Last week, it was predicted that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s trip to Latin American for a defense ministers’ summit wouldn’t provoke any strong words from the region’s leadership since the Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas usually fosters a “positive constructive dialogue,” at least according to one U.S. official. Bolivian President Evo Morales must not have gotten the message. In a welcome speech, Morales said, “Bolivia under my government will have an agreement, an alliance, to anyone in the world.” He said the region would do better if Washington stopped intervening, adding, “The people of the Americas in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador . . . We are three to one with the United States. Let's see what the future brings.” Gates, seemingly unfazed, spoke about U.S. disaster relief efforts in Haiti and Chile. He also commented on New START to a group of reporters, warning that “there are potentially serious consequences” for the U.S.-Russia relationship if the treaty isn’t ratified.
Back at home, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is standing behind beefed-up airport security measures. She repeated today that though she understands “the concerns Americans have,” the screening measures are necessary and are not going to change significantly. It seems full-body scanners and more invasive pat-downs are here to say. “Of course we will make adjustments or changes when called upon,” Napolitano said, “but not changes or adjustments that will affect the basic operational capability that we need to have to make sure that air travel remains safe.” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs echoed Napolitano's sentiments, assuring the public that the administration is trying “desperately” to find a solution that makes things more secure but addresses widespread concerns. Hillary Clinton tried to show some compassion for the American public on Face the Nation yesterday. Bob Schieffer asked the secretary of state if the new pat-downs were necessary. She said that “everybody is trying to do the right thing” to make things safer. When asked if she would submit to a pat-down, she responded “Not if I could avoid it, no. I mean, who would?”
State Department spokesman PJ Crowley reacted today to North Korea’s announcement that it has built a new uranium-enrichment facility. Crowley said that the statement just reinforces concerns about North Korea’s nuclear activities, but this isn’t a crisis, and the administration isn’t going to bite this time around. In Crowley’s words: “They frequently anticipate doing something outrageous or provocative and forcing us to jump through hoops as a result. We're not going to buy into this cycle.”