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I thought we elected a new president in 2008.

But Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale proudly says she is “on the same page” as her predecessors Karen Hughes and James Glassman in defining a new public diplomacy strategy. She cites “consensus” among members of the undersecretary club.

The long-awaited “roadmap” for U.S. public diplomacy has finally emerged from Undersecretary of State Judith McHale’s office, and it is a stunning disappointment.

It is so lacking in imagination, so narrow in its scope, and so insufficient in its appraisal of the tasks facing U.S. public diplomats that it is impossible to understand why its preparation took so many months.

DOHA, QATAR --- In the beginning, there was The Speech.

After that, there was the letdown.

DOHA, QATAR --- When Hillary Clinton addressed the U.S.-Islamic World Forum here on Sunday night, she found the going smooth…until she hit the bump of Gaza. A group of religious leaders, whose spokesman was Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., asked why the Obama administration could not do more to help the beleaguered residents of Gaza, whose supplies of food, water, and medicine are barely at survival level.

The global response to the catastrophe in Haiti is reassuring in the sense that it shows governments and people do care about a nation in which they have no strategic interest. If there is still some altruism alive in the world, it can be seen in this relief effort.

CAIRO --- I’ve spent the past week in Syria, Qatar, and Egypt, primarily to proselytize about public diplomacy. In Syria, in a Damascus University lecture (carried by Al Jazeera Live) and a lengthy interview on Syrian National Television, I made the case that Arab states do an exceptionally poor job of conducting public diplomacy and that their standing in the global political community suffers as a result.

October 28, 2009

Undersecretary of State Judith McHale's October 15 speech to the 2009 global Public Affairs Officers conference provides some useful insights into PAOs' concerns and Secretary McHale's thinking.

Barack Obama may be the best exponent of American public diplomacy since Benjamin Franklin, inspiring a newly hopeful attitude about the United States in many parts of the world. But beyond the president himself U.S. public diplomacy lacks coherence and impact.