Political tidbits: Wexler to stay in Congress, more possible Obama appts.

  • On the day of Hillary Clinton’s confirmation hearing, the Boston Globe writes that she learned a lot from her husband’s experience in the Middle East:

Watching the peace deal that her husband poured so much political capital into dissolve into another round of fighting offered a hard lesson on how even the most painstaking diplomacy can fail, according to two officials close to her. But she still frequently touts the benefits of working toward peace …

"I believe she is in full agreement with President-elect Obama that it’s important to work on this issue from day one and sustain American diplomatic engagement through to the end of the administration," said Martin Indyk, Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Israel and author of "Innocent Abroad," a new memoir of the former president’s Middle East diplomacy. "The Clinton name still carries great cachet in the region, both with Arabs and Israelis, so that’s a considerable advantage."

  • Meanwhile, J Street is urging the Senate to "press Senator Clinton to make resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict an urgent priority of the new Administration starting on day one":

In today’s hearing, J Street hopes that Senators will explore with Secretary of State-nominee Clinton whether the new administration intends to move the United States beyond simply facilitating discussions to playing a more active leadership role in resolving the conflict. "We are asking the new Administration to assume active leadership in Middle East diplomacy again," says Jeremy Ben-Ami, Executive Director of J Street.  "Diplomatic disengagement for seven years followed by a flawed Annapolis process has taken us ever further away from achieving peace between Israel and her neighbors.

  • Laura Rozen at ForeignPolicy.com has some scoop on two possible Obama appointments at the State Department and National Security Council, one with a connection to Jim Baker:

Sources tell The Cable that the Center for a New American Security’s Derek Chollet, a Washington foreign policy hand who has helped former Secretaries of State James Baker and Warren Christopher write their memoirs, and been an aide to former Clinton Russia hand Strobe Talbott, is likely to be named deputy director of the State Department Office of Policy Planning (working under Anne-Marie Slaughter, the dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs). …

Sources tell The Cable that Puneet Talwar, the chief advisor on Iraq, Iran, and the Middle East to Senator Biden on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is likely to be named NSC senior director on the Middle East.

  • The Sun-Sentinel reports that Robert Wexler is staying in Congress and won’t be joining the Obama administration:

“I certainly have no immediate plans to do anything other than continue in the job I love, which is a member of Congress representing Broward and Palm Beach counties,” he said in an interview today after touring a veterans clinic in Sunrise.

Though ruling out “immediate” plans would seem to leave open the door, Wexler said that wasn’t his intention. “I didn’t mean to be coy by saying the word ‘immediate.’ I have no plans. I’m not doing anything. They’re not doing anything…. I am not going to work in the Obama administration. What happens in the future – and I’m not talking about one month or three months – but what happens in the future, I don’t know.”

  • Roger Cohen of the New York Times wants to see some new perspectives on President-elect Obama’s Middle East team:

Enlightenment will require a fresher, broader Mideast team than Obama is contemplating. As noted in “Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East,” a fine evaluation of U.S. diplomacy by Kurtzer and Scott Lasensky, the lack of expertise on Islam and an Arab perspective was costly at Camp David. At one point, the State Department’s top Arabic translator had to be drafted because “the lack of cross-cultural negotiating skills was so acute.”

Obama should take note, name an Arab-American and an Iranian-American to prominent roles, and beware of a team that takes him — and the region — back to the future.

  • As part of a Boston Globe series, fourth and fifth graders at Shaloh House Jewish Day School in Brighton, Mass. tell the president-elect that the economy the environment and Israel’s security should be some of his top priorities:

Many of us are concerned about the security of Israel. We know that some children there can’t go to school or even play outside because of fears about rocket attacks. Many Israeli children have lost their families or even their lives. Please help Israel to defend itself, and offer all the support that our country can offer. Make Israelis feel that they are not alone.

We also think America should put pressure on the countries that bomb Israel in order to prevent more attacks. By doing these things, you will encourage the rest of the world to also support Israel. We believe this will help bring peace to everyone.

  • Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl is warning Democrats not to seat Al Franken, reports Politico:

In an unusual move, Kyl went to the Senate floor this morning to lay out all the reasons why the Minnesota Senate election remains unresolved, and he listed Sen. Norm Coleman’s arguments before the Minnesota courts. Coleman’s election lawsuit contends there are newly discovered ballots, missing ballots, wrongly rejected absentee ballots and double counting of votes.

“Clearly there’s something wrong here and it has to be resolved by court,” Kyl said. “There are no stipulations for when proceedings must be completed. Estimations are that it could take a month or more.”

Among Mr. Bush’s accomplishments, the report says, are providing addiction services to more than 250,000 drug addicts, offering antiretroviral treatment to 10.1 million people with HIV/AIDS in Africa and elsewhere, and helping to reduce the number of chronic homeless people by 30 percent from 2005 to 2007.

But Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a civil-liberties advocacy group in Washington, says the report “seeks to mask the shortcomings of a badly failed policy.”

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