President Obama recently closed a speech in Japan with the claim that he is the first “Pacific President.” Now, it is clear that this claim is hyperbolic and that other men have a better claim on that title - the question is who?
I have a few nominations:
Nixon - grew up in Orange County, California, served in the Pacific Campaign of WWII, his enduring foreign policy decision remains the China trip and subsequent improvement of relations.
Hoover - educated in Oregon and California, worked in mining in Australia and China and even learned Mandarin. Mediated a border dispute between Chile and Peru, two Pacific Rim countries.
Taft - Governor-General of the Philippines for two years, negotiated the Taft-Katsura Agreement.
Fillmore - Sent Commodore Perry to open Japan to western trade.
Earlier presidents had an effect on our development as a Pacific power, starting as early as Jefferson, but major developments concerning other Pacific powers don’t go back earlier than this, IMHO. But even so, examples like Nixon and Hoover should be strong enough examples, and I think Millard Fillmore is the earliest one I can make a strong case for.