The chattering class is yammering over whether Caroline Kennedy is qualified to become the next U.S. ambassador to Japan.
She’s never held elected office, or run a big public agency, or managed a political campaign, or been schooled in the details of U.S. diplomacy. That’s what they’re saying.
I’ll reiterate yet again that Kennedy is qualified by virtue of the criteria presidents of both parties set for these high-profile ambassadorial assignments. She’s a big supporter of the man who occupies the White House and that’s good enough.
Allow me this comparison: Teel Bivins’s appointment to be U.S. ambassador to Sweden.
What qualified the late Amarillo state senator? Well, he was a big fundraiser for President George W. Bush. He campaigned diligently for the then-Texas governor when he was running for president in 2000. Bivins held exactly one elected office, that of state senator, before being tapped in 2003 to present his credentials to the Swedish government in Stockholm.
By all accounts, Bivins did a fine job representing U.S. interests in the Baltic region of Europe. How did he do that? He was surrounded by a competent staff of career foreign service officers who taught everything he needed to know about Sweden, not to mention about diplomatic protocol.
I’ll concede that Sweden isn’t nearly the economic powerhouse that Japan has become. Still, Sweden is no Third World backwater. It has a vibrant automobile industry and it manufactures fighter jets that are sold to many nations around the world. It is one of he world’s most socialized countries. It taxes its citizens heavily to pay for things like medical care.
That was the environment into which Teel Bivins, a staunch conservative Texas Republican lawmaker was thrown.
He did just fine.
Kennedy has access to even more expertise than Bivins ever had. She’s a well-educated lawyer who comes from the nation’s premier political families. She could be a quick study on the complexities of Japan’s economy, its geopolitical importance and its key role in keeping the peace in east Asia.
I don’t doubt for a minute that she’s qualified.