On Monday's "Morning Joe," MSNBC co-host Joe Scarborough hinted that President Obama may have been a major catalyst of the current protests against the authoritarian Mubarak regime in Egypt. Scarborough referred to the president's 2009 Cairo speech and wondered if it inspired the present protests.
"Barack Obama, he goes to Cairo, he gives a speech, and he inspires – perhaps he's the one who inspires a lot of these Egyptians to get out into the streets eventually," Scarborough proposed.
The "Morning Joe" panel was discussing the transition of power in Egypt and how it might affect American politics. Scarborough characterized President Obama as on the one hand a possible galvanizing figure in the current push for freedom in Egypt, and yet on the other hand a world leader accused of inaction during oppression of Iranians by their government in 2009.
Time magazine senior political analyst Mark Halperin expounded upon the difficulty the president faces in siding with either embattled Egyptian President Mubarak, a U.S. ally, or with the popular opposition. President Obama called this past weekend for an "orderly transition" in the Egyptian government through fair elections.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on January 31 at 6:43 a.m. EST, is as follows:
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: So how will [Mubarak] handle the transition to power, and will he? Can he?
MARK HALPERIN: We have this sort of forgone conclusion that he's going eventually. But the guy's been in power for a long time. He's got a lot of decisions to make. He's got to get over the disappointment that his son is not going to succeed him. He's got to think about the role of his legacy, and how people view him, whether he stays in the country or not. He's got a lot of decisions to make. And he can be a force for good in the transition. If he handles it with an attitude towards helping the country, versus if he tries to hold onto power, if he tries to choose a successor –
JOE SCARBOROUGH: What's the impact in American politics? Barack Obama, he goes to Cairo, he gives a speech, and he inspires – perhaps he's the one who inspires a lot of these Egyptians to get out into the streets eventually, but this is the same guy that was accused of being feckless in the face of Iranian protests in 2009.
HALPERIN: It is hard for any president, particularly a Democrat, to flip instantly. I mean, I'm sure the President's instincts are to go with the aspirations of people seeking democracy and freedom, but America's reliance on Egypt as a military partner and a diplomatic partner is very strong. And so the President, I think again, has moved farther and faster then he might have.