February 4, 2011: Crisis & Protest in Egypt; President Obama, U.S. and the World React

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

CRISIS IN EGYPT & THE MIDDLE EAST:

The President Discusses the Situation in Egypt
White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 2/1/11

IN FOCUS

  • Egypt News— The ProtestsNYT
  • Hosni MubarakNYT
  • Latest Updates on Day 10 of Egypt ProtestsNYT

THE HEADLINES….

  • White House, Egypt Discuss Plan for Mubarak’s Exit: The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately, turning over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, administration officials and Arab diplomats said Thursday.
    Even though Mr. Mubarak has balked, so far, at leaving now, officials from both governments are continuing talks about a plan in which Mr. Suleiman, backed by Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the defense minister, would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform.
    The proposal also calls for the transitional government to invite members from a broad range of opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to begin work to open up the country’s electoral system in an effort to bring about free and fair elections in September, the officials said.
    Senior administration officials said that the proposal was one of several options under discussion with high-level Egyptian officials around Mr. Mubarak in an effort to persuade the president to step down now…. – NYT, 2-3-11
  • Israel ponders border security, enlarged military amid Egypt unrest: Israelis are looking fearfully beyond the end of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s rule, expecting it will force them to stiffen security across an extensive southwestern border and perhaps reoccupy a strategic corridor between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
    In the long term, it may require Israel to expand its military force and budget if a new Egyptian government comes under the sway of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, or otherwise casts into doubt the long-standing peace accord between the two nations.
    Israel has relied for three decades on the assumption that it would never again fight a land war against the Arab world’s most populous state, or worry about Egypt openly supporting militants in the Gaza Strip or elsewhere…. – WaPo, 2-4-11
  • Canada’s cautious position on Egypt linked to support for Israel: On the surface, the Conservative government’s statements on the crisis in Egypt might seem a carbon copy of those churned out by the White House. But there has been one major difference — and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s staunch support for Israel and strong backing within Canada’s Jewish community could offer clues about why.
    President Barack Obama’s administration, along with major European countries, have called for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step aside now and allow for a transition of power. But the Canadian government has markedly refrained from asking for Mubarak’s ouster. Instead, it has spoken in broad terms about the need to respect human rights and a peaceful transition to democracy.
    Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon on Thursday condemned the detention of Canadian journalists in Cairo, but did not wade into the question of Mubarak’s presidency.
    During an emergency House of Commons debate late Wednesday night, Conservative MPs repeatedly noted their concerns about Israeli security and the need to uphold the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace accord. “In order for us, here in Canada, to recognize and support the future Egyptian government, it must meet four basic conditions: first, it must respect freedom, democracy and human rights, particularly the rights of women; second, it must recognize the State of Israel; third, it must adhere to existing peace treaties; and fourth, it must respect international law,” Cannon said…. – Canadian Press, 2-2-11
  • Kerry-McCain resolution calls on Mubarak to step down: Senator John F. Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Republican Senator John McCain are calling on embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to immediately begin a peaceful transition to a new democratic government. The two former presidential candidates, Kerry in 2004 and McCain in 2008, have been among the leading voices of their parties on international affairs in general and the violent unraveling of Egypt’s power structure specifically. The two co-wrote a resolution, passed by the Senate on a voice vote tonight, that calls on Mubarak to hand over power to a caretaker government…. – Boston Globe, 2-3-11Resolution Copy
  • Yemen’s President Is Latest To Vow Exit: President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he won’t run for re-election when his term ends in 2013, and that he won’t attempt to pass on the presidency to his son, abruptly ending his bid to change the constitution to erase all term limits on the post. Opposition leaders called the president’s concessions insufficient and urged their supporters to join renewed mass protests Thursday. Ahead of that rally, most major commercial banks in the capital, San’a, reported large withdrawals from thousands of citizens, as fears grow that the protest will turn violent.
    Separately, Jordan’s largest political group, the Islamic Action Front, said it plans mass protests Friday over the appointment of a new prime minister, Maruf Bakhit, who started talks Wednesday on the formation of a new government…. – WSJ, 2-3-11
  • Obama Continues to Monitor Tense Egypt Situation: President Obama returned to the White House after a brief trip to Pennsylvania on Thursday, and has been holding more consultations with his advisers on the situation in Egypt. The United States pressed harder on the Egyptian government and military to stop a wave of violence.
    The president moved quickly past members of the press corps without comment, and into the Oval Office where over the past few days of the Egyptian crisis he has met with advisers and spoken twice by telephone with President Hosni Mubarak.
