The appointment of Karen Hughes to head the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs sends an important signal: President Bush cares about what the State Department is doing. Secretary of State Rice made all the right noises about the importance of public diplomacy. But will she follow up the words with action?
Obviously, Hughes, a former TV reporter and PR advisor to the President, is a top-drawer choice. But her high profile cuts both ways. Two previous appointees have failed in the job: ad agency executive Charlotte Beers and Jim Baker favorite Margaret Tutweiler. Hughes is taking along Dina Habib Powell, who worked in the White House Personnel office, staffing the Bush administration. She's an Egyptian-American from Texas who worked at one time for Dick Armey, so another highly-connected appointment. The clan system seems to be working full-speed, with personal, political and regional loyalties covered (Hughes is basically from Texas, although she lived in Panama, Canada and France).
While Hughes was certainly effective in the White House, and got George W. Bush re-elected (with a little help from hapless John F. Kerry and Bob Shrum) there is still an open question as to whether she will be able to function as effectively at Foggy Bottom, famous as a "fudge factory".
I'll feel a little better if Hughes finds The Diplomad and puts his blog back online asap -- officially, at http://www.state.gov...