Karen Hughes Resigns After Two Years of Making US Image Abroad Even Worse

News & Politics
This post, written by Steve Benen, originally appeared on The Carpetbagger Report

I've never been entirely clear on why Karen Hughes was tapped to be the Bush administration's undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. Granted, Hughes is not without talents -- she was a capable local journalist, she's not a bad writer, and she manages to connect unrelated events to 9/11 quite well -- but there's literally nothing in her background regarding diplomacy or international affairs.

After a couple of years on the job, and no successes to speak of, Hughes announced her resignation this morning.
Karen Hughes, who led efforts to improve the U.S. image abroad and was one of President Bush's last remaining advisers from the close circle of Texas aides, will leave the government at the end of the year. [...]
Announcing Hughes' decision to leave the department in mid-December, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she had accepted the resignation "with a great deal of sadness but also a great deal of happiness for what she has achieved" and with the understanding that she would continue to work on several projects. [...]
"I knew that she would bring a great dedication and great commitment to all that we're trying to do," Rice said. "She has done just a remarkable job."
Really? Because I've been looking for any kind of achievements from Hughes' efforts, and I can't seem to find one.

Indeed, the AP notes, rather matter-of-factly, "Polls show no improvement in the world's view of the U.S. since Hughes took over. A Pew Research Center survey earlier said the unpopular Iraq war is a persistent drag on the U.S. image and has helped push favorable opinion of the United States in Muslim Indonesia, for instance, from 75 percent in 2000 to 30 percent last year."

Any suggestion that Hughes is responsible for declining U.S. popularity would be wildly unfair. That said, it's not unreasonable to consider Hughes' on-the-job performance. (I'll give you a hint: it wasn't very good.)

I'm reminded, for example, of this Fred Kaplan piece, noting one of Hughes' trips to the Middle East.
Could someone please explain to me what Karen Hughes is doing. Her maiden voyage to the Middle East has turned into a fiasco. She assures a room of Saudi women that they, too, will someday drive cars; they tell her they're actually happy right now, thank you. She meets with a group of Turkish women -- hand-picked by an outfit that supports women running for political office -- who brusquely tell her she has no credibility as long as U.S. troops occupy Iraq.
In a sense, this is par for the course when American officials meet with unofficial audiences abroad. But here's the puzzler: Why is it Karen Hughes who's taking these meetings? It was strange enough when her longtime friend President George W. Bush named her as the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. It's absolutely mind-numbing to discover that she considers it one of her mandates to be the public diplomat. [...]

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