    In an interview with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, Mr. Mubarak referred to those conversations and said, according to excerpts, while he is a “very good man” Mr. Obama didn’t understand the culture of Egypt. In the same interview, Mr. Mubarak said he was “very unhappy” with violence in Egypt, which he blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood, but said he could not step down and risk the chaos he says would ensue…. – VOA, 2-3-11
  • US, UK condemn attacks on journalists in Egypt: The United States and Britain condemned the intimidation of foreign reporters covering protests against President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday and said the Egyptian government must not target journalists.
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned assaults on American journalists in Cairo as concern rose about the possibility of an intensified round of rioting on Friday.
    “This is a violation of international norms that guarantee freedom of the press and it is unacceptable under any circumstances,” she said, reading a statement…. – Reuters, 2-3-11
  • Tens of thousands turn out for rival rallies in Yemen: Anti-government protesters in Sana are met with a competing rally across town by the president’s supporters, who get logistical support from the army…. – LAT, 2-3-11
  • Egypt’s VP uses state TV to blame unrest on ‘foreign agendas’: Egypt’s new Vice President Omar Suleiman took to state TV Thursday night to make a play for Mubarak to hang on until presidential elections in September…. – CS Monitor, 2-3-11
  • The Arab reform dodge: Cosmetic concessions aren’t enough: LIKE EGYPTIAN President Hosni Mubarak, Arab rulers around the Middle East are trying to head off the swelling popular discontent in their countries while retaining political control…. – WaPo, 2-3-11
  • GOP divided over Obama response to Egypt: As chaos roils Egypt, Republican lawmakers and the GOP’s potential presidential candidates are divided over President Barack Obama’s response though united in concern that an Islamic regime could rise to power in a nation that is an important U.S. ally in the precarious Middle East.
    Compared with recent verbal sparring on domestic issues, the debate between Democrats and Republicans on Egypt is somewhat muted. That’s perhaps because the two parties differ little over U.S. policy toward Egypt. Both view the country as a linchpin to a peaceful Middle East. And while supportive of democracy there, both also express concern about the influence of extremists in a post-Mubarak government, a particular worry of Israel.
    Trying to set the tone for their party, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the country’s two top elected Republicans, have deferred to the Democratic president. They are signaling an unwillingness among the GOP leadership in Congress to pick a fight, in line, at least on this issue, with the tradition that politics stops at the waters’ edge in the midst of foreign crises. “America ought to speak with one voice,” said McConnell…. –
  • The Pentagon View of Egypt: What the Uprising Means for the U.S. MilitaryABC News, 2-3-1
  • Why Obama’s position on Egypt’s Mubarak was too little, too late: The images that have come out of Egypt over the past week are stunning: tens of thousands of largely unarmed protestors facing tanks, teargas, and live ammunition and who are still demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down. But throughout the upheaval, the United States response has been guarded, if not inadequate. After days of tepid statements and measured acknowledgements of the Egyptian people’s “legitimate grievances,” even an eventual call for “free and fair elections,” the Obama administration would still not publicly call for Mr. Mubarak’s departure…. – CS Monitor, 2-2-11
  • Journalists Are Targets of Violence in Cairo: As chaos gripped central Tahrir Square in Cairo on Wednesday, journalists covering the scene on the ground found themselves the targets of violence and intimidation by demonstrators chanting slogans in favor of President Hosni Mubarak. One prominent American television correspondent, Anderson Cooper of CNN, was struck in the head repeatedly.
    Reporters Without Borders said it had received dozens of confirmed reports of violence against local and international journalists in Egypt. Tala Dowlatshahi, a spokeswoman for the group, said to “expect more foreign journalists to be targeted.” The attacks were reported by Al Jazeera, CNN and Twitter users almost as soon as violent clashes began in the square, also known as Liberation Square, eliciting a strong condemnation from the White House and the State Department…. – NYT, 2-2-11
  • Uprising in Egypt Splits U.S Conservatives: Glenn Beck blasts the uprising in Cairo as a threat to our way of life. Michelle Goldberg on how the rebellion is splitting U.S. conservatives—and the fallout for the 2012 presidential campaign. Plus, full coverage of Egypt’s protests…. – The Daily Beast, 2-1-11
  • Obama Urges Quick Transition in Egypt: President Obama declared on Tuesday night that an “orderly transition” in Egypt “must begin now,” but he stopped short of demanding that President Hosni Mubarak leave office immediately. Mr. Obama used his four-and-a-half minute speech from the Cross Hall of the White House to embrace the cause of the protestors in Egypt far more fully than he has at any previous moment since the uprising against Mr. Mubarak’s 30-year-rule began.
    He praised the Egyptian military for refusing to fire on the protestors. And by declaring that Mr. Mubarak had to begin the process of transition immediately, he seemed to be signaling that the United States would not stand by if Mr. Mubarak tried to slow-walk the process, or manipulate its results.
    But if he pushed Mr. Mubarak, he did not shove him. Mr. Obama said there would be “difficult days ahead,” a clear signal of recognition that the transition period could be messy. Only a few hours before, Mr. Mubarak had declared he would not run for re-election, but planned to stay in office through September. Mr. Obama never discussed that timetable in his public response, and he did not declare exactly what steps he wants the Egyptian leader to take to start the process of transition.
