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Letters: Who's fit to be an ambassador?

April 05, 2013
  • Caroline Kennedy, seen here in 2008, is reportedly in line to be the next U.S. ambassador to Japan.
Caroline Kennedy, seen here in 2008, is reportedly in line to be the next… (Phil McCarten / EPA )

Re "Ambassador Kennedy?," Editorial, April 3

In deriding Caroline Kennedy's possible nomination to be the U.S. ambassador to Japan, The Times makes the mistake of equating knowledge of a country and language fluency — skills found in career U.S. Foreign Service workers — with being a good ambassador. Having been one of those expert Foreign Service officers, I know that access, not expertise, is the most important qualification.

One of the biggest concerns a foreign government has about the U.S. ambassador is whether the president will pick up the phone when she calls. With Kennedy (or any other important political supporter), the president will be easily accessible, which serves the interests of both countries. A wonkish career Foreign Service officer would have a hard time getting beyond a deputy assistant secretary of State.

Sure, Kennedy has no special skills. But it is access, not experience, that counts. Her staff would take care of the substance and language issues.

Kim Stevens

San Pedro

The writer is a retired U.S. Foreign Service employee.

You state that being from a storied American political family and an early and valued supporter of Barack Obama's presidential ambitions are dubious credentials to be the next U.S. ambassador to Japan. What exactly are the qualifications to be an ambassador?

The last two U.S. ambassadors to Japan were John Roos, a technology lawyer, and Tom Schieffer, a friend and former business partner of President Bush. Why weren't their unique qualifications mentioned? Is it because they are men, the traditional quality that gives ambassadors impeachable credentials?

And your suggestion that Kennedy might be incapable of playing an active role in communicating views that are important to the United States — really. Does she have a speech impediment?

Ross Williams

Sherman Oaks

Nobody complained when President Reagan nominated the actor John Gavin as ambassador to Mexico. He was neither a lawyer nor a politician, but he was handsome.

On this matter, please leave President Obama alone. He knows what he's doing.

Paul Guillemin

Los Angeles

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