|Karen P. Hughes, then Undersecretary of State for Public Dipolmacy, during a 2006 interview with the Dallas Morning News in her office at the State Department. (CAROL T. POWERS FOR THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS)|
Karen Hughes, a top adviser to George W. Bush, gave her political party some tough love Wednesday, saying the GOP needs to re-embrace the “compassionate conservative” vision outlined by her former White House boss.
That’s especially true, she said, after Republicans struggled in the November election to successfully connect with women, Hispanics and other increasingly influential voting groups.
“The right approach for the Republican Party is a conservative philosophy that is hopeful and optimistic, not angry and negative,” said Hughes, who worked in the Bush Administration at the White House and State Department. “We have to be a party of opportunity.”
Hughes touched on that, the prospect of Texas turning Democratic and other political topics Wednesday, as she gets ready to leave the Lone Star State for a spring teaching fellowship at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.
The Dallas Morning News caught up with Hughes, the worldwide vice chairwoman of public relations giant Burson-Marsteller, after she spoke at a “Women in Politics” panel at SMU’s Tower Center for Political Studies. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.
DMN: Tell us what has you excited about the Harvard teaching fellowship, which will involve leading study groups and developing a course on communications?
KH: The 2012 election made it clear the Republican Party needs to do better listening to and understanding the needs of young people. I can’t think of a better place to do that than a campus full of motivated, dynamic young people who are interested in politics. It will be a learning experience for me, as well as an opportunity for me to give back some of the experiences I’ve been privileged to witness in government.
DMN: What kind of questions are you anticipating from the students?
KH: What’s it really like? What’s it really like to walk into the Oval Office and talk to the president? What was it like after 9/11? … I might put them in the situation. Tell them, “9/11 happened this morning, and you have to write a speech for the president.” What do you say? If you’re like me, all I kept thinking about was FDR’s famous line: “a day that will live in infamy.” And I thought, “What’s our’s?” It kind of froze me for a moment. … I’d to like to try and put them in the room, as these events are unfolding.
DMN: As the country starts to debate immigration reform once again, what can be learned from President Bush’s unsuccessful efforts to overhaul immigration policy in his second term?
KH: I hope the Republican Party is looking back at the wisdom of President Bush’s approach on this issue. I’ve started to see a little of that after the outcome of the November election. … Part of that is the language. Our party didn’t sound welcoming in the last election. President Bush truly believes that immigrants are a vital part of American life and society. … That’s what our party has been lacking: empathy and understanding. … The difference between when President Bush tried to enact immigration reform and today is the result of the 2012 election. Republicans, I hope, got a wake-up call. More