Issue Date: March 25, 2005
Scratching our heads
President Bush has nominated Karen Hughes, a former TV reporter from Texas and long-time confidante and adviser, for a new job -- undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs -- which essentially means trying to change the rotten image the United States now has overseas, particularly in the Arab world.
The 48-year-old Hughes went from TV reporter at a Fort Worth station, where she started in 1977, to Texas press coordinator for Ronald Reagans 1984 re-election campaign. Since then she has worked mostly in politics, as head of the Texas Republican party and later as adviser and confidante of then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush and most recently as Bushs director of communications during his first term in the White House. She resigned that post in 2002 to spend more time with her family.
Shes married to Jerry Hughes, an Austin attorney, and teaches Sunday school and serves as an elder in her Presbyterian church.
Its a nice résumé. Theres nothing to raise alarm, as far as we can tell. But we wonder about a few things.
First, has anyone bothered to ask whether the rest of the worlds dismal perception of the United States is due, at least in part, to President Bushs dependence early in his first term on advice from Karen Hughes, who was referred to then as the most influential person in the White House?
Second, is this really a problem of public relations or is it a case of bad policies that no amount of spinning will undo?
And might it be just as beneficial to institute an undersecretary of state for public listening? Perhaps if we spent some time understanding the gripes of the rest of the world, especially why were so disliked in the Arab world, explaining ourselves might take on a different tone.
Finally, shouldnt we expect the worlds last global superpower, with wealth untold and access to the best minds on the planet, to find someone with a deep understanding of the rest of the world, particularly the Arab world, to do the explaining? Should we really leave it to a former Texas TV reporter whose primary experience is presidential election politics and White House message spinning?
But then Mr. Bush also just appointed John Bolton, an avowed detractor of the United Nations as ambassador to the United Nations, and Paul Wolfowitz, who more than any other individual has managed to anger the rest of the world, as head of the World Bank.
Maybe it all makes sense.
National Catholic Reporter, March 25, 2005
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