President Barack Obama recently appointed Caroline Kennedy as Ambassador to Japan. She appeared at a Confirmation Hearing before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee this week and was very enthusiastically referred to the Full Senate. It’s hard to believe that she will get anything but a quick approval.
I can only think of the Jim Carey movie, Truman, where he lived his entire life in a movie studio. Who, more than Mrs. Kennedy Schlossberg has lived virtually her entire life in the Public Eye? She is a very private person; however, she is a graduate of Radcliffe and Columbia Law School, an attorney, author of two books on human rights and a philanthropist. In spite of the great send-off from the Senate Hearing, there are still those who cite her lack of diplomatic experience as a negative.
President Ronald Reagan appointed his Hollywood Pal, John Gavin, as Ambassador to Mexico and George H.W. Bush named Shirley Temple Black to the Czechoslovakia post. And, more specifically, the Ambassador to Japan has been mostly Political Appointments in recent years.
Think about this situation: there are not enough career diplomats to be named to all 170 countries, as Ambassador. So, what type of person would you want running our Embassies in: London; Paris; Brussels; Ottawa and Canberra? And, what credentials would you prefer for the posts in: Beijing; Cairo; Istanbul; Moscow and Brasilia?
When this Country was first formed, statesmen such as Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were named. Also, we had very few Embassies at that time. Nowadays, however, most business is transacted through the respective heads of the various U.S. Government Departments represented at each location. So, for the “Plum Jobs”, the Ambassador is a political appointment, with the charge d’affairs actually running the show. That enables senior diplomats to be assigned to the strategicly-important posts.
With airline travel and electronic communications, the difference in miles are easily overcome. Key Secretaries are certainly in touch with their counterparts on a regular basis, as is President Obama with the respective Heads-of-State.