Congress and Libya's Nicaraguan Representative

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in an email yesterday that Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg will be leaving his post, and that Bill Burns, currently the undersecretary of state for political affairs, will be nominated to fill the position. Burns will be moving up a wrung on the diplomatic ladder, going from the #3 spot to #2. Clinton described Burns as “one of our nation's most distinguished diplomats and most talented public servants.” Steinberg has long been rumored to be somewhat unhappy with his position in the administration. He is heading to Syracuse University, where he’ll be the dean of the Maxwell School.

Secretary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, DNI James Clapper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen faced the Libya music yesterday. But Congress didn’t seem to make much headway. One thing was apparently abdundantly clear—that Congress doesn’t have much of a role to play in the war. The administration did let the House and the Senate in on the total cost of action in Libya—$550 million according to the senior Democrat on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. In a hearing in front of the House Armed Services Committee, Gates reiterated that Washington’s goal is not regime change: “Deposing the Qaddafi regime, as welcome as that eventuality would be, is not part of the military mission.” He also noted that if Qaddafi were actually driven from power, it would be thanks to economic and political pressure, not airstrikes alone.

White House press secretary Jay Carney, in between exchanging barbs with ABC’s White House correspondent Jake Tapper, said the administration hasn’t made a decision yet about whether to give arms to opposition groups in Libya. But, Washington does at least have clandestine operatives on the ground in the country, and has for a few weeks. They are apparently trying to figure out which rebels can be trusted and to relay intel for ongoing airstrikes.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice and most of the administration are a bit confused by Muammar Qaddafi’s choice to be the new Libyan ambassador to the US. As the AFP put it, Miguel D’Escoto is “a former Marxist priest and Nicaraguan foreign minister.” Rice said that the legitimacy of his nomination is already in question, adding, “I am not sure what he is doing here.” Plus, there’s the issue of documentation. Rice noted, “He came most recently to the United States on a tourist visa. A tourist visa does not allow you to represent any country, Nicaragua, Libya or any other, at the United Nations.” That visa would be revoked, she said, if D’Escoto tried to represent Libya. Unfortunately for him, the man responsible for his appointment, former Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, defected to the UK.

At a G20 meeting today, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sounded the exchange-rate alarm once again. But this time he did it on China’s turf. Though he didn’t mention the country by name, it was clear who Geithner was referring to when he called currency appreciation and exchange-rate undervaluation “the most important problem to solve in the international monetary system today.” He urged countries to take “national actions” to fix the situation.