(Keith Ellison taking oath of office on Thomas Jefferson’s Quran)
Why not arrange a “conversation” with the increasingly popular first Muslim Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Keith Ellison, at the upcoming annual AIPAC Policy Conference?
Representative Ellison is actually beginning to coordinate with Secretary of State Rice and other officials responsible for crafting American public diplomacy to “tell his story” as the first elected Muslim Member of Congress.
When asked about this “collusion” with the Bush administration, Ellison said “Hey, my country first. We can work out political differences later.”
If Ellison can walk that far, so perhaps too can AIPAC.
From a report my McClatchy News’ Kevin Diaz:
Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, had little good to say about President Bush’s foreign policy when he ran for office last year.
Now, two months in office, the Minnesota Democrat plans to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other top State Department officials to talk about showcasing his story as part of their public diplomacy efforts in the Muslim world.
“Hey, my country first. We can work out our political differences later,” said Ellison, an outspoken critic of the Iraq war. “I’ve said I’m willing to do whatever I can to make some friends for America.”
Adding to the cachet he’s built since taking his oath of office on Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an, Ellison has been profiled three times by the State Department’s overseas press bureau.
On Monday he did a Voice of America interview from his office, where an American flag was placed conspicuously behind his desk for the cameras.
He’s scheduled to follow up on Thursday in a teleconference with Karen Hughes, the State Department’s undersecretary for public diplomacy. The White House has asked that the teleconference promote American values and confront ideological support for terrorism around the world.
If it can work for Condi and Karen Hughes, then perhaps this outreach can be embraced by more in America — and the Middle East.
The AIPAC meeting which starts Sunday and runs through the first part of next week is chock-a-block with speakers, so one could suggest that there’s no room for Ellison in the full program.
This is from AIPAC’s press release:
In addition to the four top Democrat and Republican Congressional leaders — House Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Reid, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH), the Vice President, and Israeli Foreign Minister Livni, other conference speakers include: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (via satellite), Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Israeli Opposition Leader and Likud Party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Sallai Meridor, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman, and many others of note.
My friendly suggestion is that someone yield some time to the freshman Congressman.
It could be the start of something productive — as long as “both sides” of the conversation make the effort to “listen.”
— Steve Clemons