Propaganda czar Karen Hughes was one of the luminaries who spoke at PRSA's annual gabfest held in Philadelphia last week.

Regretfully, this blogger was not present when Hughes made one of the saddest comments of anybody in the nearly eight years of the Bush Administration.

According to Jack O'Dwyer's coverage [sub req'd] (neither PRSA nor the State Dept have yet posted Hughes' speech), the public diplomacy chief said America's opinion doesn't amount to a hill of beans. "People aren't just sitting around to hear from America anymore," said Hughes, whose job it is to get this country's point across.

How incredibly sad! America used to inspire the downtrodden throughout the globe. Voice of America and Radio Free Europe were outstanding carriers of the freedom message. It's true that times have changed with the fall of the Iron Curtain, but doesn't America still have the capacity to touch lives in a positive way?

The most powerful nation in the world has squandered its influence due to fear-mongering and endless war. On the economic front, things have fallen apart to the point at which Canada's loony buys more than an American dollar.

Another sign on these distressing times: Iceland's Bauger investment firm is mulling a takeover bid for the Saks Fifth Avenue chain. That's right, Iceland, an island noted more for its volcanoes, geysers and hot springs than for being an economic powerhouse, is thinking whether it should acquire an American icon.

Hughes told the PRSA crowd that American public diplomacy has largely been "outsourced" to the entertainment business. It's time to bring it back in-house.

She finds it difficult to get through to people because it's hard to communicate a "message of friendship and peace in a time of war." It's especially hard when you represent a country that largely stands alone in considering the occupation of Iraq a "war."

Hughes admitted that it will take decades for America to recover its reputation that has been severely tarnished by Iraq. In the interim, Hollywood will provide the world with the image of life in the U.S. ,Hughes said "Baywatch," which is largely noted for handsome men and shapely women lifeguards running around in skimpy bathing suits.

Heaven, help us.