Well, this Department has been very engaged in dealing with a wide range of elements of our bilateral policy with China. And the Secretary, as you noted, is very interested in making sure that our relationship with China is not so over-focused on the economic side, because there’s so many other elements to that bilateral relationship, you know, the human rights issues, political, security, military issues. And so it’s a key relationship for the United States. And China can certainly play a very, very positive role in the world. And we want to try to help move China in a much more positive direction in terms of some of the issues that we are dealing with, as the international community is dealing with. And you know, certainly, we’d love to see China do more to help on the ground in Darfur, for example.
So the Secretary will have discussions with her counterpart at some point in the future, and it’s a high priority for her. So we’ll be able to let you know more once policies start to really develop.
The State Department's U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and director of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) position was unexpectedly vacated last week by its incumbent, Dr. Mark R. Dybul. Dybul initially told colleagues on January 9th that he had been asked to stay for several months; the day after Hillary Clinton was confirmed, she announced that he had resigned, though he's reportedly told friends he was asked to leave.
Michael Gerson wrote an op-ed on Wednesday criticizing the move, calling Dybul "almost universally respected among legislators, AIDS activists, foreign leaders and health experts." But it's not just conservative op-ed writers who are concerned; PEPFAR is one of the few things many health and development experts believe the Bush administration got right. The Times reports that nearly 70 anti-AIDS groups sent Clinton a letter this week asking for a delay in naming a successor and for a more open process in deciding on the next chief.
State Department spokesman Robert Wood was quizzed today about Dybul's sudden departure.
QUESTION: On Mark Dybul. Mr. Wood, The Washington Post reported January 28th that the day after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, your Global Coordinator on HIV/AIDS, Ambassador Mark Dybul, quote, “received a call asking him to submit his resignation and leave by the end of the day his office,” unquote. I am wondering why and what happened.
MR. WOOD: Well, very simple.
QUESTION: Excuse me?
MR. WOOD: It’s very simple. I’m going to explain.As you know, at the end of an administration, on January 20, officials who are political appointees are required to submit their resignations and depart. And that’s all that was. It was for not just Mr. Dybul but other, you know, officials from the Bush Administration. They are required to submit their resignations and to depart. That was a part of it.
Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) reportedly approached Clinton recently to recommend Harvard professor and former WHO AIDS chief Dr. Jim Yong Kim for the position, only to be told that Clinton had already offered it to Dr. Eric Goosby, who led AIDS initiatives for the Clinton administration. Goosby refused to comment, according to the Times.
With George Mitchell already making the rounds in the Middle East, Richard Holbrooke off to South Asia, Barack Obama heading to Canada, and Joe Biden to Munich, where in the world is Hillary Clinton going to go? Rumors abound, but insiders tell Mark Landler at the New York Times that she's off to Asia.
While no final decision has been made — and travel schedules are fickle — Mrs. Clinton is leaning toward a trip that could include Japan and China, according to officials. That would allow her to check in with a staunch ally and take stock of an economic rival. A stop in South Korea would give Mrs. Clinton a taste for one of her looming challenges: North Korea’s nuclear program.
Asia is not an obvious choice: her two most recent predecessors, Condoleezza Rice and Gen. Colin L. Powell, started off in Europe and the Middle East [respectively].
It's a long enough flight that, if you're going to go, you might as well see everyone while you're there. On the other hand, I'm not sure that Asia can be called "not an obvious choice" when factoring in the schedules of Clinton's envoys, Obama, Biden, the upcoming G-20 Summit in London, and the importance of Asia to the U.S. economy in the midst of this crisis.
In fact, that Clinton might head to Asia (and specifically to China) so early in her tenure could show that she's poised to reassert State's hegemony over China policy from Treasury. Tim Geithner has already been rebuked by Vice President Joe Biden over Geithner's confirmation hearing comments that the Chinese were manipulating their currency, comments that irritated Beijing. The relationship with China is a deep and complex one and needs a more diplomatic hand than Geithner apparently has and a less friendly-by-default one than Paulson showed. Clinton is probably wise to take an early lead in establishing herself as the go-to person on Asia in this adminstration.
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While the U.S. has no official star presence at the Davos World Economic Forum this week, it certainly has an unofficial star there. Bill Clinton spoke there yesterday, ribbing Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin about his free-market credentials from the stage and later meeting him for private discussions behind closed doors.
Bill Clinton's tête-à-tête with Putin follows the announcement by the Russian government that Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet in advance of the April G-20 Summit, when Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will have their own face-to-face. One assumes (or, at least hopes) that Bill Clinton got some marching orders from his wife before sitting down with Putin at this rather delicate moment for U.S.-Russian relations.
Judicial Watch, perhaps best known for its judicial harassment of the Clintons in the 90s, is at it again. Today, officially on behalf of Foreign Service Officer David C. Rodearmel, the organization filed a lawsuit claiming that Hillary Clinton is constitutionally ineligible to serve as Secretary of State -- as they telegraphed last month that they would.
The basis of the lawsuit is that, in effect, any senator who was serving when a Cabinet secretary position received a raise (as the secretary of state did in January 2008) cannot then assume that position.
Under the "Emoluments" or "Ineligibility" clause of the U.S. Constitution, no member of Congress can be appointed to a civilian position within the U.S. government if the "emoluments" of the position, such as the salary or benefits paid to whoever occupies the office, increased during the term for which the Senator or Representative was elected.
In order to get around this, as presidents have done since the days of William Howard Taft, Congress decreased the salary of the secretary of state by $4700 in mid-December -- to the salary Rice was making when Clinton started her second Senate term. Judicial Watch argues that even though Clinton won't benefit from the pay raise Rice received, she nonetheless was there when it happened and thus is technically ineligible.
They furthermore argue that forcing Rodearmel to serve under her would be forcing him to break his Foreign Service oath, by which he promised to uphold the Constitution. Apparently, some habits die hard, and suing the Clintons is one of them.
This morning, Hillary Clinton attended a White House ceremony to watch Barack Obama sign his first bill into law: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. That act reverses a 2007 Supreme Court decision that narrowed the statute of limitations on filing pay discrimination suits.
Hillary Clinton was one of the initial co-sponsors of the Senate legislation (later blocked by Republicans) that sought to change this decision and, in one of her few official acts before being confirmed as Secretary of State, signed on as an original co-sponsor again this year. She appeared with Lilly Ledbetter to rally for the legislation, spoke about the act on the floor of the Senate, and proclaimed its importance during her speech at the Democratic National Convention. She's no doubt delighted at the bill's success. Also in attendance: Nancy Pelosi and Michelle Obama.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
There's a great exhalation of breath going on around the world as people express their appreciation for the new direction that's being set, and the team that's put together by the president to carry out our foreign policy goals," Clinton said after telephoning dozens of world leaders in her first five days on the job. "We have a lot of damage to repair."
Among your first actions as secretary, we urge you to facilitate the development of a comprehensive policy to address the unique plight of Iraq's struggling ethno-religious minorities, specifically the Christian community," the letter read.
...the members of Congress state that the border crossings into Gaza must be opened to allow the importation of construction materials and fuel, and they urge Clinton to ask the Israeli government to allow critically ill patients to be transported out of Gaza to recieve medical care. The letter also requests that the State Department release emergency funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance.
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