Minnesota congressman enters the Roquefort war

Via Matthew Yglesias, it seems that there's at least one U.S. politician brave enough to fight for Americans' God-given right to enjoy fancy French cheese. Minnesota Congressman Jim Oberstar has written a letter to the president protesting the United States's relatiatory tariffs on Roquefort cheese:

“Freedom fries and “freedom toast” did serious damage to U.S.-French relaions. We both want to reestablish America’s moral authority in the world under your presidency; a very noble gesture toward that goal would be to remove or reduce this mean-spirited and unproductive punitive duty on Roquefort cheese.

Though I am a supporter of “buy American”, it is for unfairly subsidized foreign products when they are identical or comparable to ours. Roquefort cheese is not in this category. I know from my own experience that if such retaliatory action were taken on products produced in small communities in my district, as Roquefort cheese is in a small French town, it would have a serious adverse local economic impact.

Even here at Passport, we realize that the Roquefort controvery is not one of the more pressing issues Obama faces. But all the same, it's impressive when a congressman from an agricultural state is willing to come out against counterproductive protectionism, and for something French. Though a quick Getty Images search reveals that Oberstar is a longtime French sympathizer.


Will the U.S. shun Foreign Minister Lieberman?

Haaretz asks how Israel's U.S. allies will respond if, as expected, far-right leader Avigdor Lieberman becomes foreign minister in Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government:

The official position in Washington is that Barack Obama's administration will work with whatever Israeli government is ultimately established. Beyond that, American officials are keeping mum.

But the "Lieberman question" continually arises in State Department briefings for journalists and in other forums. And opinion columns in the American press have presented Lieberman in an extremely negative light, with comparisons to Austria's Joerg Haider and even Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, (both use "ultranationalist rhetoric of hate," one paper charged).

No American official is likely to convene a press conference publicly condemning Lieberman's appointment. However, such a choice will almost certainly encourage the U.S. administration to keep its distance from Benjamin Netanyahu's government, as Washington will not want to take the flak absorbed by demonstrating closeness to a government whose public face is widely considered to be a racist.

I find it kind of doubtful that a U.S. administration would ever "keep its distance" from an Israeli government. Netanyahu could probably appoint Skeletor as foreign minister and U.S. officials would still meet with him.

That said, Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell can't be looking forward to peace negotiations with someone who has made it clear he considers them a waste of time. Not that any of that bothers America's own Lieberman.

Uriel Sinai/Getty Images