Middle East studies in the News
Prominent Jewish Congressman Rahm Emanuel Floated as Obama Chief of Staff [incl. Rashid Khalidi]
As Barack Obama continues to absorb accusations that he is not committed to maintaining America's staunch support for Israel, knowledgeable Democrats have leaked word that he is considering a well-known, pro-Israeli Jewish congressman to be his chief of staff if elected.
The Associated Press reported Thursday night that Obama's campaign has approached Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel about the job.
Such an appointment could be seen as a salve to Jewish voters, some of whom have grown skeptical of Obama despite his repeated statements that he is committed to Israel's security.
Emanuel belongs to an orthodox Jewish congregation in Chicago and worked as a volunteer in Israel during the first Gulf War. His father was a pediatrician who grew up in Israel and worked for the Israeli underground before independence.
Obama and his campaign won't comment on the implications of forging an Emanuel-led White House staff -- but they're not completely dismissing the report that he's being considered for the job, either.
Asked if Emanuel would be his chief of staff Thursday night in Missouri, Obama responded: I'm trying to win an election."
Is that a no? a reporter asked.
"Plouffe is my chief of staff," Obama answered, referring to his campaign manager, David Plouffe.
"There's no news because there's no job to offer. We're focused on one thing and that's the election, not anonymous D.C. parlor games," spokesman Nick Shapiro told FOXNews.com in an e-mail.
Emanuel, a veteran of President Clinton's White House, has swiftly ascended through the Democratic ranks since his election to Congress. He was chairman of the Democratic campaign committee two years ago, when the party won a majority for the first time in more than a decade, and he cemented his reputation as a prodigious fundraiser and strong-willed political strategist.
He also served as a senior adviser and fundraiser for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley before joining the Clinton White House. His Chicago ties could also explain why Obama may be considering him.
But the apparent trial balloon comes as John McCain's campaign continues to hammer the Obama for his statements on Iran, whose president is openly hostile toward Israel.
The McCain campaign recently recycled an ad that ridicules Obama for saying Iran "doesn't pose a serious threat."
The narrator says: "Terrorism, destroying Israel, those aren't serious threats? Obama -- dangerously unprepared to be president."
McCain's camp is also going after Obama for a tape in the Los Angeles Times' possession that supposedly shows Obama giving a toast to Rashid Khalidi, a fierce critic of Israel.
And Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, who is now campaigning for McCain, twice agreed on Tuesday with a claim from a man at a rally that "a vote for Barack Obama is a vote for the death to Israel."
There was also a pro-Israel rally held Friday in Boca Raton, Fla., under the title: The Case Against Obama: Fatal for Israel -- Lethal for the Jews."
Obama states on his Web site that he strongly supports the U.S.-Israel relationship, as well as Israel's right to defend itself and providing foreign assistance to the country.
Meanwhile, McCain's campaign seized on the Emanuel leak as a sign of overconfidence Friday, with just four days to go until Election Day.
"He's measuring the drapes ... and this week he settled on a chief of staff," McCain said at an Ohio rally.
"I think the reality is that Senator Obama ought to let the American people have a vote before he starts setting up his White House," McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said.
Both Obama and McCain have authorized their staffs to begin transition operations in recent weeks -- although only one of them will be in a position to make use of the results.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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