The idea that the principal job of an ambassador is to get the president on the phone grossly undervalues the role of the entire State Department and the rest of the U.S. government in relations between the United States and Japan or any other government. It suggests that all major policy issues travel through the White House, are resolved by the White House, are implemented at the behest of and with the influence of the White House, and that central to each of these is the president.

Giving out ambassadorial posts to those who have personally helped the president but who otherwise have no diplomatic experience or, in some cases, no experience with the countries in which they are being called upon to serve sends a host of lousy messages. One is that real diplomatic experience doesn’t matter. Another is that in America cronyism trumps all. And another is this very un-American idea that U.S. foreign policy is more about the president than the actions of an entire government, a system, or national interests.