Friday, February 4, 2011

A Public Presidential Heart To Heart

On Egypt, a riveting performance today from the president whose critics still insist he can't get by without a TelePrompTer. You want to know how Barack Obama plans to keep the Muslim Brotherhood from seizing the Egyptian government? By getting inside of Hosni Mubarak's head and convincing him that he can hold it high if he cooperates in an smooth, U.S.-brokered transition.

Obama was talking man to man today. You and I were bystanders. He urges Mubarak to consult his colleagues, because the U.S. team has been doing its homework and knows what they'll say. Showing gracious sensitivity to Mubarak's pride (Associate Justice Sotomayor calls that useful skill "empathy"), Obama's trying to nudge him toward accepting that the true Rubicon moment was his decision not to seek reelection. What's a few more months after 30 years?:
I believe that President Mubarak cares about his country. He is proud, but he's also a patriot. And what I've suggested to him is...that he needs to consult with those who are around him in his government. He needs to listen to what's being voiced by the Egyptian people and make a judgment about a pathway forward that is orderly, but that is meaningful and serious....

He's already said that he's not going to run for reelection. This is somebody who's been in power for a very long time in Egypt. Having made that psychological break, that decision that he will not be running again, I think the most important for him to ask himself, for the Egyptian government to ask itself, as well as the opposition to ask itself, is how do we make that transition effective and lasting and legitimate.

And as I said before, that's not a decision ultimately the United States makes or any country outside of Egypt makes. What we can do, though, is affirm the core principles that are going to be involved in that transition. If you end up having just gestures towards the opposition but it leads to a continuing suppression of the opposition, that's not going to work. If you have the pretense of reform but not real reform, that's not going to be effective.

And as I said before, once the President himself announced that he was not going to be running again, and since his term is up relatively shortly, the key question he should be asking himself is "How do I leave a legacy behind in which Egypt is able to get through this transformative period?" And my that he will end up making the right decision.

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