The headlines about U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy's improperly using private emails for public business obscure the true disarray, as reported by an Inspector General, in an embassy to a strategically important country.
Although the IG gives Ms. Kennedy high marks for ethics, the celebrity appears to be completely as sea when it comes to running an embassy, or representing the U.S. in a spot of global significance.In a must read article, Claudia Rosett culls the following from the IG's report:
”Living Quarters Allowance Not in Compliance with the Foreign Affairs Manual”
“Actual lodging cost not properly justified”
“Premium Class Train Tavel Policy Does Not Comply With Department Regulation”
“Extra Travel Costs Inappropriately Approved for Using Indirect Routes”
“Employee Evaluation Reports do not Reflect Demonstrated Weakness”
It gets worse, as Rostt recounts:
Then there are the overarching problems that speak directly to the Embassy’s impaired effectiveness in matters not just of compliance with regulations, but having to do with the formulation of U.S. foreign policy.
Buried on page 12 is the note:
Embassy Tokyo’s reporting on foreign policy, regional security and bilateral issues is not meeting the needs of senior officials for in-depth, multi-sourced analysis.
The OIG report states bluntly:
The Ambassador does not have extensive experience leading and managing an institution the size of the U.S. Mission to Japan.
According to the OIG, Kennedy relies on “two key senior staff members”: a career Senior Foreign Service Deputy Chief of Mission, and a Chief of Staff, “an individual with experience in public relations, but not in foreign affairs.”
Apparently, there is confusion about the role of an ambassador's chief of staff, which should be clearly defined, especially when there is a celebrity ambassador. As serious as the mess at an important embassy is, one cannot help being amused by Rossett's comment on the embassy's "Daily Activity Report," which is "widely read but no substitute for analytic reporting":
It seems the Embassy provides a lively digest of one-paragraph briefs on who’s coming, going, and meeting in between. Apparently there’s good gossip value here, but at the Tokyo embassy — despite over-staffing of direct hires in the departments such as the economic section — this has become “a substitute for in-depth, multi-sourced reporting,” which is the real bread-and-butter of good foreign policy formulation.
Well, Democrats love celebrities and you can't be a much bigger celebrity than a Kennedy.
Still, I can't help noticing possible similarities with another top U.S. celebrity diplomat and emailer, one who flew around the world and yet appears to have made some very bad managerial decisions and even to have lost the first ambassador slain in the line of duty in three decades on her watch.
It is interesting that Ms. Kennedy's endorsement carried so much weight when President Obama first campaigned for the White House in 2008. Let's not cast aspersions on Ms. Kennedy, who is probably a lovely person, but should her endorsement have meant quite so much?