On Exits and Explusions

As India and Pakistan restart bilateral talks, something Gibbs said the White House is happy to see, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon reportedly threatened to kick Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani out of the country. He also mentioned that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to Washington might be canceled if Raymond Davis, a U.S. official who was arrested after shooting two men in what he called self-defense, is not released. U.S. officials are denying the reports.

Robert Gibbs will say goodbye to the White House press secretary post today, handing over the reins to Jay Carney. His departure is the last in what was quite a shakeup of the administration’s top aides following the Republican surge in November’s elections. Everybody expects Carney to do a good job handling press briefings, but he may not step into Gibbs’s other role—that of close adviser to President Obama.

During his testimony on the Hill yesterday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that North Korea is a “serious threat” to regional security, but that the administration believes Pyongyang won’t use nuclear weapons unless its government is close to crumbling. Clapper also released the Worldwide Threat Assessment yesterday. One hot topic: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as well as the Cuban government are likely to face significant domestic instability in the near future. Chavez will see a surge in popular protests as Venezuelans face worsening economic conditions and the power of the opposition increases. The document also cited a “dire” economic situation in in Cuba.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has some fans in Europe. Or at least her power does. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, whose position was created just over a year ago, has come under a lot of fire for her slowness to respond in crisis situations and her lack of visibility. Representatives of individual countries, like British Foreign Secretary William Hague and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman, have already been to Tunisia, for example, but Ashton, attempting to navigate through 27 states’ worth of bureaucracy and dealing with issues like staffing her recently created office, is still planning a trip. Many in Europe want her to be more like Clinton, but Ashton simply doesn’t have the power, and EU member states are reluctant to give it up.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, who as the head of policy planning at the State Department led the QDDR process, has settled back in at Princeton (she was dean of the Wilson School before heading to Washington). And now she’s doing a bit of reflecting. According to the National Journal, Slaughter’s initial “hubris” and cut-and-dry view of the democratic vs. non-democratic world was jarred during her time at State. Commenting on Tunisia and Egypt, she said the situation was “much more complicated” than simple calls for democracy. Her dreams of a concert of democracies were likewise blown away once she realized there was often more separating democracies than uniting them, and that countries like Russia and China need a voice as well: “To create a G-20 on the one hand and a concert of democracies on the other was like giving with one hand and taking away with the other. It didn’t make sense as a coherent approach to a much more complicated world.”