Karen Hughes Resigns With Legacy Of Unambitious, Misguided State Department Projects

hughesmor.jpg Karen Hughes, one of President Bush’s longest-serving advisers, resigned today as Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. According to the State Department’s website, Hughes’s role was to “marginalize the violent extremists” and “[f]oster a sense of common interests and common values between Americans and people of different countries.”

In remarks today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heaped praise upon Hughes and the “remarkable job” she’s done. “If I could put on one sheet all of the things that Karen has achieved, I would do so, but it would take me a quite long time to talk about her achievements,” said Rice.

But it’s actually unclear exactly what Hughes accomplished. As the AP notes:

Polls show no improvement in the world’s view of the U.S. since Hughes took over. A Pew Research Center survey earlier said the unpopular Iraq war is a persistent drag on the U.S. image and has helped push favorable opinion of the United States in Muslim Indonesia, for instance, from 75 percent in 2000 to 30 percent last year.

Some more highlights of her time at the State Department:

— In 2006, Hughes sent an internal memo called “Thinking ‘Bigger'” to National Security Council principals. Her recommendations for countering the insurgency though were “unambitious and disconnected from reality.” They included “reviving book publishing to support Iraq’s “hard-pressed intellectuals” and expanding a “Micro scholarship” program for “youth in key disadvantaged areas in Iraq.”

— In March 2006, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sharply criticized the diplomatic efforts of Rice and Hughes, stating, “If I were grading, I would say we probably deserve a D or a D-plus as a country as to how well we’re doing in the battle of ideas that’s taking place in the world today.”

— Arabs repeatedly criticized Hughes for her “lack of understanding of the region.” In 2005, for example, Hughes claimed that Saddam Hussein poisoned “hundreds of thousands” of his own citizens with “weapons of mass destruction.” Her comments came “just days after Saddam went on trial in Baghdad for the deaths of 148 people in a Shiite town in 1982.”

Rice also confirmed that Hughes will “continue to consult for us on a few projects.” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack today refused to promise that the White House would replace Hughes with a permanent Senate-confirmed nominee, but said that it is the administration’s “intent.”

While it’s so hard to say good bye, this may not be the end for Karen Hughes. After all, she also resigned in 2002, but then came back and joined the State Department in 2005.

UPDATE: The Seminal looks at the flight of Bush’s Texas inner circle.