President Joe Biden has selected former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as his ambassador to Japan, The Financial Times reports.
Emanuel, who also served in Congress and as former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, is expected to be formally nominated later this month as part of a larger group of ambassadorship nominations.
Emanuel was considered for a number of Cabinet and administration jobs but pushback from progressives sank those hopes. Emanuel has seen been discussed as a contender for numerous high-profile ambassadorships, including China, but that job is expected to go to former top US diplomat Nick Burns.
Japan is a key ally of the United States in the region and one that Biden has sought to establish good relations with as he aims to crack down on China and North Korea. Biden’s first foreign White House visit was from Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
High profile gig:
The ambassadorship to Japan has traditionally been reserved for top-tier former Congressional leaders.
Bill Clinton’s ambassadors to Japan were former Vice President Walter Mondale and former House Speaker Tom Foley.
George W. Bush’s ambassador to Japan was former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker.
But former President Barack Obama bucked that trend, sending Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of former President John F. Kennedy, to Tokyo.
“From the point of view of Tokyo, the most sought [after] asset in a US ambassador to Japan is proximity to the president,” Mireya Solís, a Japan expert at the Brookings Institution, told the Financial Times. “There is reassurance on that score since Rahm Emanuel and Joe Biden go way back.”
Emanuel’s past may haunt him:
Emanuel was one of the most visible Democrats for decades, first serving in Clinton’s administration before being elected to the House of Representatives and then being tapped to head up the White House by Obama.
But Emanuel left the administration and served two terms as mayor of Chicago, where he opted not to run for a third term after he was widely criticized over the coverup of the fatal police shooting of LaQuan McDonald.
Progressives have torpedoed Emanuel’s attempts to land a Cabinet role and it’s not a given that he will sail through his confirmation.