The Listening Tour

THE LISTENING TOUR….Abu Aardvark offers a late comment on Karen Hughes’ famously unsuccessful “listening tour” of the Middle East:

The “I’m a working mom” thing ? I’m glad she did it. I’m glad it bombed, horribly and humiliatingly. Maybe now she’ll start really understanding that Arab publics are savvy, smart, aware, and highly politicized, and don’t appreciate being talked down to….The idea that Hughes could bond with Arabs around common humanity ? “we all love children” ? is deeply patronizing, infantalizing, and condescending. It also flies in the face of all available survey and focus group data, which overwhelmingly shows appreciation for American society and Americans as individuals, but hostility to American foreign policy.

Max Boot, conversely, tries to make the best of things by suggesting that “Hughes has made a good step forward by engaging with more or less regular folks.” Maybe. But as the Aardvark says, it all depends on what lessons Hughes takes away from her experience. If she decides that Bush-style spin is still the answer, but it needs to be better Bush-style spin, then I imagine we can expect nothing but continuing failure in the public diplomacy area. After all, there’s only so much that spin can do when you have 150,000 soldiers stationed in the heart of the region and public threats seem to be your answer to every problem. That’s hard to spin away.