U.S. Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes is leaving the Bush administration. Hughes, a long-time confidant of President Bush's, served as a counselor during Bush's first term, then officially left the White House in 2002, only to return as the nation's PR czar in 2005. Her last day will be in December. In announcing her resignation, Hughes stressed that improving the U.S.'s image around the world is a "long-term challenge." At the State Department, Hughes increased the number of "interviews with Arabic media," and "set up three rapid public relations response centers overseas to monitor and respond to the news. She nearly doubled the public diplomacy budget, to nearly $900m annually, and sent U.S. sports stars Michelle Kwan and Cal Ripken abroad as unofficial diplomats. But polls show no improvement in the world's view of the U.S. since she took over. A Pew Research survey earlier said the unpopular Iraq war is a persistent drag on the U.S. image and has helped push favorable opinion of America in Muslim Indonesia, for instance, from 75% in 2000 to 30% last year." Hughes' key deputy, Dina Habib Powell, left the State Department earlier this year, "to become director of global corporate engagement for Goldman Sachs Group," notes PR Week.
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