Clearly Caroline Kennedy, an important early supporter of President Barack Obama, is in the third category. Her backing for Obama in the Democratic Party primaries in 2008, when he was still a relatively unknown senator from Illinois, gave his campaign credibility among party insiders who remain loyal to her family’s legacy.
Kennedy’s address to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during her confirmation hearing elicited bipartisan support — a rare occurrence nowadays, given America’s highly polarized national politics — and she received unanimous approval. Although she lacks formal political or diplomatic experience, her personal connections, particularly to Obama, will have great significance for U.S.-Japan relations.
And there are pressing issues that need the new ambassador’s attention. For example, there are security questions related to strengthening the alliance between Japan and the U.S., including the relocation of the Futenma Air Station, the base of operations for the U.S. Marine Corps on Okinawa. There are also issues related to economic cooperation, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the proposed mega-regional free-trade treaty covering Pacific Rim economies.