Stiff Awkwardness in Pakistan

Secretary State Hillary Clinton and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen were in Pakistan today on yet another trip aimed at repairing the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. And it doesn’t appear to be going all that well. Here’s just a sample of descriptors used to convey the less than effervescent get-together: “visibly frosty,” “stiff and awkward, with no smiles among the US delegation,” and “tense with few of the smiles and warm handshakes.” The press was given very limited access to the officials' meetings, which included on the Pakistani side President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and head of the army General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. In a snippet that made its way to the media, the secretary of state told the Pakistanis that Washington recognized “the sacrifice that is made every single day by the men and women of your military and the citizens of your country.” She also called on Pakistan to take “decisive action” in going after extremists living in the country. Mullen said everyone was aware of the challenges the relationship faces and added, “We had very candid discussions, the kind of discussion two friends should be able to have at times like this.”

Lawmakers and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are still going back and forth about the debt ceiling. Yesterday, seventeen Republican senators said Geithner was crying wolf and exaggerating the threat of a default. In a letter, the senators wrote, “It is irresponsible and harmful for you to sow the seeds of doubt in the market regarding the full faith and credit of the United States.” They said that there is more than enough money in the Treasury to avoid a default.

Obama made it official today and nominated current CIA Director Leon Panetta to succeed Robert Gates as defense secretary and the commander of forces in Afghanistan Gen David Petraeus to take over for Panetta. They aren’t expected to meet any stiff opposition in the congressional confirmation process. And senators on the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees got the process started to keep FBI Director Robert Mueller around for two more years. His current term is up in September, but President Obama requested an extension.