    But he made clear that the process started by the protestors could not be reversed. “We’ve born witness to the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a great country,” Mr. Obama said, casting it as a natural successor to other moments of transition in a society that goes back thousands of years…. – NYT, 2-1-11
Netanyahu and Mubarak
Reuters Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, left, and President Hosni Mubarak at a meeting in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, on Jan. 6.
  • Israel wary of transition in Egypt, concerned about regional stability: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s quickening collapse and increasing political turmoil in Jordan have prompted concerns in Israel that its historic peace treaties with those countries may not withstand the convulsion sweeping the region.
    A change of power in Egypt and instability in Jordan could have profound consequences for Israel, which depends on the peace accords – its only two with Arab countries – as a cornerstone of its security. The treaties struck by Israel with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994 remain unpopular among the residents of the two Arab nations, and Israel has relied on the strength of Mubarak’s regime and the Jordanian monarchy to keep them intact.
    Not all of the recent developments have been bad from the Israelis’ perspective: Newly appointed Egyptian vice president Omar Suleiman has become a trusted interlocutor on regional security issues, and the United States will push to ensure that the peace accords remain in place. But the fast pace of events may change how Israel perceives its position, and make it less willing to offer territorial concessions as part of any peace deal with the Palestinians. The country is still digesting the rise in Lebanon of a new government chosen by the Shiite Hezbollah, one of its chief antagonists, and may now sense instability on all sides.
    Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened top intelligence analysts and senior cabinet members in Tel Aviv for a day of urgent consultations Tuesday to weigh the changes underway in Egypt and assess the strength of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, an Israeli official said. Abdullah sacked his cabinet Tuesday amid clamors for more economic and political reform. After the meetings, Netanyahu said the international community “must demand that any Egyptian government preserve the peace accord with Israel.”… – WaPo, 2-1-11
  • Quiet Acts of Protest on a Noisy DayNYT, 2-1-11
  • Israel shocked by Obama’s “betrayal” of Mubarak: If Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak is toppled, Israel will lose one of its very few friends in a hostile neighborhood and President Barack Obama will bear a large share of the blame, Israeli pundits said on Monday. Political commentators expressed shock at how the United States as well as its major European allies appeared to be ready to dump a staunch strategic ally of three decades, simply to conform to the current ideology of political correctness.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told ministers of the Jewish state to make no comment on the political cliffhanger in Cairo, to avoid inflaming an already explosive situation. But Israel’s President Shimon Peres is not a minister.
    “We always have had and still have great respect for President Mubarak,” he said on Monday. He then switched to the past tense. “I don’t say everything that he did was right, but he did one thing which all of us are thankful to him for: he kept the peace in the Middle East.”… – Reuters, 1-31-11
  • Turbulence Rocks an Israeli Ally: The street revolt in Egypt has thrown the Israeli government and military into turmoil, with top officials closeted in round-the-clock strategy sessions aimed at rethinking their most significant regional relationship. Israel’s military planning relies on peace with Egypt; nearly half the natural gas it uses is imported from Egypt; and the principle of trading conquered land for diplomatic ties began with its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has met with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt more than with any other foreign leader, except President Obama. If Mr. Mubarak were driven from power, the effect on Israel could be profound. “For the United States, Egypt is the keystone of its Middle East policy,” a senior official said. “For Israel, it’s the whole arch.”… – NYT, 1-30-11
  • Clinton Calls for ‘Orderly Transition’ in Egypt: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on Sunday for “an orderly transition” to a more politically open Egypt, stopping short of telling its embattled president, Hosni Mubarak, to step down but clearly laying the groundwork for his departure. Mrs. Clinton, making a round of Sunday talk shows, insisted that Mr. Mubarak’s future was up to the Egyptian people. But she said on “State of the Union” on CNN that the United States stood “ready to help with the kind of transition that will lead to greater political and economic freedom.” And she emphasized that elections scheduled for this fall must be free and fair. President Obama reinforced that message in phone calls on Saturday and Sunday to other leaders in the region, including King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, as the administration tried to contain the regional reverberations…. – NYT, 1-30-11
  • U.S. cautiously prepares for post-Mubarak era: Mindful of other allies in the region, U.S. officials have been careful not to abandon the Egyptian leader, urging him to implement a transition to democracy. But they are also preparing for the possibility of his ouster…. – LAT, 1-30-11
  • What impact will the uprising in Egypt have on the Middle East, the U.S., Canada, China, and the EU? The Mark’s experts weigh in.The Mark News, 2-2-11

