Hackery Comes to D.C. (Again)

In the ongoing story, “Loyalty Trumps Competence,” our newest chapter may be the most egregious example yet. Forget a lack of competence; how about a complete and utter lack of qualifications?

President Bush will nominate one of his closest longtime advisers to a key State Department post in an effort to help repair the United States' image abroad, especially in the Arab world, a senior administration official said Saturday.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the announcement that Bush has selected Karen Hughes to be undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs will be made early next week, possibly as early as Monday. The position requires Senate confirmation.

The official said that Hughes, 48, will spearhead the administration's campaign to promote democracy in the Middle East.

Hughes, who for years has had a major voice in crafting Bush's domestic message, is a former counselor to the president who left the White House in 2002 to move her family back to Texas.

She has little experience in foreign affairs but enjoys the confidence of the president and is close to the new secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.

Since leaving Washington, Hughes, a former Texas television reporter, has continued to advise the president from her home in Austin.

As undersecretary, Hughes' main responsibility will be to repair the image of the United States which was badly tarnished abroad by anger over the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq and overthrow its government.

She will be responsible for improving U.S. diplomats' face-to-face contact overseas and will oversee an array of programs, such as radio broadcasts that place American ideas and news before foreign audiences.

The post has been vacant since last summer.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way first. The post has been vacant since last summer?! Forget for a moment that nowadays no PR campaign in the universe has much chance of overcoming the faltering image of America abroad based on the debacle that is our foreign policy, because the administration believes it’s possible…in which case, it seems wholly nuts to have left the role of designing such a campaign vacant for almost a year! Good lord.

Secondly, and generally, what the hell?! She has little experience in foreign affairs but enjoys the confidence of the president and is close to the new secretary of state. Oh, bully for her. My grandfather was NYPD; he and I were very close and I always thought his job was really interesting. Does that mean I can get a tin badge and a gun and start arresting people?

And finally, Hughes, who has been nicknamed “High Prophet” by the President, is an inveterate ideologue and disturbingly devoted supporter of the president:
Hughes had become unsettlingly close to her boss long before journalism or outsiders began to take note. In fact, her worst critics have accused the presidential counselor of living almost vicariously through Bush. His goals and political ideology have been so inculcated into Hughes' consciousness that she may no longer be able discern between her own thinking and the president's. This undoubtedly is an odd characterization to make of two of the world's most powerful adults. There is, however, no shortage of evidence to prompt the speculation.

The first time I noticed an indication of a radio frequency bouncing between the brains of Bush and Hughes was during Gov. Bush's initial State of the State speech in Texas. Still a simple press hack, Hughes did not take to the riser in the Texas House of Representatives, instead standing off to the side, behind the shiny brass railing rimming the chamber's floor.


As Gov. Bush read the text of his speech from a teleprompter, his communications director was silently mouthing the words along with him. The synchronized delivery suggested a parent sitting in the audience of an elementary school pageant while mouthing forgotten lines as her child stood dumbstruck onstage.


In the ensuing years of Bush's political development, Hughes was spotted many times as she pursed her lips and moved her jaws to each word her employer was stammering in the front of the room.
More troubling is her relationship with the truth:
Hughes wrote in Bush's "A Charge to Keep: My Journey to the White House" that he "continued flying with his National Guard unit for many years." Bush and Hughes both knew that was not true, and documents the White House released in March proved the opposite.
She has even been outed by a resolute Righty such as Tucker Carlson as a pathological liar:
Carlson's story described how Bush swore freely and mocked condemned death-row inmate Karla Faye Tucker. He told Salon that he was astonished by how Hughes responded to his article in Talk.

"It was very, very hostile," Carlson said. "The reaction was: You betrayed us. Well, I was never there as a partisan to begin with. Then I heard that [on the campaign bus], Karen Hughes accused me of lying. And so I called Karen and asked her why she was saying this, and she had this almost Orwellian rap that she laid on me about how things she'd heard -- that I watched her hear -- she in fact had never heard, and she'd never heard Bush use profanity ever. It was insane. I've obviously been lied to a lot by campaign operatives, but the striking thing about the way she lied was she knew I knew she was lying, and she did it anyway. There is no word in English that captures that. It almost crosses over from bravado into mental illness."
Certainly, this is not the picture of someone who should be holding a key State Department post. But in Bush’s world, someone who will unquestioningly do his bidding, lie when needed, and cares more promoting a make-believe version of America than addressing the reality of our foreign policy is no doubt a perfect person for the job.

I wonder if the Senate Dems will confirm another unqualified hack without much fanfare at all or whether they’ll put their collective foot down on nominating a mouthpiece of the president to a position that should surely be filled by someone objective (if the job is to be done well). Long odds on the latter.

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