Administration Shake-Ups

The end of 2010 is creeping closer, and whispers about 2011 have picked up steam. It’s been known for quite some time now that Defense Secretary Robert Gates will be stepping down, and that National Economic Director Larry Summers needs to be replaced (looks like a successor will be named in mid-January). But beyond that, sources are torn about what’s in store. David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, said that “significant changes” will be announced soon. He noted that the administration is going to bring “in folks who have a fresh set of senses—smell, touch and feel—about what's going on out there.” But on Sunday, Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said he doesn’t expect any “big changes.” He added, “I think we've had a very capable and good Cabinet that has helped move the president's agenda forward.”

Also on Sunday, Gibbs said the public should stop holding its collective breath—Guantanamo Bay isn’t closing any time soon. As Gibbs put it, it’s “probably going to be a while.” And what’s more, the increase in Republicans on the Hill could make closing the detention facility more difficult.

General David Petraeus said that Afghanistan and Pakistan are cooperating more in the fight against insurgents, and that coordinated operations would ramp up in the near future “as earlier gains are solidified.” He also made sure to offer praise to Pakistan in particular for its “impressive” operations in insurgent hot beds.

Special envoy George Mitchell said last week that Washington would stay engaged in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process even if violence broke out: “I think that any president would not simply stand by and let a conflict erupt, because it would not be in our interest.” Mitchell also noted that Washington would not abandon the peace process (as columnist New York Times Tom Friedman suggested in a recent column) because the “eruption of violence or some other negative act could occur at any time with unforeseeable consequences.”