I’ve heard rumors that House Speaker Denny Hastert has had enough after six years as House Speaker. He’s been named as a possible successor to Howard Baker as ambassador to Japan. But what does Hastert know about Japan? Who cares! It doesn’t matter to the Japanese leadership. They want someone seriously connected in Washington, and who more so than Hastert?
Check out this list of US Ambassadors to Japan from the past 30 years and their old jobs:
Five of six were in Washington’s top posts, four of them in [the] top legislative positions. Why did they go on to become Ambassadors to Japan?
Believe it or not, Japan doesn’t want East Asian experts like Edwin Reischauer, who served in the position during the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies from 1961-1966. Born in Japan in 1910, Reischauer was fluent in Japanese was apparently pretty popular in Japan. But when it came down to real hard politics, he had no political connections in Washington and was never effective at getting clear channels of communication for the Japanese leadership. Starting with Mike Mansfield (who was appointed by Carter but who Reagan kept on), Japan realized that the secret to getting the message through to Washington was having a vetetran politico at the helm.
So if you want to be ambassador to Japan (Saru? Adamu?), it’s best to be in a top legislative position, not (just?) an expert on Japan.