Vigorous Disagreements between Friends

Today, the administration began its final day of talks in the Strategic and Economic Dialogue with China. Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden didn’t waste any time getting to the human rights issue. As Biden put it, “We have vigorous disagreement in the area of human rights.” “I recognize that some see our advocacy of human rights as an intrusion and Lord only knows what else,” Biden said, but Washington would continue to press the issue. Clinton framed it a bit more subtly, calling for the two powers to act "like friends" and have an open and honest discussion. She commented, “We worry about the impact on our domestic politics and on the politics and the stability in China and the region.” Beijing has cracked down especially hard on activists as popular uprisings have raged across the Middle East.

Republicans on the Hill urged the administration to put more pressure on China to revamp its currency and market-access policies. They sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary Clinton.

Clinton meanwhile is planning to head to Greeland on Thursday to address Arctic drilling risks. According to a State Department spokeswoman, the goal is to “set in motion negotiations on a new instrument to control potential oil spills in the Arctic.” The secretary of state will be accompanied by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Baghdad is breezing by Washington’s calls for a decision on the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. Last month, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen asked Iraqi leaders to make a decision “within weeks” about whether they want U.S. troops to stay in Iraq beyond the end-of-the-year drawdown date. But the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament made the body’s position quite clear: “There is no certain time or certain date to decide on the U.S. military, and we will not be in a hurry to take a decision.” Baghdad is still quite busy with domestic issues, attempting to make good on a promise of reform made after popular protests started in February.

And by now most know that Secretary Clinton was photoshopped out of the Situation Room photo taken during the bin Laden raid. A Hasidic newspaper out of Brooklyn took Clinton and Audrey Tomason, the counterterrorism director on the NSC, out of the picture because of religious laws of modesty. Now, the paper has apologized to the White House and the State Department, saying that the alteration in no way means that “religious Jews denigrate women or do not respect women in public office.”