Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Words, Not Actions

That decidedly seems to have been the real message of the Bush administration, so argued in this piece published today in Slate. Based partly on an op-ed written by Price Floyd, a former State Department public relations employee who resigned in frustration last March, quotes him from a more recent interview:

"I'd be in meetings with other public-affairs officials at State and the White House," he recalled. "They'd say, 'We need to get our people out there on more media.' I'd say, 'It's not so much the packaging, it's the substance that's giving us trouble.' "

He recounted a phone conversation with a press officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad who wanted Floyd and his colleagues to sell the media more "good-news stories" about the war in Iraq. "I said, 'Fine, tell me a good-news story, I want good-news stories, too.' There was a silence on the other end of the line," he recalled. "It was like you could hear crickets chirping."

And later, a devastating summation:

The problem wasn't Beers, Tutwiler, or Hughes [people brought in to help wage the PR campaign] personally. Rather, it was the assumption that led Bush to believe that they were qualified for the job to begin with—the assumption that public relations is a synonym for diplomacy.

Things seem to have changed in the short term - witness changed strategies on Iran, North Korea and others - but can they last with so many highly-placed people opposed?

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