Official: U.S. enemies 'eating our lunch' online
James Glassman appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Glassman is nominated to become assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy
He says U.S. must end misconception that it wants to weaken the Muslim world
Glassman: "I am deeply committed to a program of vigorous communication"
From Charley Keyes
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The man nominated to head public diplomacy at the State Department said Wednesday that al Qaeda is doing a better job than the Bush administration in winning friends over the Internet.
"Our enemies are eating our lunch in terms of getting the word out in digital technology," said James Glassman.
He was answering questions at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
If approved by the committee and then by the Senate, Glassman would succeed President Bush's longtime friend and adviser Karen Hughes as assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy.
Glassman is now the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors -- responsible for the radio, television and Internet networks paid for by U.S. taxpayers -- such as the Voice of America, available in dozens of languages, and Arabic language Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa.
Hughes stepped down from her State Department post in December.
Glassman's comments Wednesday echoed a November speech by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in which he said the United States needs more speed, agility and cultural relevance in its communications.
"Public relations was invented in the United States, yet we are miserable at communicating to the rest of the world what we are about as a society and a culture, about freedom and democracy, about our policies and our goals," Gates said.
"It is just plain embarrassing that al Qaeda is better at communicating its message on the Internet than America."
Glassman said he agrees "with the spirit" of Gates' criticism and said he would continue the work begun by Hughes and others to use person-to-person contacts, student and cultural exchanges and new technologies to push the United States' message.
"I am deeply committed to a program of vigorous communication," he told the committee.
In September 2005, Hughes traveled throughout the Middle East as part of what she dubbed a "listening tour" to repair the U.S. image damaged after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But she had a tough sell, and many Arabs criticized Hughes for what they called her lack of understanding of the region.
Glassman said the United States must overturn a misconception in the Muslim world that it is a military threat, that it wants to weaken and divide the Muslim world and spread Christianity.
One member of the committee, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, asked Glassman, "Do we broadcast what people want to hear or what they need to hear?"
Glassman replied, "We have to be honest. If we tell them lies they are going to figure that out very quickly."
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, introduced Glassman to the committee, saying the public diplomacy post is "the closest thing to a supreme allied commander in the war of ideas and one of the most important posts in Washington."