QUOTES

Anti-government protestors gather in Cairo's central Tahrir Square on Thursday. New clashes erupted as anti-government protesters came face-to-face with Egyptian President Hosni Mubaraka's supporters.
Anti-government protestors gather in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square on Thursday. New clashes erupted as anti-government protesters came face-to-face with Egyptian President Hosni Mubaraka’s supporters.
  • Press Secretary Gibbs on Egypt, Violence & Journalists: During his gaggle with the press aboard Air Force One, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs opens the session with pointed remarks about recent developments in Egypt…. – WH, 2-3-11
  • Remarks by the President on the Situation in Egypt: Good evening, everybody. Over the past few days, the American people have watched the situation unfolding in Egypt. We’ve seen enormous demonstrations by the Egyptian people. We’ve borne witness to the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a great country, and a long-time partner of the United States.
    And my administration has been in close contact with our Egyptian counterparts and a broad range of the Egyptian people, as well as others across the region and across the globe. And throughout this period, we’ve stood for a set of core principles.
    First, we oppose violence. And I want to commend the Egyptian military for the professionalism and patriotism that it has shown thus far in allowing peaceful protests while protecting the Egyptian people. We’ve seen tanks covered with banners, and soldiers and protesters embracing in the streets. And going forward, I urge the military to continue its efforts to help ensure that this time of change is peaceful.
    Second, we stand for universal values, including the rights of the Egyptian people to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and the freedom to access information. Once more, we’ve seen the incredible potential for technology to empower citizens and the dignity of those who stand up for a better future. And going forward, the United States will continue to stand up for democracy and the universal rights that all human beings deserve, in Egypt and around the world.
    Third, we have spoken out on behalf of the need for change. After his speech tonight, I spoke directly to President Mubarak. He recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and that a change must take place. Indeed, all of us who are privileged to serve in positions of political power do so at the will of our people. Through thousands of years, Egypt has known many moments of transformation. The voices of the Egyptian people tell us that this is one of those moments; this is one of those times.
    Now, it is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt’s leaders. Only the Egyptian people can do that. What is clear — and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak — is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.
    Furthermore, the process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties. It should lead to elections that are free and fair. And it should result in a government that’s not only grounded in democratic principles, but is also responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.
    Throughout this process, the United States will continue to extend the hand of partnership and friendship to Egypt. And we stand ready to provide any assistance that is necessary to help the Egyptian people as they manage the aftermath of these protests.
    Over the last few days, the passion and the dignity that has been demonstrated by the people of Egypt has been an inspiration to people around the world, including here in the United States, and to all those who believe in the inevitability of human freedom.
    To the people of Egypt, particularly the young people of Egypt, I want to be clear: We hear your voices. I have an unyielding belief that you will determine your own destiny and seize the promise of a better future for your children and your grandchildren. And I say that as someone who is committed to a partnership between the United States and Egypt.
    There will be difficult days ahead. Many questions about Egypt’s future remain unanswered. But I am confident that the people of Egypt will find those answers. That truth can be seen in the sense of community in the streets. It can be seen in the mothers and fathers embracing soldiers. And it can be seen in the Egyptians who linked arms to protect the national museum — a new generation protecting the treasures of antiquity; a human chain connecting a great and ancient civilization to the promise of a new day. – WH, 2-1-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Time for Mubarak to ‘step down’: US Senator McCain: Top US Senator John McCain, shortly after talks with President Barack Obama, urged embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday to “step down and relinquish power.” “Regrettably the time has come 4 Pres Mubarak 2 step down (and) relinquish power,” McCain said in a post on the microblogging site Twitter roughly an hour after discussing the bloody political crisis in Egypt with Obama. “It’s in the best interest of Egypt, its people (and) its military,” said the lawmaker, Obama’s rival for the US presidency in 2008 and the top Republican on the US Senate Armed Services Committee…. – AFP, 2-2-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • New York Times: Room For Debate: Mubarak’s Role and Mideast Peace: What does the crisis in Egypt mean for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?… – NYT, 2-1-11
  • Gil Troy: Anxiety and Skepticism: Egypt’s uprising has already undermined most Israelis’ sense of security and their willingness to take risks for peace with the Palestinians. Israelis now worry about the biggest risk they ever took for peace: the withdrawal from Sinai in 1982.
    A radical Egypt downgrading or abrogating its peace treaty with Israel would top the litany of failed peace-making attempts and reinforce the argument of right-wing skeptics against trading land for peace with the Palestinians. Moreover, a hostile Egypt would reinforce the sense of betrayal so many Israelis have felt since 2000, as the failure of the Oslo peace process triggered a wave of Palestinian terror, the withdrawal from Lebanon boosted Hezbollah, and disengagement from Gaza brought Hamas to power.
    Israelis have longed for greater intimacy with the Egyptian people, always speaking of “peace with Egypt” not with Mubarak. Yet this “cold peace” has been government to government not people to people. Israelis have accepted the limits, given their alternatives.
    Mubarak’s Egypt has served as an important counterweight to Ahmadinejad’s Iran. The recent Wikileaks documents suggested some of the benefits Israel enjoyed from its alliance with Mubarak, including diplomatic support, intelligence sharing and military cooperation. Most important have been decades of non-belligerency. With the loss of that sense of security on its southern border, Israelis will be much more reluctant to cede control of their eastern border to an independent Palestine.
    This week’s hysterical headlines in the Israeli press about the potential loss of Egypt, the dip in Tel Aviv stocks, the debate about whether President Obama can be trusted to support American allies, all suggest that Israel’s strategic doctrine is being hastily rewritten.
