Saturday, July 25, 2009

Roos Hearing

It was a circus. Chris Nelson said it was a love-in. Well, we are both right: everyone loved watching the featured and surprise guests perform at Thursday, July 23rd's morning Senate Foreign Relations Committee Asia ambassadorial nominations hearing.

The Administration clearly wanted the China and Japan ambassadorial nominations done quickly and with no controversy. Thus, the nominations hearing included the nominees for China, Japan, Mongolia, Vanatu/Solomon Islands/Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, and Tajikastan. The Campbell hearing was torture in comparison.

Unannounced, the hearing included extensive laudatory introductions of the must-see nominees: Jon Huntsman and John Roos. Each nominee was also given time to introduce his family present. Huntsman had his very photogenic Chinese adoptee daughter among the five of his seven children present.

Utah Governor Huntsman was introduced by three Republican Senators: McCain, Hatch, and Bennett. This led Committee Chair Kerry to quip, "that this is a good sign that the U.S.-China relationship is above politics..."

The Administration pulled out the stops for Roos. Former Senator Bill Bradley talked glowingly about his "friend" John the Silicon Valley M&A lawyer who he said he had once offered a senior staff position. He also made a point of noting Roos’ “long time” interest in Japan. Bradley was followed by former Ambassadors to Japan Foley and Mondale (Baker sent in a letter) with gracious endorsements. This had been so hurriedly put together that Foley never quite got the nominee's name right--he kept repeating Russo.

With his "creds" established as a serious candidate for Tokyo, Roos followed with very measured presentation using all the appropriate buzz and fuzz words of "cornerstone of our security in Asia" and "important alliance." He even threw in Mansfield’s “bar none” platitude. None of it was memorable nor extraordinary.

Roos does not have much of a TV presence and he looked uncomfortable in front of the cameras, as he appeared a bit creepy and unstable--wild-eyed and bald with a creaky voice.* But the Japanese seem to have a low standard for Western men and he unwittingly fit right in with the stereotype of men that gravitate to underage-looking Japanese women, er, I mean the Land of the Rising Sun.

As Chris Nelson wrote (you don’t get his report!? how do you do your work?!):
** he knows the "strategic alliance" mantras, and has some grasp of the full range of first tier issues;

** he understands the need to be "diplomatic" when asked why the LDP is likely getting trashed in the upcoming election;

** and, perhaps most importantly...that just because few here (or in Tokyo) had ever heard of him before his nomination, he's been an important behind-the-scenes political player for years, and enjoys the full support of Big Guys, starting with the President.
Senator Webb (D-VA) who chaired the Roos component of the hearing was quite deferential to the nominee. This is in contrast to his near-combative style with Kurt Campbell, nominee for assistant secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs. Webb asked no tough questions nor mentioned any of the human interest issues as he did with Campbell.

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) delighted to be finally on the East Asia Subcommittee of Foreign Relations, did the heavy lifting of assuring Japan that there were way stupider gaijin (we liked in the office how he “spelled out” D-P-J) out there that could have been selected. Webb allowed him a lot of air time.

Thus, no unpleasantness arose and there was no public mention of the many sticky issues in the U.S.-Japan relationship. However, I can assure you that the many questions for the record which were due by the close of business Friday were prickly: issues concerning trade, foreign investment, Futenma, whales, child abduction, human trafficking, and American POWs.

Expectations for Japan are just higher now.

You can watch the hearing and read the testimonies HERE.

*Almost to prove my point, the photo above is courtesy of Nikkei (although Kyodo appears to be taking the credit). It was the only photo I found that seemed to accurately capture his edgy physical image. The eyes are way more intense than the photo shows and the lips thinner.


  1. My God! Did Salvador Dali come back to life and shave off his moustache?

  2. Please have the record show that I did NOT personally write that Roos looked like Dali...I showed some restraint, such as it is.

  3. Is Mr. Roos going to be good for Japan or good for American's? Is it possible to be both? I wonder if he can get Japan to sign the Hague. Will he even try? I have high expectations for Mr. Roos. I hope he works with the other G-7 nations to bring Japan into the 21st century.


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