Political tidbits: A vote for Kurtzer as envoy (UPDATED)

  • Council of Foreign Relations president Richard Haass says the U.S. must talk to Iran, and gives some advice to Barack Obama in the Globe and Mail:

What would it take to essentially eliminate Iran’s uranium enrichment effort?

To begin with, it would entail putting together a diplomatic package that offered Iran access to nuclear energy but not physical control over nuclear materials. Economic sanctions could be eased. Security assurances could be provided and normal diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington could be established.

There is no guarantee that Iran would accept such an offer. But it might, especially now that the price of oil has fallen below $50 a barrel, a level that leaves the Iranian economy in worse shape than ever.

  • Scott MacLeod, in Time, hopes Obama’s Middle East envoy position goes to Dan Kurtzer, not Dennis Ross:

My take is that Ross would be a significant disappointment, Kurtzer an excellent choice. The contest, in fact, is more a tussle between two approaches to Middle East policy making than between individuals. The selection of a Dennis Ross would represent the past, which is to say the failure of U.S. policy in the region; Kurtzer would represent a change–a subtle change perhaps, but change nonetheless–given his frank acknowledgment of what has gone wrong with U.S. policy and a common sense prescription for getting it right.

  • Shmuel Rosner, in the Jerusalem Post, calls those angry with Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation "angry juveniles," but adds that it is a risk for the president-elect:

The interesting thing about this instinctive negative reaction on the far left is the extent to which it’s not at all surprising. That’s exactly the point: Obama knew it was coming – and has decided in advance to ignore the hurt feelings and the broken hearts of his staunchest supporters, his political best friends. Admirable – but also somewhat scary: Harry Truman famously said that one’s only friend in Washington is one’s dog – and we already know Obama is going to get one.

  • Rosner also has reprinted a couple tables from a new Pew report breaking down members of Congress by religion, which states:

Among the nation’s smaller religious groups, one group stands out in terms of its numbers in Congress: Jews, who account for just 1.7% of the U.S. adult population, make up 8.4% of Congress, including just over 13% of the Senate.

  • The Washington Post says yesterday’s pardon of Charles Winters for bringing bombers to Israel during the 1948 war could set a precedent for more posthumous pardons:

P.S. Ruckman Jr., an associate professor of political science at Rock Valley College in Illinois who writes the blog PardonPower.com, said posthumous pardons have traditionally been shunned for a variety of reasons, including the belief that they were effectively an admission of guilt.

But Ruckman said the Flipper and Winters cases [Henry Flipper was posthumously pardoned by Bill Clinton in 1999] could pave the way for more pardon requests on behalf of deceased felons, such as African American boxer Jack Johnson who was convicted on disputed morality charges in 1913.

Ruckman said the Winters case was particularly strong since two other defendants had already been pardoned and because his role was limited. "My impression was that this was as strong a case as I’ve ever seen for a posthumous pardon," he said. "He wasn’t the mastermind of this thing."

  • Brad Hirschfield, at Beliefnet, was struck by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor’s recent interview in which he said that he doesn’t directly apply his faith to his political decisions:

Cantor, like many people, has a hard time simultaneously affirming that Judaism is both multi-faceted (two Jews, three opinions) AND capable of providing concrete guidance on specific issues. The inability to appreciate both of those facts creates people who either invoke their interpretation of Judaism as THE interpretation of it, or individuals who can make no real decisions because there are always alternatives in the offing.

Rep. Cantor could make a real contribution by helping those in his party, who are especially fond of using religion in the former way, to see that they can stand for a faith-based agenda without decrying those who happen not to share their interpretation of what faith demands. That would be a real Jewish contribution to American politics.

  • New York Gov. David Paterson has discussed the New York Senate seat with Jewish Democrat Rep. Steve Israel, but not on their trip to Iraq, reports the New York Observer:

Paterson said he and Israel discussed the Senate seat on December 12, but not while overseas. "Here, we kind of have a higher mission," Paterson said.

  • Politico says there may only be one senator from Minnesota in Washington when Congress first meets in January:

The state’s Canvassing Board announced today it will be meeting on January 5 — when it could potentially certify a winner — and that process could spill into January 6 when the next Congress is sworn in.

The loser may contest the certification, which would delay the process even further.

Franken is currently leading Coleman by 47 votes, according to the secretary of state’s up-to-date tally.

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