Foreign Policy Blogs

Glassman to Replace Hughes as Public Diplomacy Czar

James K. Glassman President Bush recently nominated a new Undersecretary of State for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy, to replace the outgoing Karen Hughes. His pick, James Glassman, is currently chairman of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, the government agency that oversees U.S. international broadcasters, and a a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank. His background, however, lies in US economic and technology policy. You can read more about him here. The AP reports that given the brevity of his term (13 months until the newly elected administration takes office in January 2009), Glassman was chosen "in part because he has already won Senate confirmation for his current job, which he began in June, and the administration was looking for someone who could avoid a bruising confirmation fight in an election year." Mr. Glassman will be in charge of improving America's image abroad and leading US efforts to "counter violence and extremism and further the principles of democracy and liberty." After Bush's term expires in 13 months he'll go back to thinking about the American economy. This appointment has drawn the usual snide remarks from the public diplomacy-watchers. Many pundits joked about the book Glassman co-authored, Dow 36,000, published in 1999 before the dot-com bubble burst. (The book now sells used for $0.01 on Andrew Leonard commented on "Few people encapsulated the madness of the 1990s stock market bubble better than Glassman, and the appropriateness of such a blithe purveyor of happy talk as the Bush administration's chief spinmeister for foreign policy seems both absurd and utterly unsurprising… The best thing that can be said about “Dow 36,000” is that while wrong-headed, it is not pernicious."

James Fallows, Altantic Monthly national correspondent and former Carter speechwriter, originally questioned Glassman's appointment, and after sleeping on it, (or after a late-night phone call from…?) took it back the next day.

Michael Currie Schaffer of The New Republic sarcastically wrote: "Luckily, the America-hating masses of Pakistan probably never had the chance to follow Glassman's cheerleading into the stock market back before the bubble burst in 2000." Undersecretary Glassman shouldn't fret too much, though. In the eyes of the pundits it would be difficult to do a worse job than his predecessor Karen Hughes. Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post wrote: "Hughes wasn't hired to create cultural change inside the State Department; she was hired to improve America's image abroad. And she failed miserably at that task, at least in part because she failed to use her close relationship with Bush to get him to stop doing the things that made her job so impossible." Another blogger opined: "Departing is the shockingly ineffectual Karen Hughes. All right, I take that back. Predictably ineffectual, given that she was nothing more than a beneficiary of the spoils system." Despite what the bloggers say it's hard for the polling numbers to make Hughes' performance look much better. Many global polls show that attitudes toward the US are at an all-time low. At the an impromptu appearance President Bush made at a State Department event bidding farewell to Karen Hughes, he joked: “I wouldn't be standing here without Karen Hughes,” he said of his long-time advisor. “One of her jobs was to teach me how to speak English.”
Bush and Hughes

If the President is looking to learn from the incoming Undersecretary I would warn him against taking Glassman's advice on the stock market.



Melinda Brouwer

Melinda Brower holds a Masters degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She received her bachelor's degree in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a graduate diploma in International Relations from the University of Chile during her tenure as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has worked on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, for Foreign Policy magazine and the American Academy of Diplomacy. She presently works for an internationally focused non-profit research organization in Washington, DC.