September 19, 2013

Chairman Menendez Opening Remarks at Nomination Hearing for Caroline Kennedy, Anne Patterson, and Gregory Starr

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the below statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s nomination hearing for Caroline Kennedy, Anne Patterson, and Gregory Starr.

The remarks follow:

“Our first nominee this morning is Ms. Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg of New York to be Ambassador to Japan. Welcome to the Committee.

Let me take this opportunity to recognize Japan’s Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Sasae, who is here today. Welcome, Mr. Ambassador. We appreciate you taking the time to join us.

To all of us, on both sides of the aisle, no matter our politics, the Kennedy name has been synonymous with public service for over a century – a family that has sacrificed so much in service to this nation.

Ms. Kennedy, your uncle Ted was a good friend to me here in the Senate and a good friend to many of my colleagues. His ability to express strong convictions, yet find a way to reach across the aisle, was a compelling example of what good governance is all about.

You represent a legacy of the best and brightest in politics, and a time in our history when we stood at the confluence of intellectualism and a respect for public service and government. You bring to this opportunity to serve the nation an extraordinary range of qualifications beyond the over-simplified perceptions of your family-connections: your own experiences, your own abilities, your own perspective that uniquely qualify you for this position.

As an author and editor, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, Chair of the Senior Advisory Committee of the Institute of Politics at Harvard, a trustee of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Vice Chair of the Fund for Public Schools in New York City, Board member of New Visions for Public Schools, honorary Chair of the American Ballet Theater, Board of Directors of the NAACP as well as the Commission on Presidential Debates – you have lived a life that honors your family’s history of service to the arts, education, government, and the nation, and will bring a broad intellectual curiosity and commitment to serve to your new role as ambassador.

If confirmed you will be the first woman to represent the United States as our Ambassador to Japan – a post that has been held by some of our most respected leaders: Senator Mike Mansfield, the longest serving U.S. Ambassador to Japan; Former Speaker of the House, Tom Foley; and former Vice President, Walter Mondale. It is a post that has always been, and remains, of utmost importance to this nation and to the people of Japan. Your nomination underscores the regional importance of the relationship between our two nations.

You would assume your new duties as rise of the Asia-Pacific region may well prove to be the single most transformative geo-political-shift of the twenty-first century. You will arrive in Tokyo at a time when friction between Japan and China on maritime disputes is high, and many challenges lie ahead as Asia-Pacific issues become global. You will arrive as the region takes on new economic importance.

In 2010, U.S. exports to the Asia-Pacific region totaled $775 billion – up almost 26 percent from 2009 and in 2011, totaled $895 billion, accounting for 60 percent of our exports, creating and sustaining millions of U.S. jobs in sectors across-the-board, in automobiles, power generation machinery, aircraft, and other vital sectors of our industrial economy. In just 3 years we’ve gone from $775 billion in exports to the region to almost $900 billion and we can assume that figure will be $1 trillion in the not-too-distant future. I think it is safe to say that, for the rest of the this century and beyond, much of the strategic, political and economic-future of the world will likely be shaped by the decisions made in Washington and the capitols in this region over the next four to five years.

Our alliance with Japan is a cornerstone of our strategic engagement in Asia, which will put you front and center in the U.S.-Japan partnership of equals, a partnership that links the world’s first and third largest economies and our shared commitment to democracy and human rights. When it comes to the economies of our nations, Japan is a valuable trade and economic partner.

Its views on regulation, the environment, and intellectual property complement those of the United States, and your voice on these issues will be America’s voice in Tokyo.

On TPP, Trans-Pacific Partnership, we will work with Japan toward a comprehensive agreement that addresses labor, the environment, currency manipulation, and intellectual property rights. For Congress to support the TPP we will need to be assured that our industries are competing with Japanese industries on a level playing field, and, as Ambassador, you will be at the table. You will be at the table on our military presence in Japan, on issues concerning Okinawa, and you will be at the table in bridging whatever differences may arise between our nations.

Ms. Kennedy, your father, in a commencement address at Syracuse University the year you were born, described the nexus between education and intellectualism and the importance of public service, reminding students that “our nation’s first great politicians were traditionally our ablest, most respected, most talented leaders who moved from one field to another with amazing versatility and vitality.” In that speech he reminded graduates that a contemporary described Thomas Jefferson as “a gentleman who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, dance a minuet, and play the violin.”

