May 30, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden contemplating two Kennedys for ambassadorships

Caroline Kennedy and Vicki Kennedy and pictured in side by side photos

Caroline Kennedy (left) and Vicki Kennedy. Photos: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe (left), Paul Morigi/Getty Images for WS Productions

President Biden is considering naming two Kennedys to represent him abroad: Caroline Kennedy is in line to be U.S. ambassador to Australia, and Vicki Kennedy is on his radar for Western Europe, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: With JFK's daughter and the widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy, Biden would be reaching outside of his pool of core campaign donors. He'd also be putting a spotlight back on America's most famous political dynasty — and honoring a late friend and mentor.

Flashback: Biden, who shares the family's Irish Catholic heritage, delivered a eulogy in 2009 for Ted, with whom he served in the Senate for 36 years.

  • He has described Kennedy as a "big brother," and felt a debt of gratitude for Kennedy's defense of his honor amid the plagiarism controversy in Biden's 1988 presidential bid.

Details: Vicki, an attorney at Greenberg Traurig and a gun control advocate, got to know Biden through her husband.

  • Caroline served as President Obama’s second ambassador to Japan and is well versed in the issues in the Asia-Pacific region, where the AP first reported she could be heading.
  • The White House declined to comment. People close to the process stressed that nothing is final until the White House sends a formal announcement.

Driving the news: Biden was scheduled to make several formal offers to candidates over the holiday weekend, ahead of announcing his first slate of ambassadors as soon as this week.

  • On Friday, he announced Rufus Gifford as his choice to be chief of protocol at the State Department.
  • Administration officials have been vigorous in vetting the first group of political ambassadors, hoping to avoid negative headlines.

The intrigue: In addition to political allies like former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Biden will likely reward longtime friends and aides, in lieu of several donors who raised millions of dollars over Zoom from his campaign.

  • Biden is planning to nominate Cindy McCain as his envoy to the World Food Program in Rome.
  • Michael Carpenter, managing director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement and a former career foreign service officer, is being considered for a European position.

Some donors may make the cut:

  • Cynthia Telles, a clinical professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA, is being considered for Costa Rica. She and her husband, Joe Waz, hosted a fundraiser for Biden in 2019 along with Hollywood luminaries Jeffrey Katzenberg and Rob Reiner.
  • Scott Miller, a former UBS wealth manager and LGBTQ activist, has been discussed for Switzerland. He and his husband, Tim Gill, are prominent philanthropists for LGBTQ causes.
Go deeper