BBG Watch Commentary

A German TV crew interviewing a Clinton supporter next to a Donald Trump cutout outside of an auditorium in Reno, Nevada where Hillary Clinton was speaking Thursday, August 25, 2016.
A German TV crew interviewing a Clinton supporter next to a Donald Trump cutout outside of an auditorium in Reno, Nevada where Hillary Clinton was speaking Thursday, August 25, 2016.

James K. Glassman, former Republican Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Chairman and former Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, announced earlier this month that he had joined other former Republican officials who say they’ll vote for Hillary Clinton. As reported by The Dallas Morning News, Glassman said that he’ll vote for Hillary Clinton “in part to save the Republican party.”

Glassman was BBG Chairman from June 2007 to June 2008 and Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy from June 2008 to January 2009, both positions in the George W. Bush administration. He was the founding executive director of the George W. Bush Institute. Glassman said he decided to vote for Clinton because Donald Trump would “be a disaster” as president.

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was herself an ex officio member of the BBG board from 2009 to 2013. Despite being a high-level official of the Obama administration, Clinton had been strongly critical of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and its bipartisan board on which she served. In a congressional testimony in 2013, she had called the BBG “practically defunct in terms of its capacity to be able to tell a message around the world.” Clinton has substantial foreign policy experience and is well familiar with public diplomacy programs and BBG media outlets, such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and the Voice of America (VOA).

If elected, Clinton is more likely to reform the agency than Trump, who has expressed his admiration for Russia’s strongman Vladimir Putin, questioned U.S. commitments to NATO allies and relied for foreign policy advice on individuals with links to the Kremlin business mafia. In 2009, Secretary Clinton visited the RFE/RL headquarters in Prague and delivered a speech in which she said: “We must show American values around the world. We must show they are better.”

Like Trump, the two top Broadcasting Board of Governors officials, current BBG Democratic chairman Jeff Shell and his selectee as BBG CEO John Lansing, are also businessmen who lack foreign policy experience. They rely for foreign policy advice on longtime agency bureaucrats whom they were advised by some former BBG members and others to replace but kept them in their positions, promoted some, and followed their advice.

In a major but not widely reported embarrassment for the Obama administration, Shell and Lansing went recently together with other BBG officials on a private business/government business trip to Russia during which Russian officials expelled Shell from the country while allowing others to enter.

Clinton is more likely than Trump to find such a mixed private and official trip by BBG executives to Putin’s Russia at this time as an example of appallingly poor judgement. In her comments to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2013, Secretary Clinton said that the Broadcasting Board of Governors has been “abdicating the ideological arena, and we need to get back into it.”

There has been no getting back into the ideological arena at the Broadcasting Board of Governors under the current leadership of Jeff Shell and John Lansing, internal and external critics say, including Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and other members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats. They want to abolish the part-time BBG board and restructure the agency. Jeff Shell and John Lansing oppose these reforms.

Examples of a continuing major management meltdown at the agency include: Voice of America posting a message of hostage-holding Boko Haram terrorists recorded by enslaved girls under a threat of death, some of them minors, whose faces VOA did not even bother to obscure; VOA posting one-sided programs on all three major presidential hopefuls–Trump, Clinton, and Bernie Sanders; and VOA posting fluff videos while Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, although to a lesser degree, also has undermined its news brand with entertaining videos that have little to do with news and may even serve the cult of personality of various post-Soviet dictators. Having worked in the State Department, Mrs. Clinton is not likely to tolerate bad judgement that hinges upon U.S. foreign policy.

BBG officials were reportedly hoping to meet Russian officials invited by RFE/RL managers to a party in Moscow. Putin’s officials did not show up.

One high-level BBG official was quoted as telling an incredulous audience of professional RFE/RL journalists that until 3 or 4 years ago, Russia could still be considered a democracy.

Voice of America



Voice of America


Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Donald Trump has made a name for himself with comments that have been used against him by Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, but which also upset many mainstream Republicans such as James Glassman.

“He’s not going into Ukraine [Vladimir Putin], OK, just so you understand. He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want,” Trump said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

“So with all of the Obama tough talk on Russia and the Ukraine, they have already taken Crimea and continue to push. That’s what I said!”

“Wouldn’t it be great if we got along with Russia?,” Trump said in one of his interviews.

Trump also said: “And as far as the Ukraine is concerned, it’s a mess. And that’s under the Obama’s administration with his strong ties to NATO. So with all of these strong ties to NATO, Ukraine is a mess. Crimea has been taken. Don’t blame Donald Trump for that.”

The Clinton campaign responded, with senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan saying: “What is he talking about? Russia is already in Ukraine. Does he not know that? What else doesn’t he know?” “But it shouldn’t surprise us. This comes on the heels of his tacit invitation to the Russians to invade our NATO allies in Eastern Europe,” Sullivan said in a statement.

James Gassman, who also objects to Donald Trump’s foreign policy pronouncements, is a member of R4C16 Republicans for Clinton group. They say they are not affiliated with the Clinton campaign and insist that a major reason for their decision is to save their own party. “It is also a necessary step in restoring the Republican party to its core principles,” the R4C16 statement says. The group seeks to provide voice to the millions of Republicans who cannot support Trump but who don’t want to leave their party and plan to vote for Republican candidates other than Trump.

As of August 25, 2016, the Republicans for Clinton Facebook page has 33,742 “Page Likes.”

James Glassman, said in a Republicans for Clinton statement: “In voting for Secretary Clinton in this election, we will also be voting for Republicans in Senate and House races. Retaining the Congress is critical for those of us who, unlike the man the GOP nominated, continue to believe in the principles of the party of Lincoln and Reagan — liberty and respect for the individual.”

READ MORE IN THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Bush Institute’s former director says he’ll vote for Clinton, calls Trump presidency ‘a disaster’, Julie Rancher, The Dallas Morning News, August 12, 2016.