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Rep. Robert Wexler, a Florida Democrat, announced he will resign despite no apparent scandal or problems in office. Wexler, enormously popular in his Boca Raton district, chairs the Europe foreign affairs subcommittee. Contradicting early speculation that Wexler would put his Israel expertise to use as an ambassador to the country, the Congressman will head the Center for Middle Eastern Peace and Economic Cooperation, a think tank that promotes Israeli-Arab peace but has been relatively inactive since the death of its founder. Here's the wisdom on why Wexler handed himself an apparent demotion, plus speculation on who might fill his vacant seat.
- Obama's Back Channel to Israel? Spencer Ackerman, noting Wexler's long involvement on Arab-Israeli conflict, wonders if he could be indirectly serving the White House. "Still, some peace-process observers are theorizing that Wexler, with his strong ties to both the Jewish community, the Israelis and the Obama administration, might be part of an inside-outside game by the administration. Wexler, who earlier this month implored the Obama administration to spend more time reaching out to an Israeli public that is quickly souring on him for demanding a settlement freeze in the West Bank, might be able to vouch for Obama to the Israelis and pass messages as a back channel," Ackerman, a blogger and Middle East expert, writes. "And with Wexler's ability to raise money and solid connections to Israel, the theory goes, he's well-positioned to help Obama with a constituency the president will need for his peacemaking efforts that's slipping away."
- Israel Hawk Moves Left The American Prospect's Alexandra Gutierrez praises Wexler's decision. "Wexler is a great pick to make the case for Obama's approach to the Middle East, as demonstrated by his speech at the Center for American Progress last week. Not only was he one of the president's earliest supporters, he comes from an initially pro-Hillary and a solidly pro-Israel district that seems to be increasingly accepting of a message that would have rankled a year ago. If that's not someone you want as a public face for a two-state solution, I don't know who is."
- Financial Concerns? Politico's Laura Rozen reports that sources tell her Wexler "was seeking to transition out of the Hill to private sector work where he could make more money and pay for children's school tuitions, etc." Gutierrez nods, "Burnout makes some sense -- he lately hasn't courted the press in the way he used to, and last year's drama over the fact that he no longer owned a place in Florida suggests a certain disconnect with his district."
- Wexler's Replacement Will Be a Democrat Beth Reinard of the Saint Petersburg Times, which covers Wexler's district, predicts what's next for his seat. "If he stepped down early, Gov. Charlie Crist -- a close friend -- would call a special election to replace him in the heavily Democratic congressional district that covers northern Broward and southern Palm Beach counties. You can bet every state lawmaker and city/county commission in spitting distance would consider jumping in since in a special election, anything can happen. Plus, local officials can run for a federal office without having to resign their current job." Reinard lists possible replacements.
- Wexler's Boisterious Style Eric Barton of the local Broward Palm Beach New Times jokes, "the group that will miss him the most is TV news producers." Barton lists Wexler's three biggest moments in the news: calling for Cheney's impeachment, grilling Alberto Gonzales, and appearing on the Colbert Report. "Depending on your point of view, Wexler's appearances on Colbert either proved he has a sense of humor or completely made a fool out of a Congressman from Boca." Video is below.
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