President Barack Obama has nominated Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, as the next U.S. ambassador to Japan.
Kennedy, 55, would replace Ambassador John Roos, a former technology lawyer and Obama campaign donor, as the envoy in Tokyo.
The only surviving child of the late President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline, Kennedy would be the first woman to serve as the top U.S. envoy in Japan.
An early backer of Obama in his 2008 run for president and a co-chairman of his 2012 re-election campaign, Kennedy is one of several political supporters and donors who have been under review for ambassadorships to top U.S. allies.
Officials in Japan have said that they would welcome Kennedy’s nomination. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said April 2 that “such an appointment would be much talked about and it would deepen our friendship.
For Kennedy, becoming an ambassador would allow her to continue a family tradition of public service. Her father, the 35th U.S. president, was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. Her uncle Robert Kennedy, a U.S. senator from New York, was assassinated while running for president in 1968. Another uncle, U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, died in August 2009 after serving in the Senate for almost 47 years. Her grandfather, Joseph P. Kennedy, was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s ambassador to the U.K.
In January of 2008, when Obama was battling then-Senator Hillary Clinton of New York for the Democratic presidential nomination, Kennedy endorsed Obama on the New York Times opinion pages, writing that “I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them.”
“But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president,” she wrote.
At the party’s national convention last year in Charlotte, North Carolina, she said that Obama’s first term record reflected “the ideals my father and my uncles fought for.”
A graduate of Columbia University Law School in New York, Kennedy is the mother of three and the author or co-author of 10 books, from one on the U.S. Bill of Rights to “The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis.”
Kennedy would occupy a position previously held by men who were presidential friends, fundraisers, and elder statesmen, including former Vice President Walter Mondale of Minnesota and former Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield of Montana, both Democrats.
Tokyo is an important post because of extensive economic and security ties. Japan was the U.S’s fourth-largest trading partner in goods in January, following Canada, China, and Mexico, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The U.S. imported $146.4 billion in goods from Japan last years, and exported $70 billion.
Kennedy joins a growing list of Obama ambassadorial nominees who haven’t come from the ranks of the career foreign service. Obama has rewarded financial backers, campaign operatives and White House aides with 35 percent of his ambassadorships, rewarding party loyalist with postings at a higher rate than his predecessors.
President George W. Bush drew outside the diplomatic corps for 30 percent of his ambassadors while President Bill Clinton was at 27 percent, according to the American Foreign Service Association.
Obama has already nominated donors to serve as envoys in some of the most coveted postings in Europe, including the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Spain and Germany.
All ambassador nominations are subject to Senate confirmation.
While Obama’s ambassadors will report to Secretary of State John Kerry, political appointees often have the ability to go directly to the president. Their status as a friend and supporter of the president can give them more leeway than envoys who achieved ambassadorial ranking through their work in the foreign service.
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