- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Republican senator has lifted his hold on the confirmation of President Bush´s nominee as the nation´s top public diplomacy official, but the nomination is still stuck in the Senate because of a larger partisan dispute, administration and congressional officials said yesterday.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, had blocked James Glassman´s nomination over concerns about anti-American bias in Voice of America´s (VOA) programs. Mr. Glassman is chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which is in charge of U.S. government broadcasts.

“We understand that the hold has been lifted,” one administration official said. “There seems to be another small problem, but we hope it´ll be resolved speedily.”

A congressional official said that, in spite of the new dispute, which has affected all 80 nominations awaiting Senate confirmation, “we should get some movement soon.”

The officials asked that their names not be used because they were commenting on behind-the-scenes maneuvering.

Mr. Bush nominated Mr. Glassman to succeed Bush friend Karen P. Hughes as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs in December, and Mr. Glassman went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a hearing in late January.

Mr. Coburn has sought for years to obtain English transcripts of Farsi-language U.S. government broadcasts from the BBG. In his requests, he has cited reports of mismanagement of VOA´s Persian service that has allowed anti-American content to creep into broadcasts.

The VOA management denies any anti-American bias in its Persian TV and radio programs and insists that it gives equal airing of opposing views.

Just as Mr. Coburn lifted his hold on Friday, however, the Senate Democratic leadership froze all confirmations, including that of Mr. Glassman and Steven Preston´s as housing secretary.

“This is pretty appalling, given the situation we are in with housing,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Friday. “We had a deal.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, had promised to confirm all pending nominees in exchange for the White House´s pledge not to resort to recess appointments.

Mr. Reid blamed Sen. Lamar Alexander for the deal´s collapse because the Tennessee Republican has put a hold on Mr. Reid´s choice for the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace, Ikram Khan. Mr. Alexander said he did that because Mr. Reid blocked the reappointment of William H. Graves to the Tennessee Valley Authority.

With just over seven months left in Mr. Bush´s second term, the administration is desperate to have senior officials in place as soon as possible. Many public-diplomacy watchers are skeptical that Mr. Glassman can make a big difference in the little time he will have if confirmed.

During a speech at the Heritage Foundation earlier this month, Mr. Glassman refrained from comments regarding his nomination.

But he defended the BBG´s policies, saying that, despite some “challenges,” VOA´s programs are professional and balanced. He conceded, however, that they are meant to “influence” foreign audiences.

“We tell the truth, even if the truth might appear harmful to U.S. interests in the short run,” he said.

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