US Rep. Ocasio-Cortez opposes Emanuel nomination as Japan envoy

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks on the infrastructure bill at the Union Station in Washington on June 16.    © Reuters

Nikkei staff writers | Japan

NEW YORK — High-profile Democratic congresswoman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York issued a statement Wednesday strongly opposing the nomination of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to be ambassador to Japan.

“This nomination is deeply shameful,” the progressive lawmaker said, pointing to his handling of a 2014 police shooting in which a black teenager died.

“As mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel helped cover up the murder of Laquan McDonald — a mere teenager when he was shot 16 times in the back by a Chicago police officer. This alone should be flatly disqualifying for any position of public trust, let alone representing the United States as an ambassador,” she said.

“That the Biden administration seeks to reward Emanuel with an ambassadorship is an embarrassment and betrayal of the values we seek to uphold both within our nation and around the world,” she said.

Ambassadorships are subject to Senate confirmation and AOC, as the member of the House of Representatives is known, does not have a vote in the matter. In the statement she said, “I urge the Senate to vote NO on his confirmation.”

The statement comes a day after U.S. President Joe Biden gave a speech marking the end of the two-decade war in Afghanistan. The progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which has long opposed U.S. engagement in conflicts around the world, have been relatively quiet on the withdrawal.

Tobias Harris, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said he is not surprised. “There’s no question that he has serious opposition from the left wing of the party.”

“But unless some Senate Democrats voice their opposition too, it may not harm his prospects. It also looks like he could get some GOP support,” Harris noted

With America increasingly unwilling to be the “world’s policeman,” allies and partners are worried what U.S. foreign policy will look like going forward. The role of U.S. ambassadors, not just to Japan, will be crucial in reassuring allies and partner nations.

“There may be increasing urgency to overcome the Senate’s gridlock and confirm Biden’s picks for many ambassadorships,” following the Afghanistan withdrawal, Harris said.

Emanuel, 61, is famous for his abrasive style, his close ties with former President Barack Obama — for whom he served as White House chief of staff — and for pursuing business deals with China as mayor. In 2018, Emanuel was invited to Beijing’s Zhongnanhai leadership complex to meet with Vice President Wang Qishan, President Xi Jinping’s right-hand man, to discuss a railroad car manufacturing plant being constructed in his city by China’s state-owned CRRC.

Emanuel is also close to Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president.

Raymond Greene, formerly deputy director of the American Institute in Taiwan, Washington’s de facto embassy on the island, is currently serving as U.S. interim ambassador to Japan.

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