Sunday, April 27, 2008

Public Diplomacy 36,000

At dinner last night, someone said that Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has held up the nomination of millionaire Harvard grad, former Washington Post investment columnist, and AEI fellow James Glassman -- to the post of Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy. Glassman is author of Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting From the Coming Rise in the Stock Market, a notorious 1999 book of investment advice which could have cost any reader a fortune had it been followed. Here's a sample comment on the book's listing:
James Glassman should apologize for his stupidity, his arrogance, and this book, which lured in a whole lot of amateur investors just as the stock market was about to go bust.
Glassman was also co-author of a doomed report from the Advisory Board on Public Diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim World, following the release of which in 2003, American prestige plunged lower than the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The reason cited by our dinner companion: problems with Radio Farda, America's Persian service, which Glassman supervised as head of the Board of International Broadcasting and which featured anti-American broadcasts. This view was supported up in a comment posted on MountainRunner about the controversy:
God bless Tom Coburn for doing what no one else in the US has the courage to do--clean out the Voice of America. If you think Jim Glassman is "America's combatant commander in the War of Ideas," then you are carrying the wrong person's water. Just ask one of the many VOA employees who tried to warn Jim about the anti-US fakes at Voice of America. Instead of helping, Mr. Glassman has turned his back on us. My friends at Voice of America tell me that most of the people in charge of the Persian channel don't even speak Farsi. We Iranians can spot a fake when we see it. Why can't you?

President Bush is sticking with his nominee, despite the fact that at this point in the war for hearts and minds around the world there is nobody in charge of America's messaging...and apparently Senator Coburn is adamant that Glassman not be appointed. Rather than nominate another candidate who might be unanimously approved, Bush is picking a fight with Coburn.

IMHO, there must be someone in a country of 300 million who could do the job better than Glassman and who is willing to take the job. On the Republican side, Torie Clarke did a good job in the Pentagon (though she might not want to work for Bush again); on the Democratic side someone like James Carville or Paul Begala. Best of all would be an actual expert on Islamist extremism in general and Iran in particular--such as Daniel Pipes.

Senator Coburn is right to hold up his nomination and demand someone with better qualifications, untainted by failures of the Bush Administration. I hope he continues to stand fast on this one.