Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 10, 2011

MUBARAK MANAGES TO MAKE MATTERS MUCH WORSE.... The streets of Cairo were packed with throngs of protestors who'd been told they were about to get their wish -- Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would step down. All available evidence suggested he was on his way out, making today the day everything changed in Egypt.

Mubarak, however, had other ideas.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt told the Egyptian people Thursday that he would delegate more authority to his vice president, Omar Suleiman, but that he would not resign his post, contradicting earlier reports that he would step aside and surprising hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered to hail his departure from the political scene.

In a nationally televised address following a tumultuous day of political rumors and conflicting reports, Mr. Mubarak said he would "admit mistakes" and honor the sacrifices of young people killed in the three-week uprising, but that he would continue to "shoulder my responsibilities" until September, and did not give a firm indication that he intended to depart the political scene.

The autocratic leader suggested he would "delegate" some of his powers, but not "transfer" them. He also referenced some possible constitutional amendments, as if that's what's led to 17 days of intense protests.

Indeed, it wasn't clear exactly why Mubarak made the speech in the first place -- as he sees it, practically nothing has changed, which is the way it should be. He expressed sympathies for the protestors, and inexplicably argued that he'd work on meeting their demands by staying in power for several more months.

The assembled crowd, not surprisingly, erupted in outrage, and it seems likely Mubarak's remarks will only generate larger, angrier protests tonight and tomorrow.

Mubarak might as well have lit a torch next to a powder keg. One gets the sense the oblivious man doesn't know, care, or understand why the demonstrations have occurred in the first place.

Steve Benen 4:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (21)

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Tomorrow is Friday, the day when big things happen in Moslem countries. There will be very large crowds. I hope there's no blood.

Mubarek has gone beyond hostile to patently delusional. It's all very dangerous.

Posted by: K in VA on February 10, 2011 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Shit, meet fan.

Posted by: puravida on February 10, 2011 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Fareed Zakaria of CNN is saying that Mubarak is trying to bait protesters into violence. Not exactly oblivious or delusional.


Posted by: JD on February 10, 2011 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

It's all up to the military now -- they either depose Mubarak or they crack down on their own people, who will probably shut the country down now. And a coup will only defuse the situation if the military immediately hands over power to new civilian leadership, the odds of which are, sadly, small. The military has ruled since Nasser.

Posted by: dalloway on February 10, 2011 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Mubarak has been isolated too long from the plight of his own people. He has a tin ear to their grievences, and knows nothing about grace and elegance.

Though for so long he was our thug in the region, he is merely the region's thug now, and he just doesn't get it! "Mubarak gotta go!" needs to be chanted loudly and world-wide by all peoples who value free and liberty-minded societies.

Let the chant continue until its desired effect comes about!

And, should Hosni Mubarak yet again attempt to thwart the people through the use of thuggery, let there be no safe haven on this planet for him and his fellow thugs! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on February 10, 2011 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

He probably needs the time to get his huge fortune safely stashed out of reach of the next Egyptian government.

Posted by: oldswede on February 10, 2011 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like Mubarak will be experiencing his very own Ceausescu Moment.

Posted by: Basilisc on February 10, 2011 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Zakaria. If the protestors lash out violently, then he can use it as an excuse to unleash the army on them. This is not good.

Posted by: Gridlock on February 10, 2011 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

I trust everyone is following _Doonesbury_.

Posted by: Hank Roberts on February 10, 2011 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

@dalloway- As you say, Mubarak is more or less former military, so if the military tells him to step down they'll replace him with Suleiman, who is ALSO former military.

This situation reminds me a lot of Pakistan, where the military has so infused themselves into the political and economic leadership that genuine reform is going to be very difficult to accomplish.

I think the military hasn't cracked down on their own people thanks to the US, who has probably told them privately that they can kiss their big chunk of military funding bye-bye if they use violence against peaceful protesters. This is probably the main reason why they've attempted to used thugs before, and now using false promises of Mubarak stepping down, as a means to change the peaceful protest into something not so peaceful.

Posted by: JD on February 10, 2011 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

I can't help but wonder if he's not simply clueless. I know that even here in America our leaders are often surrounded by yes-men and sycophants, and some behave as though they are fenced off from reality.

