New Faces, Old Problems

After a short break, your administration buzz is back online. And watch out everyone—gaffe-prone VP Joe Biden is on Twitter. Maybe he’ll address the latest pass of the rumor mill in 140 characters or less. Some are whispering that for the 2012 race, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo may replace Biden. Rumor also has it that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner may be thinking about leaving his job after the debt talks wrap up. Geithner certainly wouldn’t be the only economic-team member leaving the administration. Austan Goolsbee who sits atop the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, Joe Biden’s econ adviser Jared Bernstein, and Jeffrey Goldstein, undersecretary of domestic finance, have all already left or are leaving their posts.

In an interview that ran over the weekend, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said that though he had no evidence that Pakistani leadership knew Osama bin Laden was hiding within their territory, the terrorist leader did have “some sort of support mechanism” in the country. There are a lot of questions about how bin Laden could operate in Pakistan for six years, he said, and Islamabad is asking many of them.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has meanwhile been keeping herself busy. On Thursday, she made some waves by saying that Washington would welcome “dialogue with those Muslim Brotherhood members who wish to talk with us.” It is important, she clarified, “given the changing political landscape in Egypt” to engage with all of those peaceful parties looking to have a voice in government.

Friday, Clinton called out Syria and Belarus for their bad human-rights records. At a meeting in Lithuania, Clinton said, “It is absolutely clear that the Syrian government is running out of time” and that Washington is looking to see democratic change in “actions not words.” Belarus was singled out for its political prisoners and lack of democratic reform.

And after sitting down with Spain’s foreign minister, Clinton turned to Libya, reporting that rebels there “have been gaining strength and momentum” and committing Washington to “see[ing] this through.” Her statement came a day after Colonel Muammar Qaddafi warned that if attacks on Libya persisted, he would in turn take the fight to Europe.

President Obama will meet today with the new ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, and General David Petraeus’s replacement, Lt. Gen. John Allen, to talk about plans for the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Their predecessors are in the meantime moving on. Former Ambassador Karl Eikenberry is finding leaving his post difficult, especially because “you just don’t know how some of the big things are going to turn out.” Petraeus, who was cleared by the Senate on Thursday to be the next CIA director, reflected on the future of the war in Afghanistan yesterday, saying that forces will be focused more on the east. Most troop strength thus far has been concentrated on the southern part of Afghanistan where the Taliban has a good foothold. Now, the attention will turn to the border with Pakistan, al-Qaeda’s turf and the home of the Afghan Taliban.

And Timothy Geithner wrapped up talks today with his Indian counterpart. “The single most important takeaway is the commitment of both governments to work very hard to expand and deepen this relationship,” Geithner commented. Large American retailers in particular have had a hard time getting into the Indian market, and an aim of these talks is “easing those barriers, which are limiting economic growth and job creation in both our countries.”