- The Washington Times - Monday, March 14, 2005

President Bush yesterday tabbed Karen Hughes, his longtime adviser and close friend who helped to shape his political image among Americans, with improving the standing of the United States around the world.

Mrs. Hughes’ appointment as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy “signifies my personal commitment” to communicating with foreign countries and explaining U.S. policies, Mr. Bush said.

The administration was often accused during its first term of not paying enough attention to public diplomacy and showing a lack of interest in what foreigners thought about the United States.

Mr. Bush’s previous two appointments to the State Department job that he offered Mrs. Hughes did little to change perceptions overseas.

Charlotte Beers, a former New York advertising executive, was sworn in just days before September 11, 2001, and resigned less than two years later, citing health reasons.

Her tenure is best remembered for an ad campaign about the life of Muslims in the United States, which was criticized and even ridiculed for addressing the wrong issue, both at home and abroad.

Her successor, Margaret Tutwiler, a former State Department spokeswoman and ambassador to Morocco, quit last summer after only six months on the job.

The selection of Mrs. Hughes pleased both political appointees and career employees at the State Department yesterday and raised hopes that public diplomacy will be a high priority for the White House.

“The time has come to look anew at our institutions of public diplomacy,” said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “We must do much more to confront hateful propaganda, dispel dangerous myths and get out the truth.”

Miss Rice asked Mrs. Hughes to undertake an extensive review of U.S. public diplomacy as soon as she is confirmed by the Senate, which is expected to be relatively quick and painless.

“To be successful, we must listen,” Miss Rice said as she introduced the nominee in the State Department’s ornate Benjamin Franklin reception room. “An important part of telling America’s story is learning the stories of others.”

Mrs. Hughes, whose father served in the military, was born in Paris and grew up in Canada and Panama. As counselor to the president in 2001 and 2002, she traveled with him overseas and separately visited Afghanistan.

“This job will be difficult. Perceptions do not change quickly or easily,” she said yesterday.

“America has often struggled to live up to our own ideals, and we have much to learn about becoming better citizens of the world,” she said. “We must do a better job of teaching our children to learn about different languages and cultures and faiths.”

Mr. Bush yesterday also nominated Dina Powell, head of White House personnel and native Arabic speaker who moved to the United States from Egypt as a child, as Mrs. Hughes’ deputy.

Mrs. Hughes, who was once a television reporter in Texas, left her West Wing job nearly three years ago and moved back to her home state to spend more time with her family.

“Other than marrying my husband, that was the best decision I think I’ve ever made,” she said yesterday.

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