Former White House counselor Karen P. Hughes will take over the Bush administration's troubled public diplomacy effort intended to burnish the U.S. image abroad, particularly in the Muslim world, where anti-Americanism has fueled extremist groups and terrorism, a senior administration official said yesterday.
Hughes, 48, who has been one of President Bush's closest advisers since his tenure as Texas governor, plans to return to Washington soon to rejoin the president's team after a three-year absence and set up shop at the State Department, where she will work with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to reinvigorate the campaign for hearts and minds overseas.
Hughes will take over an operation that has been criticized as lackluster by many analysts and, privately, even by some administration officials, despite its mission of waging a war of ideas against Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist organizations. The last undersecretary for public diplomacy, Margaret Tutwiler, left last summer after less than a year on the job. The post has remained vacant since.
Tutwiler was at the White House yesterday and has been advising Hughes about the job. Hughes, who left her White House job in the summer of 2002 to return to Texas with her family, did not return telephone or e-mail messages.
Through exchange programs, foreign language media and other initiatives, the public diplomacy campaign aims to promote American values of democracy, tolerance and pluralism abroad while combating negative images propagated in many parts of the world. The State Department spent $685 million on public diplomacy in 2004, but critics complain that it has not been increased enough since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and that most of it has not targeted the Muslim world.