The disturbing message is the part of the Campbell statement that is rich with irony, given that it comes from someone who bears so many scars of the tug of war between the State Department and the White House over who should shape U.S. foreign policy. It is the idea that the most important thing in U.S. diplomacy and foreign policy more generally is access to the president. (I will leave aside for the moment the rather unsettling notion that the person in the very best position to get the president to take her or his call is Caroline Kennedy, whose primary political contribution is that of celebrity endorser.)
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.
The concentration of the foreign-policy apparatus in the White House (which now boasts by far the biggest national security staff in American history, a staff almost 10 times larger than that overseen by Henry Kissinger), the acknowledged shift of much critical decision-making and actual implementation of foreign policy to the White House staff and away from the State Department, the fact that foreign governments and senior officials now often bypass the State Department and go straight to the White House to do their business, and the recent tendency to view White House or presidential statements of opinion on world affairs as the primary foreign-policy output of a United States that seemingly wants to do little other than comment on many issues -- all are bigger, more important signs of the oversized role the chief executive now plays in U.S. diplomacy. But actions like the Kennedy appointment underscore this in an unsettling way. History and common sense both show that such a concentration of focus around a single individual or seat of power reduces the input of many with vital experience and views, makes it harder to implement policies that require solutions from key departments or the whole of government, makes it harder for those agencies to do their mandated jobs, and, on top of it all, sends a really terrible message about American politics and values.