Matt Lauer Invites Caroline Kennedy to Bash Trump’s Foreign Policy

At the top of Friday’s NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer touted an exclusive: “Caroline Kennedy speaks out in her first interview since stepping down as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan. This morning, her take on the Trump administration's very different approach to foreign policy and her own future. Is she planning a run for office?”

In the 7:30 a.m. ET half hour, Lauer began the friendly exchange by wondering if Defense Secretary James Mattis was currently visiting Japan in order to smooth things over after Donald Trump “said some things I know that raised a lot of eyebrows in Japan and the region” during the presidential campaign.

Kennedy replied: “Absolutely....it's important that the Defense Secretary went to consult and reassure our allies about our commitment.”

Lauer worried about the President calling on Japan to provide more for its own defense:

One of the things that Donald Trump said during the campaign is it's time for Japan to step up and shoulder more of the financial burden for its own defense. And I have to tell you, that really seemed to resonate with his supporters. Is it a fair ask?....[He] wants them to contribute even more. If he pushes Japan on that issue, how will they respond? How will it impact our relations?

Kennedy lectured: “Japan already contributes more than any other country....And all the countries out there are really looking to see whether the United States is going to stay as a leader in the region and be reliable and live up to our security and economic commitments, or whether they need to make another choice and hedge their bet.”

In a follow-up, Lauer urged her to issue a warning to Trump:

You made some comments talking about how Donald Trump's comments were received in Japan. And you said – these are your words – “Obviously they're concerned when somebody doesn't seem to understand or value the efforts put into this and really what's been built over time.” If you could say one thing to now President Trump about the importance of that relationship, what would you tell him?

The former Obama administration appointee obliged: “I'd tell him that having Japan as a strong ally and Japan's own security helps the United States be safer. And it provides a lot of jobs and a lot of economic opportunity for American companies.”

Lauer also fretted: “You know, obviously the words that he spoke in his inaugural address, where he said...‘From this day forward it's going to be only America first’...How are those words...being greeted in foreign capitals?”

Kennedy proclaimed: “...really to be taken for granted or to be insulted as an ally who fought along sides the United States, for example with Australia, or who contributes a huge amount to American security, in the case of Japan and Korea, is – is alarming. And I think that hopefully the President will, you know, realize the benefits of working with our friends and allies around the region.”

After teeing her up to repeatedly scold Trump on foreign relations, Lauer spent the rest of the segment gushing over Kennedy’s job performance and hoping she would run for office:

> I was reading some articles, Ambassador Kennedy, where the people there [in Japan] greeted you almost as a celebrity. But after three years, as you exit, I read articles and they talk about you as a very effective diplomat. What was the learning curve like?

> You were the first woman to hold that position as U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Do you think you became somewhat of a role model for women in Japan?

> It is impossible to talk to you without saying what everybody wants to know, are you
going to run for office? I mean, do you have – after serving as ambassador to Japan – do you have aspirations for elected office?

After she dodged the question about running for office, Lauer pressed: “But wouldn't rule it out?” Kennedy quipped: “Well, I think I'd rather be on morning TV.”

Here is a full transcript of the February 3 segment:

7:31 AM ET

MATT LAUER: Meantime, new Defense Secretary James Mattis is in Japan right now meeting with that country's prime minister. And this morning we have former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, with us exclusively. Ambassador Kennedy, it's nice to see you, good morning. Welcome home, by the way.

CAROLINE KENNEDY: Thank you. It's great to be home.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Caroline Kennedy Speaks Out; Fmr. Ambassador Talks Japan, Foreign Policy & Future]

LAUER: Interesting timing. So our Defense Secretary is there meeting with Japanese officials. During the campaign, then-candidate Trump said some things I know that raised a lot of eyebrows in Japan and the region. Do you think it sends the right message that Defense Secretary Mattis makes this his first overseas trip?

