-American rhetoric on the state TV, for instance, or else we will cut off the $2 billion subsidy next year, they cannot be sure she is not powerful enough to deliver on her promise. .. Everyone she deals with will return her calls... None she deals with can be sure what displeases her will not get back to the throne, and with that working for her, she does not need to be a mental giant or a philosopher king.

Posted by: exguru at May 9, 2005 08:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There's also something else that no one else understood about WHY Karen Hughes, of all people, was going to State. Karen Hughes is a campaign strategist and a communications director for George Bush. Now she is going to Condi Rice's shop. Karen Hughes knows just about every in and out in every Republican state committee in the United States.

She knows jack about communicating with Arabs. That's not what she's there for.

When you see Condoleezza Rice touring the country making speeches about "the President's vision for ending tyranny in the larger Middle East", and those speeches just happen to be in states such as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, and lest we forget, New Hampshire and Iowa, you'll finally understand why Karen Hughes was sent to the State Department by George Bush.

It wasn't to make nice to Arabs.

Posted by: Section9 at May 9, 2005 12:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I suspect that the Hughes appointment is just going to fade away. Her position would be subject to Senate confirmation --- and as a Democrat I'd love to have the opportunity to investigate the Bush administration through the Hughes confirmation process.... and the Bush regime doubtless understands how embarrassing the process would be.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at May 9, 2005 01:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

S9: That would be, of course, an obvious if cynical explanation for the Hughes appointment. Is it more obvious or likely than mine, which is that Hughes is a close enough crony of the President's to be allowed to dabble in public diplomacy, and to show up for work whenever she feels like it?

I don't think so, and can think of some reasons why not -- for example, friends and campaign contributors often get ambassadorships in all administrations for their political help and because they want to be an ambassador. Hughes is a really close friend, and doesn't want to leave the country, so she rates an Under Secretaryship. But your view is possible also, and could I suppose evolve in that direction even if that isn't the intention now.

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