WASHINGTON: Karen Hughes, former White House director of communications, ended her 18-month hiatus from politics last week with a six-week book tour that will culminate in her full-time return to the Bush fold.
Campaign insiders hailed Hughes' return as a welcome infusion of communications talent to a campaign under fire. Hughes, a longtime Bush loyalist, has remained a frequent adviser to the White House since leaving Washington, but will serve an unspecified role with the campaign starting this summer through Election Day.
Hughes is widely regarded as responsible for the "compassionate" side of Bush's "compassionate conservative" message, an impression some GOP strategists say is well deserved.
"Karen is an incredibly effective political operative, but partly because she doesn't think like a political operative," said Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican National Committee. "She looks at everything though the eyes of a working woman."
Tucker Eskew, former head of the White House Office of Global Communications and another longtime Bush strategist, said Hughes serves "a unique set of purposes" in the Bush message machine.
"She's a message crafter, a master of ceremonies, and a mother-confessor all rolled into one," he said.
David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter who was critical of Hughes in his 2003 book, The Right Man: An Inside Account of the Bush White House, nonetheless said Hughes was a rare creature in political PR -an operative with close, personal ties to her boss.
"It's often true in politics that communications professionals have kind of a transactional relationship with the people they work for...but her entire career has been with [Bush]," he said.
Hughes' book, Ten Minutes From Normal, is a memoir of her time with Bush from his days as governor.