Political tidbits: Obama’s “nuclear umbrella,” Cantor’s first date with his wife

  • The Obama administration will offer Israel a "nuclear umbrella" against the threat of a nuclear attack from Iran, according to a "well-placed source" close to the new administration, reports Aluf Benn in Haaretz:

The source … said the U.S. will declare that an attack on Israel by Tehran would result in a devastating U.S. nuclear response against Iran. But America’s nuclear guarantee to Israel could also be interpreted as a sign the U.S. believes Iran will eventually acquire nuclear arms.

  • The Washington Post profiles new House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and we learn about his live-in mother-in-law handwashing Ziploc bags and his fiscally conservative, socially liberal wife, Diana, The article also recounts the Cantors’ first date:

The couple … met on a blind date. He was studying at Columbia University and she was working at Goldman Sachs. Her boss was Robert Rubin, the future Clinton administration treasury secretary now being blamed by some for steering Citigroup toward the financial cataclysm that led to this fall’s government bailout.

Cantor confessed "Republican leanings" that first night.

"I said, ‘I thought you were Jewish?’ I’d never met someone who was Jewish and Republican," Diana Cantor, who is six years older, remembers saying in all seriousness. At their 1989 wedding, an uncle of Diana’s declared during a toast that "there is now peace in the animal kingdom between elephants and donkeys."

  • Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) got into it with a White House usher Tuesday night at the White House Christmas party for members of Congress, as he tried to "track down an ornament one of his constituents painted for the White House Christmas tree." The Washington Post’s Sleuth blog reports:

The usher didn’t seem to care about the ornament search as the time neared 11 p.m. "It was like he was a bouncer and it was last call," Cohen tells the Sleuth. The congressman says he found the usher to be "haughty, arrogant, controlling and rude." … Cohen was so miffed at the usher he asked him for his name. Daniel Shanks, came the reply.

Shanks … was hired in 1995 to serve as the White House’s assistant usher. He was formerly manager of Napa Valley’s Domaine Chandon.

Cohen wasn’t impressed. "I guess he’s much better with grapes than he is with people," the congressman said.

The White House is steadfastly defending Shanks against Cohen’s charges.

  • Jim Besser in The Jewish Week reports that the economic downtown could be a "game changer" in the upcoming debate over government funding for faith-based programs:

Faith-based advocates say facts on the ground make the case for expanding the universe of faith-based funders, easing the rules under which they operate and giving them more money.
“That’s essential to our argument,” said the [Orthodox Union's Nathan] Diament. “People across the spectrum, irrespective of the details of the constitutional questions, believe these programs are even more essential in the economic downturn.”

  • Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (D-Fla.) has been reappointed as the ranking Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
  • The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg talks to Israeli journalist Shmuel Rosner about Hebron, Iran, hummus and Obama. Rosner suggests to American Jews that "think they have a solution" to "come and convince Israelis. And if you happen to fail, don’t go and work behind their backs to advance your cause by making America pressure Israel." As for the peace process :

Israel has made a commitment — not to Obama but rather to Bush — to evacuate illegal outposts. I hope Israel will do exactly that without a need for Obama to apply pressure. It is a shame that such a thing is a matter of discussion between the US and Israel: what’s "illegal" should be removed by Israel not because of some outside intervention, but because Israel should not be tolerating illegal acts.

As for Obama: I do not think he has any special desire to pressure Israel. … In fact, I’m one of the (very few) people who believe that if Binyamin Netanyahu is elected Prime Minister of Israel next year — a scenario that seems very likely today — there’s no reason for him not to get along well with Obama. I think Obama is smart enough to understand that getting results in the peace process — if that’s even possible — requires a cooperative Israeli government.

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