How much worse would that be in a country like Egypt, where the President is a effectively a monarch? Maybe I'm giving him too much credit, but it's possible that Mubarak doesn't realize how close to the edge the situation has become.

In any case he needs to go, and he needs to do it now. Egypt will not wait until September.

I have never met an Egyptian that I did not like, and I hope that the nation becomes a shining light to the world. Their history is human history, their heritage in a real sense belongs to us all and they are our family - as I feel all humans are. Here's to our sisters and brothers in Egypt.

Posted by: Mitch on February 10, 2011 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK
All available evidence suggested he was on his way out, making today the day everything changed in Egypt.

This is true if and only if by "all the evidence" you mean some anonymous statements, and a lot of hopeful speculation about the meaning of deliberately vague statements by the military, but not the repeated, on-the-record, denials that Mubarak was stepping down from high-level officials in the regime.

Panetta's prediction was that Mubarak would delegate more power to the VP. Official statements from the Egyptian government was that Mubarak would not step down. And, hey, look, Mubarak didn't step down and delegated more power to the VP.

Certainly Mubarak should step down, and arguably the best thing might have been for him to do so immediately today (or at least announce a rapid transition plan), but it is utterly indefensible to claim that "all the evidence" suggested he was going to do anything like that. It would be unjustified even to claim that a preponderance of evidence suggested that.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 10, 2011 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Well said Mitch. We ARE all Egyptians.

Posted by: SuzyF on February 10, 2011 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

The Egyptian officer corps is not unlike the Chinese army- they don't pay taxes, they own and operate businesses, and effectively run the country. In short, they wield a great deal of power, and are loathe to give it up.

I won't draw any parallels to yet another military industrial consortium. . .

Posted by: DAY on February 10, 2011 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like Mubarak has confused himself with the pharaohs. He thinks he's god and Egypt belongs to him.

Posted by: mlm on February 10, 2011 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

So, where is the United States on this? We impose our will on others, but we are leaving our hands off this dictator. When does he become Sadaam Hussein and in need of regime change? How much do the weapons contractors have to say about this?

Posted by: st john on February 10, 2011 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

Mubarak has thirty years of crap on everyone in the Middle East and half the people in the last five US administrations.

The trick is to get him to leave with immunity so he can't be prosecuted and he keeps his money.

Otherwise, the way they went spastic over Wikileaks will be nothing compared to what Mubarak can do to them.

Posted by: cld on February 10, 2011 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

The whole point of a dictator is the ego. The unshakable belief that the dictator alone has the awesome power and responsibility of leading such a poor, benighted nation being threatened by anarchy and outside agitators.

The reason why Saddam Hussien would never leave Iraq was the same belief: that he and Iraq were one, and that his leaving would destroy his beloved nation. Never mind the bodies he and his sons left in their wake. Never mind the corruption and accumulation of wealth atop the halls of power.

Every dictator thinks this way (Sports owners too, if you look at Dan Snyder and Al Davis and Jerry Jones...). Why should anyone expect Mubarak to leave peacefully? It's going to take military officers backed with tanks and guns telling him to his face to pack NOW before they let the mobs have him.

Posted by: PaulW on February 10, 2011 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

As well phrased tonight by Brian Williams, expertly interviewing Egypt's Ambassador to the US in real time on the hoof and of course no genuine prep: ~ "Mubarak is the still the President de jure, while the de facto President is VP Omar Suleiman" etc. I don't think the protesters will be satisfied with Mubarak remaining DJ President in that sense. But the supposed prevalence of surprise is confusing. Commenters here are saying, Mu-ba said he was just going to grant effective power and not "quit" and leave, but on the news we hear that M. was expected to really resign etc. What a mess at so many different levels.

Posted by: neil b on February 10, 2011 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

Too bad the US doesn't have clean hands, ever.. Greatest country in the world my ass.

Posted by: Trollop on February 10, 2011 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

There but for the grace of God, Benen.

Have you ever been a dictator attempting a getaway from a country in turmoil?

Walk a mile in Mubarek's shoes. Which is to say, think before you write.

Posted by: JW on February 10, 2011 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK



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