Idiot Abroad

Ezra Klein once asked something to the effect of "why would Bush send a seven foot tall white woman to aid our public face in the Islamic world?" It's a good question, but more importantly, why would you send a seven foot tall white woman who speaks like a 6th grader to aid our public face in the middle east and convince the entire world that all Americans are as dim-witted as the president and that Osama bin Laden is right?

Sid Bumenthal puts it like this:

This week, Hughes embarked on her first trip as undersecretary. Her initial statement resembled an elementary school presentation: "You might want to know why the countries. Egypt is of course the most populous Arab country ... Saudi Arabia is our second stop. It's obviously an important place in Islam and the keeper of its two holiest sites ... Turkey is also a country that encompasses people of many different backgrounds and beliefs, yet has the -- is proud of the saying that 'all are Turks.'"

Hughes appeared to be one of the pilgrims satirized by Mark Twain in his 1869 book, "Innocents Abroad," about his trip on "The Grand Holy Land Pleasure Excursion." "None of us had ever been anywhere before; we all hailed from the interior; travel was a wild novelty to us ... We always took care to make it understood that we were Americans -- Americans!"

If you would like to read some commentary that makes George W. Bush sound downright erudite, check out Hughes' entire statement:

UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: We're going to be visiting, as you know, three unique and very important countries, three countries we have a very strong partnership with one of them. We also face very significant public diplomacy challenges in one of them. One of my missions is to go to listen. I hope to listen, to seek to understand, to show respect. Listening is a two way street, and so I hope that those people I meet will also return that open spirit and be willing to listen. I'm going to take a lot of questions, I'm going to participate in a lot of give and take and I hope they'll be willing to listen to my discussion (inaudible).


I just wanted to talk a little bit to answer your questions about, kind of, my approach. As I said I view this trip as the beginning of a new dialogue that is very much people driven -- public diplomacy is people-driven and it's policy driven, because our policies affect people's lives. I don't see this as a matter of opinion polls or public relations, I see this as a matter of policy. That's really what drew me to public service in the first place. When I first decided to leave reporting and go to the political process it was because I realized that the decisions made in the political process made a very real difference peoples lives. So when I talk about people I'm talking about policies, I'm talking about our policies and the impact they have on people. I think that's what we've got to focus on here. I also -- I go as an official of the United States government, but I'm also a mom, a working mom, and so I hope that I could help, in some places, put a human face on America's public policy.


... just one of the points that we're going to make as we meet with people is, is talk about our American story and how it's a collective story that's written by individuals. We all have unique stories to tell. My own background as a granddaughter of a Pennsylvania coal miner and a Kentucky railroad worker. Dina, of course came here from Egypt, and we're very proud that our first stop in Egypt we're going to be taking someone who I think Egypt is very proud of Dina, the fact that she emigrated from Egypt as a young child, and has risen to the highest levels of our American government, and that's a wonderful American story.

Karima has her own American story. She is the daughter of a Palestinian father and a German mother and I'm sure that Bill has some part of an American story, although I haven't heard it yet (laughter) I'm sure he will be glad to share it with you. He currently lives in Wisconsin and I don't know what his family roots are.

When she isn't talking about being a mom, which she seems to think is a unique and important qualification for being the voice of American public diplomacy, she's actually advancing jihad. From the Blumenthal piece:

Hughes' simple, sincere and unadorned language is pellucid in revealing the administration's inner mind. Her ideas on terrorism and its solution are straightforward. "Terrorists," she said in Egypt at the start of her trip, "their policies force young people, other people's daughters and sons, to strap on bombs and blow themselves up." Somehow, magically, these evildoers coerce the young to commit suicide. If only they would understand us, the tensions would dissolve. "Many people around the world do not understand the important role that faith plays in Americans' lives," she said. When an Egyptian opposition leader inquired why President Bush mentions God in his speeches, she asked him "whether he was aware that previous American presidents have also cited God, and that our Constitution cites 'one nation under God.' He said, 'Well, never mind.'"

With these well-meaning arguments, Hughes has provided the exact proof for what Osama bin Laden has claimed about American motives. "It is stunning ... the extent [to which] Hughes is helping bin Laden," Robert Pape told me. Pape, a University of Chicago political scientist who has conducted the most extensive research into the backgrounds and motives of suicide terrorists, is the author of "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism," and recently briefed the Pentagon and the National Counterterrorism Center. "If you set out to help bin Laden," he said, "you could not have done it better than Hughes."

Pape's research debunks the view that suicide terrorism is the natural byproduct of Islamic fundamentalism or some "Islamo-fascist" ideological strain independent of certain highly specific circumstances. "Of the key conditions that lead to suicide terrorism in particular, there must be, first, the presence of foreign combat forces on the territory that the terrorists prize. The second condition is a religious difference between the combat forces and the local community. The religious difference matters in that it enables terrorist leaders to paint foreign forces as being driven by religious goals. If you read Osama's speeches, they begin with descriptions of the U.S. occupation of the Arabian Peninsula, driven by our religious goals, and that it is our religious purpose that must confronted. That argument is incredibly powerful not only to religious Muslims but secular Muslims. Everything Hughes says makes their case."

We know what happened when Bush put poor little Brownie in charge of federal disaster response and it wasn't pretty. We're going to be lucky if "Hurricane Karen" doesn't set off WWIII.

She's off to a good start.

The good news is that she's listened and she's learned and she's bringing back to the White House some incredible insights:

Ms. Hughes promised to take what she learned from hearing dissenting views back to Washington. She was struck, she said, when a Turkish official told her to try to imagine the situation of Iraq, a next-door neighbor, sliding into possible civil war and engulfing Turkey from the perspective of "the common Turk."

"I will be sure to bring that message back to President Bush when I get back to Washington," she said.