KENNEDY: Absolutely. Japan – the region is so critical to our future, so it's important that the Defense Secretary went to consult and reassure our allies about our commitment.

LAUER: One of the things that Donald Trump said during the campaign is it's time for Japan to step up and shoulder more of the financial burden for its own defense. And I have to tell you, that really seemed to resonate with his supporters. Is it a fair ask?

KENNEDY: Japan already contributes more than any other country. They contribute more than 75% of the costs of the bases. And it's in our interests that Japan be strong and that our troops be there. That makes us safer here at home.

LAUER: But Donald Trump wants them to contribute even more. If he pushes Japan on that issue, how will they respond? How will it impact our relations?

KENNEDY: Well, I think you've got to look at the whole relationship. Japan is our number one ally in the region, that is the most important region going forward in the future. And so, I think it's got to be looked at both strategically as well as economically. And all the countries out there are really looking to see whether the United States is going to stay as a leader in the region and be reliable and live up to our security and economic commitments, or whether they need to make another choice and hedge their bet. And I think that that's really what is at stake here and I think that that's why the prime minister's coming here and that's what President Trump needs to focus on.

LAUER: You made some comments talking about how Donald Trump's comments were received in Japan. And you said – these are your words – “Obviously they're concerned when somebody doesn't seem to understand or value the efforts put into this and really what's been built over time.” If you could say one thing to now President Trump about the importance of that relationship, what would you tell him?

KENNEDY: I'd tell him that having Japan as a strong ally and Japan's own security helps the United States be safer. And it provides a lot of jobs and a lot of economic opportunity for American companies.

LAUER: You know, obviously the words that he spoke in his inaugural address, where he said, “From this day forward a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward it's going to be only America first. America first.” How are those words – in your opinion as someone who has had to manage relations between our country and Japan – how are those words being greeted in foreign capitals?

KENNEDY: Well, I think America derives great benefit from our network of alliances, which have been built by people over the last 70 years. And I think that that's really to be taken for granted or to be insulted as an ally who fought along sides the United States, for example with Australia, or who contributes a huge amount to American security, in the case of Japan and Korea, is – is alarming. And I think that hopefully the President will, you know, realize the benefits of working with our friends and allies around the region.

LAUER: Let me ask you about your work in Japan. When you went there three years ago, you didn't have any specific experience with Japan, no diplomatic experience. And I was reading some articles, Ambassador Kennedy, where the people there greeted you almost as a celebrity. But after three years, as you exit, I read articles and they talk about you as a very effective diplomat. What was the learning curve like?

KENNEDY: Well, actually, I feel that I really grew up honoring the values that my family has stood for, respect for the international order that the United States has built, a commitment to human rights. And I think all those things are things that are deeply admired around the world, and I think that that really helped me to work with the Japanese.

LAUER: You were the first woman to hold that position as U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Do you think you became somewhat of a role model for women in Japan?

KENNEDY: The women in Japan are incredibly dynamic, just like women here. And I think that to the extent that I was very visible, I hope that helped, but I think overall it's really, you know, something that's really about the U.S. national interest.

LAUER: It is impossible to talk to you without saying what everybody wants to know, are you
going to run for office? I mean, do you have – after serving as ambassador to Japan – do you have aspirations for elected office?

KENNEDY: You know, I just got home, and so it's great to be home. So I really –  

LAUER: You've been home a week or so.

KENNEDY: I've been home a week or so, yeah. So I really – I'm looking around to figure out what I'll do next.

LAUER: But wouldn't rule it out?

KENNEDY: Well, I think I'd rather be on morning TV.

[LAUGHTER]

LAUER: Like everybody, apparently, right?

KENNEDY: Exactly, right.

LAUER: Ambassador Kennedy, it's a real pleasure to have you here. As I said, welcome home.

KENNEDY: Thank you.

LAUER: Thank you very much.

NB Daily Foreign Policy Asia Japan Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats NBC Today Video Matt Lauer Caroline Kennedy

Sponsored Links