Secretary of State Condi Rice says we are going to miss propaganda czar Karen Hughes. If that’s the case, we are all in big trouble.
Taking a page from Karl Rove’s playbook, Hughes is quitting Washington to return to her beloved Texas, leaving President Bush “sad,” but understanding. One can’t knock our embattled President for longing to return to his Crawford spread.
This blogger trusts the President will look beyond his circle of very, very close friends to find a qualified replacement for Hughes, who treated public diplomacy as if it could be waged in a bubble unaffected by the events of the world. Politics and loyalty to the President played a too big part of Karen's world.
Hughes, for instance, told reporters that “negative events never help” when practicing the arts of PD. And what negative event was the former newscaster talking about? It was the September slaughter of 17 Iraq civilians by Blackwater security guards, a shooting that generated howls of rage throughout the Iraqi Government and the Arabic world. One wonders if Hughes believes the U.S. occupation of Iraq might miff some in that neighborhood.
As public diplomacy czar, Hughes spent a lot of time courting female audiences. It was a form of “tea time” diplomacy, filled with talk of sisterly empowerment. Rice cited that “outreach to women” in praising Hughes’ accomplishments during today’s press conference. For the U.S., binding with anybody in the Arab world is a plus, but women aren’t the suicide bombers or IED planters who are killing American troops and blowing up people in Madrid and London. A more masculine or muscular PD outreach is in order.
Hughes is leaving after a somber presentation to PRSA’s national conference last week. She told the crowd that the rest of the world doesn’t much care what Americans think these days, and that it will take years to fix our reputation.
A suitable successor to Hughes will be a person who takes an honest look at American foreign policy. The most aggressive PD cannot mask the shortcomings of American activity overseas. After all, actions speak louder than words.