By John Gizzi
With President Joe Biden’s nomination Wednesday of Rahm Emanuel, former Chicago mayor and Obama White House chief of staff, as U.S. ambassador to Japan, one could almost hear the collective cries of “Why?” and “Him?” from Tokyo.
Two sources with solid connections to the government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told Newsmax that the choice of Emanuel, 61, was neither expected or wanted by the Japanese government.
“The former mayor of Chicago was definitely not wanted [by the Suga government] as ambassador,” a veteran Japanese journalist told Newsmax, “They would have preferred him being sent to Beijing.”
This opinion was strongly seconded by a source close to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who spoke to Newsmax on the condition of anonymity.
“This is a confusing pick for the Japanese,” the source told us. “Rahm has numerous strengths, but diplomacy is not in his toolkit.”
Recalling Emanuel’s propensity for angry outbursts, foul language, and confrontation both in the Obama White House and at City Hall in Chicago, the source said: “His reputation precedes him. The Japanese are gracious to a fault and understated. Rahm is neither. This has definitely caused some head-scratching in Tokyo.”
Historically, American presidents have named U.S. elder statesmen to the Japan ambassadorship. Walter Mondale, former vice president and 1984 Democratic presidential nominee, was President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Japan. Former Sens. Mike Mansfield, D.-Mo. and Howard Baker, R.-Tenn., both of whom served as Senate majority leader, also held the Japan post.
Clinton tapped House Speaker Tom Foley, D.-Wash., as his ambassador to Japan shortly after Foley lost his bid for reelection in 1994.
Aware of this history, many Biden-watchers had expected him to turn to a fellow Democrat and elder statesman such as former Vice President Al Gore, the 2000 presidential nominee.