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Archive for Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Kassebaum-Baker challenged by new role

September 11, 2001

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— Former U.S. senator. Wife of the U.S. ambassador to Japan. And chairwoman-designate of the Midwest U.S.-Japan Assn. For Nancy Kassebaum Baker, the titles define a lifetime of public service.

But in Japan, she is known simply as Mrs. Baker, wife of the new U.S. ambassador to Japan, former Tennessee Sen. Howard Baker.

It is "occasionally" difficult to be a woman in Japan, Mrs. Baker said Monday while attending the Midwest U.S.-Japan conference.

For example, she said, she did not accompany her husband this summer when he went to the Imperial Palace to present his credentials because spouses simply don't do such things in Japan.

Former colleagues once joked that in appointing Howard Baker to the post, President Bush was getting two ambassadors for the price of one, partly because of the former Kansas senator's influential tenure on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Howard Baker said Monday she does more than just run their residence.

"Nancy is an important and significant political figure not only in this country, but Japan," he said.

The Bakers' new life there has been different than either of them envisioned.

On July 4, two days after they arrived in Tokyo, the couple were hosts to 2,500 people at a reception in their residence.

"I am not used to as much continual matters of running a government," said Mrs. Baker, who has been at the family farm in Kansas for the past three weeks.

The diplomatic activity is very different from anything Howard Baker said he encountered either at the U.S. Senate or at the White House.

"You guard your words more carefully," he said.

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