Obama puts on carpenter hat and begins to build his cabinet
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Obama puts on carpenter hat and begins to build his cabinet

Barack Obama has made history by becoming America’s first black president. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also made history this week by being the first Iranian leader to congratulate a U.S. president-elect since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

According to Ahmadinejad’s statement, which was published by the official IRNA news agency, America’s foreign policy has been one “based on warmongering, occupation, bullying, deception and humiliation, as well as discrimination and unfair relations.”

Under President Obama, Ahmadinejad expects a new foreign policy using “an approach based on justice and respect, as well as lack of intervention in the affairs of others.”

Lack of intervention in the affairs of others? Excuse me? Are we talking about the same Iran here?

Is Ahmadinejad aware of Hezbollah? A terrorist army funded and trained by the Iranian government that is based in another country (Lebanon), is part of that country’s government, and is openly hostile to a third country (Israel).
Not to mention that Iran is a close ally of Syria, which has been meddling in Lebanese affairs for decades and is still trying to regain control of the country.

And Ahmadinejad wants the U.S. to stop intervening in the affairs of others.

Obviously Ahmadinejad does not expect Obama to welcome him to Washington with open arms after this. More likely, this was a planned maneuver to embarrass and/or weaken Obama by linking him to Iranian support.

So how should Obama respond? Of course he won’t say “Thank you” but can he just ignore the remarks? Some might take that as tacit approval. It’s a tricky path.

In other Obama news, he has tapped Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff. Emanuel accepted today. According to the Wikipedia page on Emanuel, the congressman was the inspiration of the “West Wing” character Josh Lyman

Emanuel was born in America but has Israeli family, notably his father, Dr. Benjamin Emanuel, who reportedly was a member of the Irgun. The younger Emanuel also apparently was a civilian volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces during the 1991 Gulf War. Interviewed in the Israeli daily Maariv about his son’s nomination, the elder Emanuel said, “Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel.” He later added, “Why wouldn’t he be? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floors of the White House.”

Aside from the anti-Arab tone, this statement is a little troubling for the American Jewish community. Obviously most of us want Obama to be pro-Israel. But we now live in a time when some are decrying the power of AIPAC in Washington, professors Walt and Mearsheimer are still peddling their book, “The Israel Lobby,” and some are even going so far as to blame AIPAC or the pro-Israel community for the war in Iraq and other ills that have befallen the country. Now is not the time for us to promote an image of Israeli control of Washington, which unfortunately this statement does. Rep. Emanuel has faced accusations of dual loyalty in the past. I fear this development may bring back some of those claims.

On the other hand, it is reassuring to know that Obama has chosen another friend of Israel to be by his side.

The question of Obama’s secretary of state has been floating around the Internet all day. Some names under consideration include New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. John Kerry. The Big Lipowsky will keep a close eye on how this one plays out.

Stay tuned.

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