Spice Girl

Notes from the political sidelines.
Sept. 30 2005 1:48 PM

Spice Girl

How will the world ever learn to like America if it has to like Karen Hughes?

80_thehasbeen

Friday, Sept. 30, 2005

Socker Mom: Fred Kaplan  is right—if our goal is to change America's image in the world, could there be a worse choice on earth than Karen Hughes? She has trouble getting along with Americans.

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Karen Hughes is famous for message discipline. In the 2000 campaign, she coined the notorious slogan "Reformer with Results," which Bush slavishly repeated to overcome the real reformer in the race, John McCain.

But on her recent visit to the Middle East, the new undersecretary of public diplomacy mixed messages like a Foggy Bottom lifer. In Saudi Arabia, she stood up to the Saudis for not giving driver's licenses to women. The rest of the time, she tried to convince the Muslim world she was one of them, telling audiences over and over, "I am a mom and I love kids." As the Washington Post reports, she said in Ankara, "I love all kids. And that is something I have in common with the Turkish people—that they love children."

Give Hughes credit for using her bully pulpit to stand up for the rights of women. But she should leave herself out of it. The job of persuading other countries to like America again is uphill enough without having to convince them to like Karen Hughes. As reporters from the Bush campaign plane might point out, in Turkey, the children don't run away screaming.

So far, that seems to be the initial reaction to Hughes's trip on the Arab street. The Hughes spin: They may be running away screaming, but they're not driving.

Red Light, Green Light: The Post runs a fascinating and creepy reaction from the London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, which says that in the Arab world, the U.S. "resembles a woman of ill repute whom everyone wants to court, but only in secret." I have no idea what that means, but it doesn't sound like progress. They say America is a woman of ill repute. Hughes says America is a mom who loves kids and has a driver's license.

In interviews, Hughes sounds baffled why the president doesn't have higher ratings in the Arab world. Perhaps Americans and Arabs have more in common than we thought.

Hughes didn't make much headway this time, but she's determined to deliver a clearer message next trip. She's already come up with the new slogan: "Invader with Results."

Hanging Chavs: Hughes may not succeed in changing America's image, but the New York Times is determined to change the image of the Arab world. In a charming story about Britain's "Lotto Lout," a 22-year-old bad boy who has been to court 30 times since winning $15 million in the lottery, the Times introduces a new breed of drunk, rowdy Brits called chavs.

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