Some in the media have credited President Barack Obama for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s decision not to seek reelection and to eventually step aside. And with Obama’s speech on Tuesday evening from the White House, is that the message he was trying to send?
On the Tuesday broadcast of Fox News Channel’s “Special Report,” network contributor Charles Krauthammer noted the importance of the president being intentionally vague in his response, but also said nothing new was learned from the president’s speech.
“There was a lot of studied ambiguity in that,” Krauthammer said. “All kinds of phrases, which can be interpreted in a lot of ways – ‘orderly transition,’ ‘it must begin now.’ He didn’t say anything about the fate of Mubarak should he leave now or not. He didn’t suggest he’s in favor of it. I think what’s important here — what I think he tried to do is to basically express solidarity with the Egyptians in the street, thinking absence of that it would alienate Egyptians and demonstrators. At least you want to make a statement of support. That’s important. There was nothing specific here. The real stuff is happening behind the scenes with the visit of Frank Wisner, the former ambassador who obviously is advising the Egyptians or giving them our input. I suspect that what is happening is they are thinking whether or not they ought to bring in the opposition now or leave the army and Mubarak in charge and bring them in later.”
According to Krauthammer’s analysis, the part Obama handled well was to be ambiguous in public with the assumption there are specifics being given behind the scenes.
“You got to ask yourself, why did he speak?” Krauthammer said. “What exactly did he say? Not much. I mean, it is good — he should be ambiguous in public and specific in private, which I think is a good policy.”
However, the problem was the timing. Krauthammer explained the president’s decision to react right away sends the wrong message that the United States is controlling the levers of power in Egypt.
“But why does he pop up on television after the president of Egypt speaks? He did that on Friday. He does it again today. How does it advance our policy? I think the only reason he did it, as understand it, is a way to express the general solidarity for people of the streets but I’m not sure he ought to inject himself, especially after there’s a decision that Mubarak announces because it looks as if it was our decision, our pressure and I’m not sure we want a direct connection between our president and Egypt.”