Ambassador-designate John V. Roos gets praise from White House

Politico.com coverage of the White House reports that the new ambassador has the full confidence of President Obama, even though Roos is not a career diplomat.

As I pointed out the other day, reports say that Roos was selected over last winter’s frontrunner Joseph Nye because Roos was in the President’s fundraising circle and has been a longtime friend.

Being a partner from a big name California law firm is not exactly a weak resume, you know.

There is a school of thought that says American ambassadors should always come out of the diplomat core. The diplomat core usually stays in a country for years and years, and has a better sense of daily life there.

However, Presidents tend to select big contributors or other types of big wigs—like former Senators, Congressmen, or businessmen like Joseph Kennedy, JFK’s father. Roosevelt picked him to be ambassador to the Court of St. James, which I think is in the U.K.

Rarely, you get someone like Edwin O. Reischauer, who was the U.S. Ambassador to Japan from 1961 to about 1966. Reischauer was born in Japan (1910) to American missionaries. He learned Japanese growing up in Tokyo. During the War, Dr. Reischauer served stateside as a translator for the war effort–he was one of the few non-native Japanese who had mastered the language). Then, after the war, he taught at Harvard.

President Kennedy is reported to have said that he picked Dr. Reischauer for here because he had had the professor for an Asian survey course at Harvard!

Dr. Reischauer never really had any diplomatic experience. He was just somebody who President Kennedy thought would be good as the foremost expert on Japan at a time when there weren’t any. And moreso, Reischauer was someone who Kennedy knew and trusted to get the job done right.

This was in the postwar era when building trust again between Japan and America was still something that needed the right effort.

It turned out that Reischauer was a big success here because of his own efforts and skills. Plus he was right for the times.

Incidentally, I believe he was featured in one of those late 1960’s CBS documentaries called “The Japanese” (won an Emmy). If that show still exists in a media form and you can find it, then you can see him talking about Japan. (I saw it maybe sometime in the ’70’s or ’80’s.)

So John Roos coming in, I think the important thing is the personal talents he will bring, and his prior strong relationship with President Obama.

And no one can really say what the program should be for the new Ambassador until the Japanese decide their important issue. After the August 30 general election, the main thing will be dialoguing with the next Japanese government.

In this situation, the best thing to do is send a lawyer-friend of the President, right?