Attackerman on Public Diplomacy

Spencer Ackerman (“Attackerman”) is the only reporter writing about public diplomacy right now. Absent his recent surge, it’s nothing but crickets in the media.

Two stories (so far) from Spencer on the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s effort to fill the position of Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs:

…in the last day, several people have told me they expect an announcement very soon. Neither the White House nor the State Department would comment on McHale.

It’s an interesting choice. McHale doesn’t have a diplomatic background. But neither did Jim Glassman, the recently departed undersecretary whom public-diplo watchers considered the office’s first success story. … If indeed McHale gets the job, it’ll raise the question of the which direction the Obama team wants to take public diplomacy. Under former President George W. Bush, who placed loyalist Karen Hughes in the job in 2005 — widely seen as a disaster — the undersecretary became the lead for strategic communications across the government, tasked with convening, coordinating and executing the U.S. communications strategy abroad. It’s unclear whether the Obama administration will continue that model. Denis McDonough, a close Obama adviser, has the strategic communications portfolio at the National Security Council. Will McDonough play the role in the interagency process that the undersecretary of state played in the Bush administration?

Right now, it’s looking very much like Judith McHale, former president of the Discovery Channel, will be the next undersecretary for public diplomacy. What’s also interesting is who won’t be: Douglas Wilson, a former principal deputy secretary of defense for public affairs and senior official with the old U.S. Information Agency. He was one of a very few people scouted by the Obama transition team for the job, and even contributed the policy statement about public diplomacy to the Center for American Progress’ 2008 transition-agenda guide. … In a phone interview, Wilson confirmed that the State Department transition team vetted him for the undersecretaryship. “They did talk to me about it,” Wilson said, “but I understand they’ll be selecting someone else.” A State Department spokeswoman would neither confirm nor deny the account.

Expect more from Spencer…

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