Caroline Kennedy Is Seen as Likely Choice for Japan Envoy By MICHAEL D. SHEAR Published: April 1, 2013
Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, is likely to be the next United States ambassador to Japan, according to people familiar with the appointment process.
The vetting of Ms. Kennedy by the White House is almost complete, and an appointment could be announced in the coming weeks, along with the names of several other choices for important diplomatic posts. Ms. Kennedy, 55, was an early supporter of President Obama in the 2008 presidential election and offered forceful backing as he battled Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination. She also served as a co-chairwoman of Mr. Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
The diplomatic assignment would vault Ms. Kennedy, a lawyer and the author of 10 books, into the kind of public life that her family has embraced for nearly 75 years, including in the diplomatic corps. Ms. Kennedy’s grandfather Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. served as ambassador to Britain from 1938 to 1940. Esther Newberg, the agent for Ms. Kennedy’s current book, a compilation of poetry for young children, declined to comment on the author’s behalf. “She is on her book tour, actually, and that’s the only thing she is talking about,” Ms. Newberg wrote in an e-mail.
White House officials also declined to comment on Ms. Kennedy. Jay Carney, the press secretary, said he had “no personnel announcements to make” about ambassador appointments. Asked to comment on Ms. Kennedy’s qualifications to serve as ambassador to Japan, Mr. Carney declined. Ms. Kennedy does not have any obvious connection to Japan, but she would arrive in Tokyo as a kind of celebrity — a member of one of America’s most famous families and someone close to the president. Sending her to Tokyo would continue a long presidential tradition of appointing well-known American political figures to the post.
Former American ambassadors to Japan include Walter F. Mondale, the former vice president; Mike Mansfield, the former Senate majority leader; and Thomas S. Foley, the former speaker of the House. Ms. Kennedy is the president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and the chairwoman of the senior advisory committee at the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She would replace John V. Roos, the former chief executive officer of a Silicon Valley law firm. Bloomberg News and The Washington Post first reported that Ms. Kennedy was under consideration for the ambassadorship.
If nominated and confirmed, Ms. Kennedy will face a nation still working to recover from the tsunami and nuclear disaster in 2011. The ambassador will also be on the front lines of the president’s efforts to refocus American diplomacy on Asia. The next envoy will arrive in Japan as North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, makes increasingly aggressive moves toward the United States and South Korea. In 2009, Ms. Kennedy was thought to be a likely candidate to replace Mrs. Clinton in the Senate upon her confirmation as secretary of state. But after a brief venture into the contact sport of New York politics, Ms. Kennedy took herself out of the running for the seat, citing a “very private family matter.” White House officials declined to give a timeline for an announcement about the Japan post.
It is possible that Ms. Kennedy’s nomination will be announced with appointments to other diplomatic posts. Marc Lasry, a billionaire hedge fund manager and Obama supporter, is said to be the president’s pick to be ambassador to France. Former President Bill Clinton told attendees at a pair of fund-raisers last month that Mr. Lasry was set to get the job. John R. Phillips, a Washington lawyer, is frequently mentioned as a possibility for ambassador to Italy. Several people familiar with the process have said in recent weeks that Matthew Barzun may be appointed as the ambassador to Britain. The job was once thought to be going to Anna Wintour, the editor in chief of Vogue magazine, who was a prodigious fund-raiser for Mr. Obama. Ms. Kennedy is married to Edwin Schlossberg and has three children. If confirmed by the Senate, she would become the first woman to represent the United States in Japan.