WASHINGTON – President Bush intends to name a well-known conservative commentator and journalist to lead the State Department's struggling efforts to improve the U.S.'s image abroad, replacing long-time confidante Karen Hughes, who is leaving government by the end of the year, The Associated Press has learned.
Bush plans to tap James K. Glassman, now chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees the Voice of America, to be the new undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, administration officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement has not yet been made.
The officials said the choice was expected to be made public by Friday, the day Hughes has set for her departure and return to Texas after two years in the post.
Glassman was chosen in part because he has already won Senate confirmation for his current job, which he began in June, and the administration was looking for someone who could avoid a bruising confirmation fight in an election year, the officials said.
If confirmed, Glassman would take over an outreach operation that has been criticized for being ineffective, particularly in the Muslim world.
Hughes boosted the number of Arabic speakers representing the U.S. in Arabic media, set up three rapid public relations response centers overseas to monitor and respond to the news, nearly doubled the public diplomacy budget to almost $900 million annually. Despite her efforts, polls have shown no improvement in the world's view of the U.S.
Earlier this year, a Pew Research Center survey said the unpopular Iraq war is a persistent drag on the U.S. image and has helped push favorable opinion of the U.S. in Muslim Indonesia, for instance, from 75 percent in 2000 to just 30 percent last year.
Glassman should be familiar with the challenges facing the top U.S. pitchman. He served in 2003 on the congressionally mandated Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World, officials noted.
In addition to his work with the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Glassman is a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank in Washington and publisher of the group's magazine, The American.
Glassman also is a former top manager of several national publications, including The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic and U.S. News & World Report magazines and the congressional newspaper Roll Call. He was also a Washington Post columnist.