Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel attends WSJ at Large with Gerry Baker on August 1, 2019 at Fox Business Network Studios in New York City.
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President Joe Biden is considering former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for a high profile embassy, possibly in China, three people with knowledge of the discussions.
Becoming the U.S. Ambassador to Japan is another option that Biden government officials discussed with Emanuel, one of the people who are aware of the discussions.
Emanuel, who became the White House chief of staff when Barack Obama took office, has a reputation for being a sharp-tongued political street fighter. He has collided sometimes with progressive democrats.
He is also a well-known figure in democratic politics who would make an ambassador famous. Biden is considering him for a key diplomatic position as administrative officials try to fill dozens of positions Capitals around the world, with decisions expected in the coming weeks.
There is a precedent for selecting brave political figures to represent the US in both Beijing and Tokyo. Obama selected the Utah Republican Jon Huntsman as ambassador to China – a move in which Emanuel played a role as White House chief of staff. Longtime former Senator Max Baucus, D-Mont., Filled the role in Beijing during Obama’s second term and was replaced by former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad during the Trump administration.
Japan – an ally of the United States – has come to appreciate a flashy name as an ambassador and even awaits it as a sign of the importance an American president attaches to the relationship. Caroline Kennedy, for example, was in the role in Obama’s first term. Former Vice President Walter Mondale was US Ambassador to Japan during the Clinton administration, and former Tennessee Republican Senate leader Howard Baker was in Tokyo during President George W. Bush’s tenure.
Another person familiar with the discussions said Emanuel’s name was also published internally for the US ambassador to Israel. But that person said the idea was deemed unworkable because of Emanuels notoriously rocky relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from his time as Obama’s chief of staff.
Emanuel and the White House did not comment. A State Department spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Emanuel was a Democratic member of Congress when Obama named him Chief of Staff in 2009. He left the White House to run for Mayor of Chicago in 2011 and served in that role until 2019 after deciding not to seek a third term. He was Reportedly taken into account from the Biden team as transport secretary, but was ultimately not nominated for a cabinet post.
It is unclear how some Democrats might react to Emanuel receiving a critical message. Often, such roles go to key political allies and fundraisers, or to experts in a particular country or region.