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.
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.