I don’t believe your father would have expected you to dance a minuet, but his point is well taken. Your background, your experience, your versatility, your intellect, and the legacy of service your family has stood for in American history makes you exactly the kind of person we need to serve the interests of this nation as Ambassador to Japan.

With that, let me turn to Senator Corker for his opening comments.”

“Our second panel this morning brings us two of this nation’s most experienced career Foreign Service officers.

I’m pleased to welcome Anne Patterson as the nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and Gregory Starr, no stranger to this Committee, as Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security.

Anne Patterson has spent the last two years serving as Ambassador to Egypt at a tumultuous and transitional time in Egypt’s history and we extend our thanks and appreciation for her service. She was in the eye of the storm as the winds of the Arab Spring began to blow across the region and her expertise and experience served her well.

She has a long record of service, since the time she left her home in Arkansas and went to Wellesley. Her experience is exemplary of our career Foreign Service officers, who put their lives at risk, often in places where an American presence is necessary but not always welcome.

I look forward to supporting her nomination, but let me express several ongoing concerns in the region. Ambassador Patterson, as you know, the impact of sanctions on Iran has been significant.   And while I support a diplomatic solution to the crisis and hope that we find such an opening with the newly elected government in Iran, at the end of the day need a partner who comes to the table in good faith and with a real offer in hand. Until then, it is my view that we must maintain and increase pressure on the regime and that the threat of force must remain on the table. I look forward to hearing your views on the situation in Iran.

I also would like to know your views on the next steps moving forward in Egypt to realize the promise we had hoped for from the event in Tahrir Square in 2011 that has given way to an increasingly undemocratic and insecure environment for all Egyptians.

In Iraq, I have several concerns about our diplomatic relations following the drawdown of U.S. troops.

It seems that, after many years of American sacrifice and investment, the democratic trajectory of the country is uncertain at best. I’m also disturbed by Iraq’s failure to protect the MEK community at Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, which most recently resulted in 52 deaths and the kidnapping of seven individuals who remain hostages. I expect the Iraqis to hold the guilty parties responsible for their actions.

Finally, on the peace process, I support Secretary Kerry’s efforts and believe that we must continue to keep the Palestinians at the table, engaged in face to face negotiations with the Israelis. I applaud Israel’s courage in agreeing to the release of prisoners at the outset of negotiations, and hope the Palestinians will publicly commit to remain at the negotiating table and not pursue statehood or enhanced status through any international bodies. It is only through the hard work of direct negotiations that we will be able to realize a durable and realistic peace.

Anne Patterson is no stranger to these complex issues in the region, having served for the past two years in Egypt and earlier in her career in Saudi Arabia. She is a decorated Foreign Service officer and will no doubt serve in this new position with distinction. We will look to her leadership in promoting U.S. regional interests in the years to come.

Gregory Starr, the nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, appeared before this committee this summer to testify on a bill cosponsored by Senator Corker and I – the Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty Embassy Security, Threat Mitigation, and Personnel Protection Act. He provided us with insights and the benefit of his many years in Diplomatic Security; first as a Special Agent in the Foreign Service serving in Tunisia, Senegal, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He later served in the Secretary of State’s security detail in technical security operations as Chief of the Division for Worldwide Local Guard and Residential Security Programs and as Senior Regional Security Officer at our embassy in Tel Aviv. And now he is returning, coming out of retirement, to be considered for Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security at a time when we sorely need his experience and expertise.

As I’ve said in the past, and will say again, the lessons we’ve learned from the tragedies in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, and Benghazi are emblematic of the broader issue we will increasingly face in the 21st century and it will require our full, unequivocal, unwavering commitment to fully protecting our embassies and those who serve this nation abroad. This will be his charge as Assistant Secretary: To help strike the proper balance between sealing off vulnerabilities in high threat areas and continuing to conduct vigorous and effective diplomacy that serves the national interest.

The fact is we can never have absolute security in an increasingly dangerous world, but security alone is not our objective. At the end of the day, we need to address both the construction of new embassies that meet security needs and we need to do what we can to secure existing high risk posts where we need our people to represent our interests and where new construction is not an option. That is what Senator Corker’s and my Embassy Security bill seeks to do, and my hope is that it will forward through the legislative process soon.

Mr. Starr, I look forward to hearing what you have to say about the progress we have made in making sure our diplomats are safe.

Thank you both for being here and for your many years of service to the nation.

With that, let me turn to Senator Corker for his opening remarks.”


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