Shortly after Kempe was offered the position, he decided he would no longer be able to fulfill it. This left Wimbush, who declined comment for this story, as the only candidate for the post who received the strong backing of the headhunting firm.
Meeting in Prague earlier this month, the BBG directors held a straight up-or-down vote on Wimbush. The result was the same. The kicker is that the consultants will now have to go headhunting again – costing taxpayers a mint in the process.
This is not typical Democrat-Republican squabbling. The Democrats on the board sincerely believe in marketing American popular culture to the Muslim world, even though several recent studies suggest that the pervasiveness of American pop culture is the problem. This approach ignores the historical – and successful – mission of RFE/RL: to offer the kind of radio broadcasts on history, culture, politics, religion, and economics that local audiences would get if they lived in free societies. But by definition, disseminating such information is despised by despots. And that is precisely the approach Wimbush has long endorsed.
Hughes’ refusal to support Wimbush appears to confirm fears that she shares the worldview of her new institution, which also happens to be home to President Bush’s most ardent critics within the administration. When he laid out his broad vision for freedom across the Middle East, for example, the diplomatic corps scoffed – and then savaged him in the press, albeit anonymously. And in 2004, many of Sen. John Kerry’s most fervent (secret) campaigners were stationed at Foggy Bottom.
Yet as unpopular as President Bush is with the career Foreign Service, Hughes is becoming something of a rock star to them. Her groupies are giddy that she doesn’t seem to embrace President Bush’s “simplistic” ideas of good and evil. Hughes’ nixing of a staunch advocate of moral clarity will no doubt only boost her already lofty standing at State.
Hughes declined to be interviewed for this column, and State Department spokesman Adam Ereli’s comment on her behalf avoided any discussion of the hiring process. Interestingly, though, Ereli said, “Under Secretary Hughes believes Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is an important voice for truth and freedom.”
But does she believe that? If she genuinely does, why did she axe the one candidate who clearly stood for both? Why did she cast her lot with people whose worldview is clouded by moral ambiguity, who would just as soon appease a tyrant as challenge him? Was that for the cause of “truth and freedom?”
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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