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Tea Leaves

By Matthew Yglesias

"Tea Leaves"

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Since my primary area of interest in foreign policy, I’ve been facing something of a conundrum in looking at the Democratic primary candidates for the simple reason that, as best I can tell, stated foreign policy views during a presidential campaign have almost no relationship to things that happen in office. So you try to look a bit at personnel. I saw recently that Barack Obama had hired Dan Shapiro, formerly of Bill Nelson’s office, to be a consultant on Middle East issues but didn’t know what to make of that. Richard Silverstein, however, has a potential observation:

I would note that before joining the Obama campaign, Dan Shapiro served as Jewish outreach coordinator for Senator Bill Nelson. Nelson was one of the first U.S. senators to visit Bashar Assad in Syria and take home the message that Syria wants peace and negotiation with Israel. I don’t know what role, if any, Shapiro played on that trip. But I admired the guts it took for Nelson to buck our country’s declared policy of isolating Syria.

Again, though, for all we know Shapiro’s role in the trip was to advise Nelson not to do it so the significance of this is less than totally obvious. This leads me to recall that nobody seems to mention this, but former Rep. David Bonior, who’s gone to work for John Edwards, is not only a noted labor leader, but also quite possibly the Israel lobby’s least-liked legislator in recently history.

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