    The prospects of peace become even more unlikely if Egypt turns Islamist. Israel’s safest border will suddenly look menacing. Hamas will look stronger in Gaza with an Islamist Egyptian regime not even pretending to try to stop the flow of arms. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank will look like a less viable peace partner with fundamentalism ascendant, and any pro-peace or pro-Western Palestinians demonized as collaborators. Moreover, Israeli policymakers will feel caught, doubting Mahmoud Abbas as another unelected autocrat while fearing the popular Palestinian street more than ever.
    Israelis find themselves once again in dissonance with the international community. Many Israelis wish they could wholeheartedly support this popular move against an aging dictator. But the bitter experience of the last ten years suggests that skepticism is in order. – NYT, 2-1-11
  • Khaled Fahmy: Mubarak Fails to Quell Protests as Turmoil Spreads to Yemen: “I expect the demonstrations to continue,” said Khaled Fahmy, professor of history at American University in Cairo, in a telephone interview. “He really hasn’t offered much. What I’ve seen is that he has burned bridges. There is no trust between him and the people.” SF Chronicle/Blomberg, 2-2-11
  • Yale History prof sign letter to Obama regarding Egypt: As protests against the 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak continue in Egypt, three Yale professors joined over 150 academics in signing an open letter to President Barack Obama yesterday, calling on Obama to support Egypt’s democratic movement. The letter reads:
    For thirty years, our government has spent billions of dollars to help build and sustain the system the Egyptian people are now trying to dismantle. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Egypt and around the world have spoken. We believe their message is bold and clear: Mubarak should resign from office and allow Egyptians to establish a new government free of his and his family’s influence. It is also clear to us that if you seek, as you said Friday ‘political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people,’ your administration should publicly acknowledge those reforms will not be advanced by Mubarak or any of his adjutants.
    Alan Mikhail, an assistant professor of history who researches Egypt during the Ottoman period, said he saw the letter as a “small gesture” academics could make, regardless of whether it sways Obama’s opinion.
    “It seems like a small gesture that I as a historian could do, to show support for the people in Egypt who are protesting, and sometimes putting their lives on the line, for a better society and a better government,” Mikhail said. “Is [Obama] going to read it? I have no idea. He’s a very busy guy.”… – Yale Daily News, 2-2-11
  • Kent Schull: Professor to students: Write your members of Congress about Egypt: In an effort to support the millions of Egyptians protesting their authoritarian government, one University of Memphis professor is asking students to flock to their keyboards. Kent Schull, assistant history professor, has expertise in modern Middle East history and said he thinks students should write to their state and U.S. representatives.
    “These people are really trying to get a better life for themselves, and that resonates with all of us,” he said. “We all want basic freedoms that we all feel we have a right to, and this is what the Egyptian people want, and I think the United States has to put the Egyptian people’s interest ahead of our own international interest.”
    “You have a huge gap between the rich and poor,” he said. “Egypt has a lot of its money coming from tourism and from small manufacturing depths from agricultural production, and the people that control that — they have a lot of money, but the vast majority of the population is very poor.”
    Schull said that the U.S.-Egypt alliance is based, in part, on geography and natural resources. “Egypt has been a very close trade partner with the United States,” he said. “(It’s) a very close political partner for trying to keep stability within the Middle East. Without Egypt as an ally, then it would be very tough to get Saudi Arabia’s oil to us.”
    The U.S. doesn’t want Egyptian people viewing it as a country that funds a dictator, Schull said. “The U.S. has been walking this fine line and probably needs to throw its support very squarely behind the Egyptian people going for democratic change,” he said. Schull said that the more representatives and senators hear from Americans about supporting these Egyptian protests, the more likely it is that “maybe they’ll listen.”… – Daily Helmsman, 2-2-11
  • Charles Wilkins: Wake Forest Professor: Economy Plays Role In Egyptian Protests: The violence is escalating in Cairo. Protestors for and against President Hosni Mubarak are clashing, surrounded by burning buildings and gun fire. Hundreds have been hurt since Wednesday when the protests turned violent. So what’s causing the un-rest in Egypt? Wake Forest University Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern History, Charles Wilkins, says it started with pent up anger and the resentment of Egypt’s government
    The economy also plays a role. “Economics of it are very important. We have high unemployment, we have low wages and high cost of living. We have basically a housing shortage,” says Charles Wilkins. “It’s a young generation that’s actual rebeling. This is a politically active and aware population that want to see change.”
    Wilkins also credits the internet with helping protestors coordinate their efforts and making them more powerful. He says the protests in Tunisia a few weeks ago gave Egyptians, Jordanians and Syrians the courage to question their governments…. – WFMY News 2, CBS Newspath, CNN Newsource, 2-3-11
  • Historians worry about Egyptian antiquities: The fighting has intensified in Tahrir Square. It has become a battle field. That is where the Egyptian Museum is located, filled with antiquities and the history of Egypt. There are concerns among historians about the fate of the museum and its huge collection.
    “In a situation like this where anything could happen you are always worried,” Professor Carol Redmount director of Near East Studies at UC Berkeley said.
    “On the one hand in a situation like this you are always concerned, these things are irreplaceable, they’re national treasure, international treasures, they tell is about our human history,” Redmount said. “But the Egyptian people will do whatever they can to protect it.”
    Redmount has reason to be concerned. Earlier this week vandals broke into a museum and smashed statues and glass. It is likely the next wave will steal items.
    “You can try to sell it on the antiquities market, now everyone is going to be looking for these things on the antiquities market,” Redmount said. “They’ve been looting the site with shovels, which is better than bulldozers, at the same time we don’t know how much damage has been done,” Redmount said… – ABC Local SF, 2-2-11
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Republicans Elects Reince Priebus as the New RNC Chairman — Michael Steele Drops Bid

