After much chatter about a USAID appoinment or an ambassadorship to Israel, it's been confirmed that Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida intends to announce his resignation later this morning. He'll be moving on to head the Center for Middle Eastern Peace and Economic Cooperation.
Laura Rozen suggests that Wexler's reasons for leaving Congress are pragmatic and somewhat financially motivated -- he has three children to put through school, and he's been paying for property in his Florida district and the Washington area. Spencer Ackerman thinks the move is weird given Wexler's professed love for his job, but might be part of a strategy for promoting Obama's position on the Middle East at home and in Israel:
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. The Center’s strategic adviser is Avi Gil, a longtime adviser to Israeli President Shimon Peres. 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. “Wexler’s a great guy to make the case to the Israelis about why an Obama led peace effort is good for them,” said one Israel lobbyist who preferred not to speak on the record ahead of Wexler’s 10 a.m. Florida press conference. Could the Center be a platform for that effort? “I’m sure they could,” as its remaining staffers are “very well-connected.”
I wouldn't be surprised if Laura and Spencer were both right. Even though he's popular in his district and has a plum spot on the Foreign Relations Committee, 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. But 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.
At any rate, between this and Mel Martinez's August resignation from the Senate, governing Florida must be a bit of an emotional drain.