Political tidbits: Latest info on Obama foreign policy jobs, Chuck Schumer talks cereal

  • Reports yesterday that Richard Haass had been chosen to be Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy were apparently incorrect. According to the New York Times:

Mr. Haass, who is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said he was flattered by the attention but had not been approached, according to his spokeswoman.

  • Former AIPAC staffer — and current AIPAC trial defendant — Steve Rosen blogs about where Obama campaign Jewish outreach director Dan Shapiro will end up in the new administration:

I am told that Dan Shapiro will be Senior Director or Director for Near East Affairs at the National Security Council.

  • Meanwhile, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy sent out a press release yesterday, which the Washington Post prints, detailing what Dennis Ross would apparently be doing for Obama:

The institute said that the job, "designed especially for him," will make him Clinton’s top adviser on a "wide range of Middle East issues, from the Arab-Israeli peace process to Iran."

But there’s more detail. Ross is not going to "reprise his previous role as special Arab-Israeli peace envoy," a post he held in the Clinton administration. Someone else, of lesser note, will get that. Rather, "he will be working closely with both the special envoy and the secretary."

  • That release, though, was premature. JTA reports this morning that an official close to the transition team could not confirm reports of the Shapiro and Ross positions, although the official did say that both men are likely to have jobs with the administration.
  • Steve Rosen also speculates on why Hillary Clinton has not yet named an Arab-Israeli envoy:

Clinton is torn between making a high level political appointment of a prominent public official, like George Mitchell, who might report to the president, or a professional reporting to her, a counterpart to Dennis Ross or Bill Burns. If she appoints at the high level, unrealistic expectations may be further inflated and the issue could spin out of control. But if she appoints at the professional level, it may be described as disappointing, less than Obama led the region and the world to expect. Clinton is proceeding very carefully on this one.

  • The Atlantic’s Joshua Green profiles Chuck Schumer, who talks about overcoming the "liberal-elite mind-set":

Take cereal prices. “I can’t tell you how many people came up to me and said, ‘Thanks for doing what you did on cereal prices,’” Schumer told me. “Now, that is hardly the most important thing you can do. But I would resent some editorial writer or professor saying”—and here he put on an expression of snooty disdain—“‘Oh, he’s talking about cereal prices!’ I’ll tell you what. Government helped people on that. The New York Times wouldn’t understand that. Bush would say, ‘It’s up to the free market.’ But if I told that to Barack Obama, he’d understand it like that.” Schumer snapped his fingers.

  • Why the strong reaction from many in the Jewish community to J Street’s criticism of Israel’s Gaza operation? Jim Besser in The Jewish Week explores that issue:

But others say J Street, which has organized an online petition calling for “immediate and strong U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to urgently reinstate a meaningful cease-fire that ends all military operations, stops the rockets aimed at Israel and lifts the blockade of Gaza,” has prompted such a strong response because the group is seen as having at least the potential of reaching a significant number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill — and the incoming Barack Obama administration — with a message that differs from that of the pro-Israel establishment.

“Other peace groups issued statements, but they’re not seen as serious people,” said the leader of a major pro-Israel group this week. “But J Street includes serious people with serious connections with the new administration, and people are very worried.  They don’t have much power now, but there’s a feeling that they could gain a lot of influence in the new Congress and with the new administration.”

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