WASHINGTON, D.C.—Karen Hughes, senior communications advisor to President George W. Bush for more than a decade, has been named by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to lead the troubled campaign to improve the U.S. image abroad. She succeeds Margaret Tutwiler, who quit the public diplomacy role in May of last year to become chief communications officer at the New York Stock Exchange.
Hughes, a former television reporter, has worked on Bush’s communications operations since 1994, helping to run his gubernatorial and presidential campaigns and serving 18 months in the White House as presidential adviser before returning to Austin in 2002 to spend more time with her family—although she still advises him on speeches and traveled with him during the 2004 election campaign.
Announcing the appointment, Rice acknowledged that the U.S. “must do better job of engaging the Muslim world,” and said she could think “of no individual more suited for this task of telling America’s story to the world, of nurturing American dialogue with the world, and advancing universal values for the world, than Karen Hughes.”
Added Bush, “This will require an aggressive effort to share and communicate America’s fundamental values while respecting the cultures and traditions of other nations. Karen Hughes has been one of my most trusted and closest advisers and she has the experience, expertise and judgment to lead this critical effort.”
There is widespread agreement that Hughes’ predecessors in the public diplomacy role—Tutwiler and former Ogilvy & Mather advertising executive Charlotte Beers—were unable to turn the tide of anti-American opinion in the Muslim world and elsewhere.
Rice said Hughes believes strongly that the United States “must mobilize young people around the world to shatter the mistrust of past grievances and to foster a new spirit of tolerance and mutual respect.” And Hughes herself admitted, “This job will be difficult. Perceptions do not change quickly or easily.”
Skeptics suggested that another image campaign would do little to improve perceptions as long as American policy in the Middle East is seen as favoring Israel over the Palestinians.
Egyptian-born Dina Powell, currently White House personnel director, will move to the State Department to serve as Hughes’ deputy.