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

THE HEADLINES….


(Image: NYT)

  • G.O.P. Elects a New Chairman as Steele Drops Out: The Republican National Committee selected a new leader on Friday, with its choice, Reince Priebus of Wisconsin, surviving seven contentious rounds of balloting to overtake Michael Steele, the embattled chairman, as party officials demanded new leadership to fortify the party for the 2012 presidential race. Mr. Priebus, who broke away from Mr. Steele’s close circle of advisers to run against him, said he would work to rebuild the trust of major contributors who had lost faith in the party and begin preparing to challenge President Obama. He pledged to heal any divisions among Republican constituencies. “We all recognize that there’s a steep hill ahead of us,” Mr. Priebus said, delivering his first remarks as party chairman. “The only way we’ll be able to move forward is if we’re all together.” NYT, 1-14-11
  • G.O.P. Leader’s Promise: Humility and Hard Work: For Reince Priebus, the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, politics has long been more than simply a hobby. It provided the entertainment for the first date with his wife. More than a decade ago, when Representatives Henry J. Hyde of Illinois and James F. Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin were delivering keynote speeches at a Lincoln Day Dinner in Kenosha, Wis., Mr. Priebus reserved two tickets and turned the event into part of his courtship.
    “I know. Nerd alert,” Mr. Priebus said in an interview a few hours after he was elected on Friday to lead the national Republican Party. His voice was filled with self-deprecation as he recalled the moment. “But we went to a movie after that.”
    Humility was a key selling point for Mr. Priebus as he embarked on a two-month campaign to overthrow Michael Steele, the controversial party chairman, and begin the challenging task of rebuilding a committee that is more than $21 million in debt and competing for relevance in an age when the political establishment is no longer the most popular place to be…. – NYT, 1-15-11
  • New chairman targets GOP team setting up 2012 national convention in Tampa: There’s a new Republican National Chairman in office, and he’s about to clean house on the team putting together the 2012 Republican convention in Tampa. Responding to complaints about excessive spending by the RNC’s convention team, newly elected chairman Reince Priebus told Republican U.S. House members in a closed door meeting Saturday that he was going to replace the RNC’s convention team in Tampa Bay with his own team, Politico reported Saturday.
    The RNC has about a half dozen staffers working on the convention out of donated office space in downtown Tampa, but the work has drawn considerable criticism and helped fuel opposition to former RNC chairman Michael Steele. For instance, he hired his former assistant, Belinda Cook, for $15,000-per-month, and she spent thousands of dollars renting a 3,200 square foot waterfront Treasure Island home…. – St Petersburg Times, 1-15-11
  • Reince Priebus replaces Michael Steele as GOP chairman: The Republican National Committee selected Reince Priebus as its new chairman, replacing Michael Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland. Steele’s two-year tenure was marked by high spending, financial debt and verbal gaffes. Priebus won late Friday afternoon after seven rounds of balloting. He received 97 votes out 168 ballots cast.
    Steele, the party’s first African-American chairman, sought a second term, but conceded midafternoon. “I think the party is ready for something different,” Steele said. Priebus is the Wisconsin GOP chairman and a former general counsel for the RNC…. – USA Today, 1-14-11
  • Reince Priebus: “We Can Defeat Barack Obama in 2012”: The Republican Party will face significant challenges in the 2012 election cycle: A geared-up Democratic electorate excited to see President Obama back on the ballot, a rowdy and somewhat unpredictable Tea Party base, funds flowing through multiple outside organizations. On top of all that, the Republican National Committee must deal with its splintered membership and more than $20 million in debt. New RNC Chairman Reince Priebus today acknowledged as much after his fellow committee members chose him to put him at the helm of the organization.
    “We recognize that the Democrats have taken this country on the wrong path, and it isn’t going to be easy or glamorous, but together we must lead,” he said. Priebus, a 38-year-old lawyer who served as chairman of the Wisconsin GOP, said he plans to keep his head down and get to work. That means restructuring the RNC’s financial operation, hiring a top-notch staff, improving the lines of communication with state parties and — perhaps most importantly — restoring the faith of the party’s donors. “Together we can defeat Barack Obama in 2012, together, unified as a committee,” Priebus said…. – CBS News, 1-14-11
  • Michael Steele’s many blunders led to defeat in RNC chair reelection campaign: Republicans emerged from a 2008 electoral drubbing not only lacking a telegenic spokesman for the party but virtually any major officials who were not white, a major void after the election of the nation’s first black president. Michael Steele seemed like the right man at the right time: an African-American Republican who loved going on television. But instead of turning into a solution for the GOP, critics say Steele blundered so many times in his first few months as chairman of the Republican National Committee that party officials openly considered replacing him well before the first quarter of his two-year tenure had ended. Republicans completed the dumping of Steele on Friday, voting out the party’s first-ever black chairman…. – WaPo, 1-14-11

