President Barack Obama plans to name Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, as the next U.S. ambassador to Japan, according to a person familiar with the matter.
While Kennedy has agreed to the posting and the president has settled on her as his choice, an announcement isn’t expected until later this month, said the person, who requested anonymity to discuss personnel matters.
Kennedy, 55, would replace Ambassador John Roos, a former technology lawyer and Obama campaign donor, as the envoy in Tokyo. In February, Bloomberg News reported Obama had signed off on Kennedy’s nomination, pending a background check.
An early backer of Obama in his 2008 run for president and a co-chairman of his 2012 campaign, Kennedy is one of several political supporters and donors being reviewed for ambassadorships to top U.S. allies. She would be the first woman to serve as American envoy to Japan.
When asked about Kennedy’s nomination yesterday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “I have no personnel announcements to make.”
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga today said his government hadn’t been informed of any appointment.
“Former President Kennedy was very familiar to the Japanese, so we are watching to see if such an appointment will be made,” he told reporters in Tokyo. “Such an appointment would be much talked about and it would deepen our friendship.”
As Obama replaces Cabinet members, he is also rounding out his diplomatic representatives and rewarding those who worked for his re-election.
Matthew Barzun, finance chairman of Obama’s 2012 campaign, is the leading candidate to be ambassador to the Court of St. James’s in the U.K., said the person. Obama has settled on Marc Lasry, chief executive officer of Avenue Capital Group LLC, to be his ambassador to France, the person said. Lasry helped unite Obama’s fundraising network with that of his 2008 Democratic primary rival, Hillary Clinton, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
While Obama’s second-term 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 or supporter of the president can give them more leeway than envoys who achieved ambassadorial ranking by working their way up the foreign service.
Obama has drawn ambassadors from the political ranks at a higher rate than the historical average of 30 percent, according to the American Foreign Service Association. In his first term, Obama nominated 59 ambassadors, including 40 fundraising bundlers, who lacked experience in the diplomatic corps.
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, also was assassinated, while running for president in 1968. Another uncle, former Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy, 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 still battling Clinton for the Democratic nomination, Kennedy endorsed Obama with a New York Times opinion article, 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.”