Confirmation hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Sept. 19 were full of fireworks aimed at three nominees of President Donald Trump, but none made a dent in the nomination of Michael Pack, the administration’s pick to be chief executive officer at the U.S. Agency for Global Media.
Pack made a persuasive case for himself and for his record as an experienced broadcast executive.
In his opening statement, Pack reached back to Abraham Lincoln to refer to “whoever molds public sentiment” being more powerful than he who writes the laws. In a world where information warfare is being waged by China and Russia—among others—molding public sentiment abroad has to be a top priority, countering “lies with truth.”
Pack cited what would be his three top priorities:
- Raising morale among the staff of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which consistently ranks last in Office of Personnel Management surveys of federal employee satisfaction.
- Getting a handle on the numerous scandals besetting the agency, including bribe-taking among some staffers and executive financial malfeasance.
- Making the agency more effective, which was, in fact, the mandate for reform passed by a bipartisan majority of Congress in 2016.
Questions from Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., reflected the thrust of the hostile media campaign that has stalled Pack’s nomination.
The mere fact that Pack had in the past worked on a documentary film with former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon was enough to ignite media smears in the U.S. and abroad, including—not surprisingly—on the Russian propaganda site RT.
Pack, however, repeatedly assured members of the committee that respect for the integrity and independence of the U.S. Agency for Global Media’s reporters would be the bedrock principle of his leadership.
Pack was pressed by Menendez on the question of whether someone who had once described himself as a “conservative documentary maker” could be balanced in his approach. In response, Pack invited the senator to look at his programs for PBS, done in the aftermath of 9/11.
He was also asked about the famous “firewall” separating politics from reporting at the agency and what he would do if political pressure ever came from the White House or Congress.
“I have said ‘no’ before,” Pack said calmly.
But political pressure can also be exercised by foreign governments, such as the Chinese, and the previous leadership of the agency’s broadcasting under then-President Barack Obama failed miserably to say “no” when pressured by Beijing.
Under questioning, Pack remained courteous and collected, a far cry from the ginned-up media insinuations that for more than a year have been aimed at derailing his nomination.
As noted by RealClearPolitics, it has taken 16 months—and the resignation of two senators opposed to it—for Pack’s nomination to make it to the Senate committee.
It takes dedication and patience in a candidate to wait that long, and if Pack is confirmed, it will certainly take those same qualities to rectify the myriad problems and mismanagement at the U.S. Agency for Global Media.