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EDITORIAL: Caroline Kennedy for Tokyo?

Gracious, educated and talented, but maybe not a good choice

- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2013

Representing the United States abroad is a privilege and honor. Appointments should be chosen carefully; the billets can be challenging, if not perilous. The White House discovered this in Libya, when Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed last Sept. 11 by terrorists in Benghazi.

Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the 35th president, sole heir of "Camelot," a lawyer and wife of Edwin Schlossberg, a designer, is said to be President Obama's choice for U.S. ambassador to Japan. The idea is appealing. Miss Kennedy (she did not change her name when married in 1986) has the name recognition that would have appeal in the Land of the Rising Sun. She has continued her father's legacy of political courage with her family's "Profiles in Courage Awards," her presidency of the Kennedy Library Foundation and her contributions to the New York City Public School system. She would be the first woman to represent the United States in Tokyo. She's the most attractive of the Kennedys.

In 2008, Miss Kennedy was among the first to endorse Barack Obama, who she said inspired her in the way she heard others say John F. Kennedy inspired them. She even had a role in choosing Joe Biden as Mr. Obama's running mate.

After Hillary Clinton left the U.S. Senate to serve as Mr. Obama's first secretary of state, Miss Kennedy was considered by the governor to replace her. After weeks of scrutiny and questions arose — about her voting record, financial disclosures and sometimes less-than-stellar interviews — she withdrew her name from consideration.

Choosing Miss Kennedy would fit with presidential precedent of rewarding those who aided his campaign with plum appointments. But Tokyo isn't Copenhagen, and Japan isn't Finland. Along with being one of our most essential political, military and economic partners in Asia, Japan is a nation under siege on several fronts.

The noise from North Korea grows more reckless, if not necessarily more ominous, and maybe even ominous in Tokyo because Kim Jong-un's missiles have Japan in range. China is a wary neighbor. Japan's economy continues to falter — recovery from the "lost decade" has been hampered by last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Dealing with circumstances such as these calls more for diplomatic expertise than a famous name with a popular legacy. Resolving a regional crisis requires knowledge of global policy and mettle beyond a diplomat of modest experience, however well intentioned and admired at home and abroad the diplomat may be. The situation requires an ambassador with a track record, scholarship and experience in the region.

If nominated and confirmed, Miss Kennedy could pleasantly surprise doubters and surpass expectations. We understand why President Obama is tempted to appoint her, but he probably ought to look elsewhere.

The Washington Times

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