QUOTES

  • Outgoing Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele’s 10 best gaffes: Embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele abandoned his re-election bid Friday after four rounds of balloting left him far short of a second term.
    Steele, who just finished his first two-year term in the job, dropped out as four other hopefuls competed to become his successor. Steele, 52, urged his backers to give their support to GOP operative Maria Cino, who worked in George W. Bush’s administration, but Reince Priebus, the head of the Wisconsin Republican Party, ultimately was elected after seven rounds of voting.
    The GOP’s first black chairman received a standing ovation from the party regulars after pulling out of the race. His spotty two-year reign included huge victories by the GOP in the November elections, but for many, Steele is known more for his verbal gaffes than his electoral accomplishments…. – NY Daily News, 1-14-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

Dewey Clayton Professor of Political Science, University of Louisville: Michael Steele’s legacy will be a mixed one. On the one hand, Steele first and foremost will be remembered as the first African-American to be elected as chairman of the RNC. Secondly, it was under Steele’s stewardship that Republicans gained the majority in the House in 2010. Many saw Steele’s election as an effort by the Republican Party to reach out to African-American voters and portray an image of being open to all and not as an exclusive party. To that end, two black Republicans were elected to Congress in 2010. They will be the first black Republicans in Congress since J.C. Watts of Oklahoma retired in 2003. And they are also the first black Republicans in the House since Reconstruction.
Unfortunately, much of the attention that Steele received during his tenure was negative. He was criticized for often acting too independently, people questioned some of his paid speaking engagements, and there were issues of excessive spending. I think the controversy surrounding Steele may have caused many Republican donors to scale back their contributions to the RNC. Because of this, his lack of fundraising will be a lasting legacy. It’s hard to say whether Steele did more harm than good. He was a charismatic leader and some of the controversy during his tenure was not really his fault. I think that ultimately, he did more good than harm and the Republicans did gain the majority in the House under his leadership. The next chairman, assuming that Steele does not win another term, should probably maintain a lower profile and concentrate on improving the level of fundraising.. – Politico Arena, 1-14-11

Q & A: How Many Elections Has Vietnam Played a Role in?

HISTORY ARTICLES

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HNN, 10-11-04

The Second Bush/Kerry Debate: Highlights

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern

The Instant Polls

  • ABC News: Kerry was the winner 44 to 41 percent, with 13 percent declaring the debate a tie.
  • CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll: Kerry: 47 percent, Bush: 45 percent.
  • Reuters/Zogby poll: Kerry has a slim 46-45 percent lead on Bush in the campaign in the latest poll.

Candidate Soundbites

George W. Bush

  • At one point [George W. Bush] interrupted moderator Charles Gibson’s follow-up question after Kerry said he was “not going to go alone like this president did” in Iraq. “I’ve got to answer this,” Bush said, jumping off his stool.
  • “You tell Tony Blair we’re going alone,” he said, loudly. At other points, his voice was almost a yell. (CBS’s Dick Meyer’s account of an exchange during the debate)
  • Kerry has”been in the Senate 20 years. Show me one accomplishment he’s had on Medicare.” (Kerry: “Actually, Mr. President, in 1997 we fixed Medicare, and I was one of the people involved in it.”)
  • “I wasn’t happy when we found out there wasn’t weapons, but Saddam Hussein was a unique threat. And the world is better off without him in power. And my opponent’s plans lead me to conclude that Saddam Hussein would still be in power, and the world would be more dangerous [if Kerry had been president].”
  • “I can see why people think that he changes position quite often, because he does.”
  • “I don’t seen how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty, if you change your mind because of politics.”
  • “Uh, let me see where to start here. First, the National Journal named Senator Kennedy the most liberal senator of all. And that’s saying something in that bunch. You might say that took a lot of hard work.” (Referring to Kerry as Kennedy.)
  • “Yeah, I mean he’s got a record. He’s been there for 20 years. You can run but you can’t hide. He voted 98 times to raise taxes. I mean these aren’t made-up figures. And so people are going to have to look at the record. Look at the record of the man running for the president.”

John F. Kerry

  • “The president didn’t find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so he has really turned his campaign into a weapon of mass deception, and the result is that you’ve been bombarded with advertisements suggesting that I’ve changed a position on this or that or the other.”
  • “The world is more dangerous today because the president didn’t make the right judgments. So what does he do? He’s trying to attack me. He wants you to believe that I can’t be president.”
  • “The president is just trying to scare everybody here with throwing labels around. I mean, ‘compassionate conservative,’ what does that mean? Cutting 500,000 kids from after-school programs, cutting 365,000 kids from health care, running up the biggest deficits in American history. Mr. President, you’re batting 0 for 2.”
  • “Boy, to listen to that — the president, I don’t think is living in a world of reality with respect to the environment.”

