Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Anybody Seen Laura Today?

You know, it's got to be getting a little lonely around the White House these days, what with everyone wanting to spend more time with anyone but their families we mean. Latest member of the administration to discover that staying home with a five year old still provides you with the more intellectual challenge than working for the president is Karen Hughes.

Karen Hughes, who led efforts to improve the U.S. image abroad and was one of President Bush's last remaining advisers from the close circle of Texas aides, will leave the government at the end of the year.

Wait, someone was actually in charge of improving our image abroad? What's that mean, like after we blow up a country we hand out free coupons to Denny's? Kids get prosthetic devices in their favorite team colors? After Blackwater shoots up your village, the guys from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition show up to do an episode?

Hughes plans to quit her job as undersecretary of state and return to Texas, although improving the world's view of the United States is a "long-term challenge" that will outlast her.

Yeah, well women are still dealing with that whole Eve and the apple misunderstanding too, so maybe after we get that straightened around...

Announcing Hughes' decision to leave the department, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said she had accepted the resignation "with a great deal of sadness but also a great deal of happiness for what she has achieved." When asked what Hughes' office had achieved, Rice replied that no one in the administration had been convicted of war crimes yet. "That's got to count for something," she added.

Rice said that Hughes had made public diplomacy "strong and central" to U.S. foreign policy "except when we bomb things" and had exceeded expectations in the job. When asked what those expectations were Rice responded that they had expected Hughes to "show up for work sober and be fully dressed."

"I knew that she would bring a great dedication and great commitment to all that we're trying to do," Rice said. "Plus she uses silverware when she eats."

Bush and Rice had picked Hughes two years ago to retool the way the United States sells its policies, ideals and views overseas. A former television reporter and media adviser, Hughes' focus has been to change the way the United States engages and responds to criticism or misinformation in the Muslim world.

"See, before Hughes we'd respond to criticism by dropping more bombs," the president said. "She convinced us that wasn't the right way to go and that's when we gave a contract to Blackwater."

She doubled the public diplomacy budget, to nearly $900 million annually, and sent U.S. sports stars Michelle Kwan and Cal Ripken Jr. abroad as unofficial diplomats. When reporters asked how effective those choices had been since Kwan is not Arabic, and baseball is not a popular sport in Arab countries, Hughes said she wouldn't know until the kidnappers had released the two.

"She has done just a remarkable job," Rice said. Polls show no improvement in the world's view of the U.S. since Hughes took over. "Yeah, but think how much more people would hate us if she hadn't been there," she added. "Did I mention she uses silverware when she eats?"

Hughes said she advised Bush and Rice two years ago that U.S. help in ending the six-decade old fight over Israel would probably do more than anything else to improve the U.S. standing worldwide. "Well, that and quit bombing people for no reason," she said.

Hughes said she told Bush and Rice over the summer that she did not plan to stay through the end of Bush's term. Rice, who has also worked for Bush since he was a presidential candidate, has announced no plans to leave. "Yeah, like someone would hire me after this," she said.

Don't be so hard on yourself Connie. We're sure there are numerous career opportunities awaiting you after Bush administration ends. Which, by the way happens, in 446 days, but who's counting?

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