Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
James Besser in Washington
President George W. Bush, who must be busy packing cartons at the White House and selecting a mover, also found time this week to issue a few presidential pardons and commutations. But those hoping convicted spy Jonathan Pollard would be among them were quickly disappointed.
The list of recipients includes a cocaine distributor, a bank embezzler and someone convicted of improperly using food stamps, but no spies.
Here’s one of the more puzzling headlines of the month, right off the AP ticker: “US Trying to salvage Gains in Mideast Talks.”
According to the story, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called top Israel and Palestinian negotiators to Washington this week to “preserve modest momentum” in the U.S.-backed effort to get a deal - any kind of deal, please - by the end of the year and the end of President George W. Bush’s term.
It’ gaudy, it’s over the top, some say it’s tasteless, but it sure as heck is effective. AIPAC’s legendary “roll call,” a decades-old tradition at the annual policy conference banquet, is a graphic indication of the group’s continuing Capitol Hill clout.
You can bet politicians in both parties, at every level of the political game, hear the message loud and clear.
AIPAC’s ability to lure top politicians to its annual policy conference is widely accepted as a measure of the group’s undiminished clout. By that standard, this week’s conference of the pro-Israel lobby giant — which begins today - suggests that the federal prosecution of two former employees and continuing attacks from the Walt-Mearsheimer axis were mere blips, not major crises.
Is the Bush administration worried that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s new troubles will stall their effort to make significant progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations before January?
Don’t count on it. While most analysts in Washington believe the new corruption investigation means Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are effectively on hold for the foreseeable future, that may not be at odds with administration goals.