WASHINGTON – Karen P. Hughes, a presidential confidante entrusted with the arduous job of reversing America’s plummeting image abroad, announced Wednesday she will resign from the administration and return to Texas.
Hughes, 50, one of the last members of President Bush’s Texas inner circle still in government, said she will leave her post as head of the State Department’s public diplomacy programs at the end of the year.
Her departure closes out a two-year effort that gave a high profile to the administration’s efforts to improve America’s reputation overseas but did not reverse a continuing decline that was caused in large part by the U.S. invasion of Iraq and other Bush foreign policy decisions.
The resignation of Hughes, a former TV reporter whose earliest Middle East mission in 2005 was marred by missteps, leaves the foundering public diplomacy program in doubt. At the same time, the administration’s push for democracy in Arabic countries also has flagged. But Hughes cited forward progress during an appearance with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
“I feel that I have done what Secretary Rice and President Bush have asked of me by transforming public diplomacy and making it a national security issue,” she said.
Hughes, who had never been to the Middle East before taking the job, drew criticism for some of her more high-profile initiatives. Her highly publicized “listening tour” of three Middle East countries in 2005 was widely condemned in the region as clumsy and patronizing, including one appearance in which Hughes was chided by Saudi Arabian women for focusing on Saudi restrictions against women driving cars.