Former public diplomacy official weighs in on his successor at State

On Tuesday, President Obama announced the nomination of Judith A. McHale as undersecretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs. McHale is the former president and CEO of Discovery Communications.

In February, spoke with James Glassman, McHale's predecessor. "What I dread, what I'm really worried about, is appointing somebody who essentially sees his or her job as an image-maker," Glassman said then. "That would be a huge mistake."

Now, more than two months later, was able to catch up with Glassman to get his initial response to the McHale nomination. First, Glassman said he was "thrilled that there is a nominee after nearly three months. It's an extremely important position. I'm sorry it took this long."

Glassman emphasized that he did not want to prejudge McHale. In February, he said his successor must have an "an orientation toward national security, not an orientation toward public relations." McHale has no substantial national security or foreign policy background, but Glassman was quick to point out that neither did he. He said the important thing is to make sure McHale takes the proper approach to her new job.

On his blog, Glassman wrote that McHale's record shows she "certainly has the drive and talent to do the job. The bigger issue is what she thinks the job is. We will soon find out."

Both in his interview with and his blog comments, Glassman took issue with Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch, who argued in a blog post that McHale would be a "terrible, terrible selection." "While I like Marc a lot, I think that was kind of unfair," Glassman said. Lynch and others have pointed out that McHale has been a longtime friend and donor to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. That fact alone should not discredit McHale, Glassman said. It's common for supporters of politicians to end up being brought into a new administration, and these people often serve admirably, he added.

Glassman has not met with his successor, but he said he would be more than happy to do so if approached. So, what advice does he have for McHale? "I would urge her to not simply talk to the people in the building," Glassman said. "She needs to understand how the office works within the State Department, but she should also get out and talk to the key players in the interagencies." He cited the Defense Department as the most crucial agency relationship.

Check out the blog Lost in Transition, a joint effort of Government Executive and National Journal.
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