With Hillary Clinton’s dash to Middle East, Obama signals a shift in his approach: President Obama’s decision to send his top diplomat on an emergency Middle East peacemaking mission Tuesday marked an administration shift to a more activist role in the region’s affairs and offered clues to how he may use the political elbow room afforded by a second term. The move could pay dividends quickly if Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton helps arrange an end to the conflict between Israel and Hamas. She was scheduled to head to Cairo on Wednesday for talks with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi after discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Washington Post)

Gaza fighting rages as Clinton pursues durable cease-fire: A bus bombing Wednesday morning brought the Gaza conflict to central Tel Aviv, as intensified fighting between Hamas militants and the Israeli military raised doubts about the prospects of a durable cease-fire being sought by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and others in hectic rounds of shuttle diplomacy. After flickers of hope on Tuesday that a cease-fire was imminent, the Israeli assault on Gaza early Wednesday instead appeared to have escalated. Israeli airstrikes targeted ministerial buildings of Hamas, the militant Islamist group that rules Gaza, as well as dozens of other sites. Ten rockets were fired into Israel, according to an Israeli Defense Forces spokesman. (Washington Post)

Room for Debate asks: Diplomatic efforts to end the deadly confrontation between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza accelerated on Tuesday, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton traveling to the Middle East. But even with a cease-fire, the animosity would be far from over. Who is best situated to defuse the Israel-Gaza conflict? And how should it be accomplished? (New York Times)

9 questions about Israel-Gaza you were too embarrassed to ask. (Washington Post)

Where is the United States? “The recurrent theme at the Sir Bani Yas Forum, hosted by the United Arab Emirates and Chatham House here last weekend, was, Where is the United States? As the conference opened, Israel had just begun launching strikes in Gaza in response to the missile attacks from Hamas; Syria’s civil war raged with no end in sight; answers to the growing challenge of Iran remained elusive; and the course of Egypt’s political evolution had many concerned,” writes Brookings’ Robert Kagan. (Washington Post)

Dead ideas on taxes: As the “fiscal cliff” drama heads toward its climax between Thanksgiving and Christmas, each party is in the grip of a dead idea on taxes that warps the conversation. That means that no matter who “wins” this showdown, the parties’ antique thinking guarantees that any deal they strike will be merely the first of much bigger future adjustments as the baby boomers retire. To see why, it’s useful to think of the United States’ tax debate as being trapped between the cobwebs cluttering Grover Norquist’s mind and those clouding Gov. Jerry Brown’s,” writes CAP’s Matt Miller. (Washington Post)

Misreading the fiscal cliff: “The fiscal cliff is now less than six weeks away. Negotiators are reportedly locked away behind closed doors working on a grand bargain to avoid the tax hikes and spending cuts that will hit on January 1. Most of the debate so far has centered on how best to raise taxes on the wealthy: whether to increase tax rates, as the president demands, or eliminate deductions and loopholes, as some Republicans seem to be open to considering. Unfortunately, these priorities are almost entirely upside down,” writes Cato’s Michael Tanner. (National Review)

AEI’s Jonah Goldberg: “But there is one area where Obama could be transformative and bipartisan while helping both the middle class and the poor. He could show some leadership on the state of the black family, and the American family in general.” (National Review)

Brookings’ Clifford Winston: A free market in the sky. (New York Times)

McCain backs away from Benghazi conspiracies. (ThinkProgress)