Secretary of Defense Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates were put on the spot during an interview with ABC News that was filmed when both were abroad in Australia. Amid a flurry of rumors about retirements on Obama’s national-security team, the two were asked whether Clinton would make a good secretary of defense. Gates said “sure,” Clinton could do his job, but she’s good at what she does now: “I think that one of the great strengths that Hillary brings to the job as secretary of state is as spokesperson for the United States around the world. That's not the role of secretary of defense.” The love fest continued. Clinton said, “We're hoping that [Gates’s retirement] timeline keeps moving further and further.” Clinton also appeared on an Australian radio comedy show over the weekend. She faced questions about negotiating takeout orders with her husband and the Kardashians’ reality TV show.

The secretary of state is due back in Washington today after a marathon trip to Asia. Tomorrow, she’ll have a video conference with the Palestinian prime minister and meet with Egypt’s foreign minister. She’ll head to New York on Thursday for a face-to-face with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The United States is supposed to leave Iraq next year, but Secretary Gates said that Washington is open to the prospect of staying longer if Baghdad so desires: “That initiative clearly needs to come from the Iraqis; we are open to discussing it.” Officials have long expected Iraq to request that Washington extend its military presence in the country. Problem is, Baghdad doesn’t yet have a government that could make such a request. Eight months after parliamentary elections, the leaders of Iraq’s main political blocs met yesterday for the first of three day’s worth of meetings to try to come to some sort of agreement on government formation. So far, no movement. Gates has typically taken a peripheral role in encouraging the Iraqi politicians, but other administration members, like Vice President Joe Biden, have been actively working with the Iraqis.

General David Petraeus has drawn up a color-coded map to show NATO leaders at the Lisbon Summit in a little over a week. The map goes along with a timetable for security handover in Afghanistan. Green areas, for example, are set to be turned over to Afghan control within six months. One of those areas is Herat in the west of the country. But in places like Kandahar and Helmand, where forces have so far seen a great deal of violence, NATO will likely retain control for at least another two years.

The G-20 meeting kicks off in Seoul tomorrow night, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is in for a bumpy ride. Geithner has been pressing other countries to get onboard with a regime that would require them to put limits on their trade balances. But key states, like Germany, are already up in arms about the framework. Germany’s economy is based in large part on exports, so it would be difficult to balance its books in an economy-friendly way. Geithner though remains “very confident” that an agreement will be forged. Other governments have also criticized Washington for being a bad reserve-currency holder and doing things like buying $600 billion in Treasury bonds.