Historians’ Comments

Bruce Shulman (professor of History, Boston University, BU forum on presidential politics)

  • “I think if the president wins re-election, I think that’s going to be a pretty strong sign that the move towards conservatism and the growing influence of the sun belt and of religious conservatism in American life that we’ve seen in the past 25 years, that that is continuing and even strengthening.”

Alan Schroeder (presidential debate historian at Northeastern University, on CBS)

  • “Kerry was very aggressive in this debate. In some of those two-shots it looked like Kerry was the prosecutor and Bush was the defendant, Bush was better than last time but he seemed rather shrill to me and not terribly articulate.”

David Thomson (film historian on CBS)

  • “The great opportunity that this format gives is movement. A lot of speakers, like to move when talking, preachers, and Bush likes this. Bush gave off a signal right away that this is a format he was more comfortable in. But I think Kerry handled it equally well….I suspect that this is not a debate in which there will be a substantial change one way or another.”
  • “I think by the end of this debate there was a feeling that we’ve heard these guys say the same things too many times. We now know. It’s up to us. If we can’t make up our minds on what we see, then the worse for us.”

Richard Norton Smith (director of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum on PBS)

  • “Well you saw that definitely in ’92 the first time this format was tried out. I thought this is the third now, well yeah ’96 of course with Clinton and Dole. I thought it was by far the best. A lot of people have doubts about the format, the town hall format; they think it is overly theatrical, in some ways, not that modern politics has become theatre.
  • “I thought there was two questions in particular we would have not heard, perhaps from a panel of reporters; one was on abortion, a very pointedly phrased question on abortion directed to Senator Kerry, and one equally pointed directed to President Bush about the Patriot Act by someone who felt their liberties were being infringed.”
  • “It certainly felt different than last Friday night, the President showed up, was intensely engaged I think he more than held his own. Its interesting: John Edwards maybe the trial lawyer, but John Kerry is the prosecuting attorney, and I thought that he returned to that role over and over again tonight. I thought he was very aggressive, I though he was crisp, in command of his facts. But I also think its interesting I think he said a couple of times “labels don’t mean anything,” that reminds me of Michael Dukakis saying “this an election about competence, not values.” George Bush seemed to be saying labels mean everything, and I think there in a nutshell is perhaps one of the choices, the stark choices that they offer.

Ellen Fitzpatrick (professor of history at the University of New Hampshire on PBS)

  • “I actually thought that there was a great deal more spontaneity because of the audience participation as your question suggests, but I also was also very struck at a difference in this town hall debate over previous town hall debates, and that was that the questions from the audience were pitched quite broadly In the past you had people standing up and saying I am a so and so, and I have an issue with X and Y.”
  • “It was really a kind of advancing, you had a collection of special interests especially coming from the citizenry, which is appropriate, people have their concerns and they look to politicians, and particularly the presidents to address those concerns. But this time I thought the questions, the quality of the questions were pitched, they were good quality questions were pitched broadly to national issues and concerns and I thought that was quite effective.”
  • “There’s a kind of solemnity that we are seeing in the debates all three of them now that reflect, in a way I feel it’s appropriate to the seriousness of the issues at hand. Every election year there are serious issues, but I do think that the post 9-11 environment that we are al now living in, the concerns that so many Americans have about security, the war on terror, the ongoing war in Iraq is lending a kind of solemnity to the proceedings that is very obvious, to me anyway.”

Michael Beschloss (on PBS)

  • “I didn’t think the format particularly worked, you know especially compared to earlier town meetings. I think there was a reason for this, because often times it does get into show business in a way that perhaps obscures the difference between the two candidates, but I thought the questioners look a little like props, and also there was none of the engagement you saw in previous debates. Part of that was the rules; there wasn’t much humor, these were not human beings who were really interacting with each other, and the result was that it was a rather an icy evening, a humorless evening for the most of it it recalled to some extent the relationship between George W. Bush and Al Gore four years ago.”
  • “You can have big differences but also have a little bit of humor and a more pleasant atmosphere. Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale, you can’t think of two candidates with probably more differences ideologically than those two, yet you look back at those two debates in 1984, there was humor when Reagan told a joke Mondale laughed. There was a sense that you know at the end of this evening these were not two men intensely antagonistic to each other. Mondale began his first debate by saying I like President Reagan, I respect the Presidency, I think he knows that. There wasn’t that element tonight, and I think I missed it.”
  • “I sure wish they had ten or eleven of these debates rather than three because when there are three there’s not enough time, because they can be affected by someone making a slip. We did not see that tonight, but often times there can be a moment that has inordinate impact. I would love to see a system where you have ten or eleven of these, not only because you get to discuss issues in greater length, depth, you get more of a sense of who these people are. I think one thing we saw this evening was that they both of these candidates knew there was such an enormous amount at stake, but they were a little bit sort of restrained and constrained that’s why we didn’t have that kind of engagement.”

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