(By Ray D.)
This is perhaps the only way German citizens will ever see the true opinions and positions of the US administration unfiltered. This is one of the few ways the administration can hope to get a fair shake in foreign media - by defining its own positions without the overwhelming spin of a hostile press.
US Diplomatic Representatives in Germany Have Long Failed to Effectively Engage Mass Media...
The US Embassy ought to have representatives fluent in German engaging mass media on a regular basis to clarify the US position, debate transatlantic issues and correct misinformation. They ought to be far more present on television talk shows, radio shows and as guest columnists in major newspapers. One appearance on a program such as "Berlin Mitte" will reach exponentially more Germans than years of organizing art exchanges or discussion groups at the local Amerika Haus or cultural center.
The fact that members of the American Foreign Service haven't more effectively engaged German media has been a costly failure. The system of two year rotations in the US foreign service clearly makes it more difficult to establish an effective media program. The fact that the Foreign Service and State Department tend to lean undeniably to the left also means that there is currently less desire to go out and explain and defend the positions of the US government on mass media forums - despite the fact that that is the very mission of the public diplomacy officials. One could say that some in the State Department and Foreign Service sympathize with or at least condone the America-hostile rhetoric of the European left.
Here's an important point: If the Ambassador cannot speak the local language - and the current US Ambassador in Germany cannot - then he needs to have a media representative fluent in the local language and able to effectively engage local media on important bilateral and multilateral issues. This MUST become a central mission of American embassies throughout Western Europe.
Education of US Future Diplomats is Wanting...
As someone who just graduated from a top foreign service Masters program in the United States - it is obvious that future American diplomats are not receiving the adequate preparation they need to deal with mass media. Writing memos, following the news and studying past foreign policy is fine - but it does not produce the sort of forward looking, modern, media-savvy diplomats that America has a critical need for moving forward. Top graduate programs must integrate communications and media studies into their foreign affairs and foreign service programs. Public diplomacy is a track that is vitally important and will only grow in importance. It must be emphasized and failure to do so will wield further mediocrity in dealing with foreign media.
Further, when it comes to U.S. university programs in international affairs, the conservative point of view is vastly underrepresented in programs designed to prepare future diplomats. The classes I took on media, for example, were taught exclusively by individuals with unmistakably left-leaning world-views and an open hostility towards conservative and electronic media. Even the self-proclaimed "registered Republican" professor bought a theory put forth by Bill Moyers and Dan Rather that the media were largely in lockstep with Bush before the Iraq War - serving as uncritical lapdogs in the administration's march to war. This deeply flawed and extremely self-serving theory has become widely (and often uncritically) accepted inside the beltway. We were asked to follow the New York Times and Washington Post - and largely ignored conservative publications and viewpoints. When a controversial conservative professor was invited to teach on campus, the protests became so loud among faculty (one could say that a lynch mob atmosphere was created) that the dean actually had to step-in to keep him on board. That would have never happened had he been a controversial liberal like Michael Moore or Noam Chomsky.
It may be that conservatives are politically "out of fashion" for the moment (but - then - aren't they always in Washington?) Still, as a graduate student, I would like to be exposed to both sides of the political spectrum in a balanced manner. It didn't help that most of the students also tend to the left. It didn't help that not a single classmate had served in the US Armed Forces. Academia can be a lonely place if you aren't down with the left-leaning groupthink - particularly in the social sciences. You essentially have to keep quiet - or risk being shouted down and disliked by most of your peers and professors.