Days After NYT's Kirkpatrick Calls Brotherhood 'Moderate Political Force,' He Reports on Morsi Prepping For Martial Law

This one comes straight from the "There are none so blind as those who refuse to see" Department. On Wednesday, in an interview with talk show host Hugh Hewitt (HT Daily Caller), New York Times Cairo Bureau Chief David D. Kilpatrick characterized Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood as "not violent by nature," and as "a moderate, conservative but religious, but moderate, regular old political force." (Quick aside: There is nothing "conservative" about sharia law, persecution of Christians, and the subjugation of women, yet the press won't stop using that dishonest tag to describe radical Islamists.)

Just a few days later, in a pair of dispatches, one of which appeared in today's Times print edition, Kilpatrick reported that "the government of President Mohamed Morsi has approved legislation reimposing martial law," and that Morsi "is leaning more closely than ever on his Islamist allies in the Muslim Brotherhood." Imagine that. Excerpts from the Hewitt interview and each of Kirkpatrick's Friday reports follow the jump.

Kirkpatrick attempted to directly refute contentions by the National Review's Andrew McCarthy that, in Hewitt's words, "the secularists ... (are) saying they know what the Brotherhood’s agenda is (i.e., an Islamist state), they understand where they’re going, even if they haven’t gone there yet." Kirkpatrick pooh-poohed those concerns (bolds are mine throughout this post):

I think it’s misplaced. You know, there are Islamists here who are known as Salafis. They’re literalists, they favor a return to a kind of almost medieval, Islamic law. They’re a minority. The Brotherhood, they’re politicians. They are not violent by nature, and they have over the last couple of decades evolved more and more into a moderate, conservative but religious, but moderate, regular old political force. I find that a lot of the liberal fears of the Brotherhood are somewhat outside. That said, you know, you don’t know what their ultimate vision of what the good life looks like. But in the short term, I think they just want to win elections.

Kirkpatrick also contended that Coptic Christians, who are already suffering much heavier persecution after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year, are "freaking out" -- as if there's something over the top about objecting to church burnings and murders.

Kirkpatrick's report on the martial law plans framed its imposition primarily as a response to the Islamist-oriented "draft constitution" and not to Morsi's assumption of virtually dictatorial powers:

Struggling to subdue continuing street protests, the government of President Mohamed Morsi has approved legislation reimposing martial law by calling on the armed forces to keep order and authorizing soldiers to arrest civilians, Egypt’s state media reported Saturday.

Mr. Morsi has not yet issued the order, the flagship state newspaper Al Ahram reported. But even if merely a threat, the preparation of the measure suggested an escalation in the political battle between Egypt’s new Islamist leaders and their secular opponents over an Islamist-backed draft constitution. The standoff has already threatened to derail the culmination of Egypt’s promised transition to a constitutional democracy nearly two years after the revolt against the former leader Hosni Mubarak.

“President Morsi will soon issue a decision for the participation of the armed forces in the duties of maintaining security and protection of vital state institutions until the constitution is approved and legislative elections are finished,” the state newspaper Al Ahram reported, suggesting that martial law would last until at least February. Parliamentary elections are expected to be held two months after the constitutional referendum, which is scheduled for next Saturday.

... an elected president who spent decades opposing Mr. Mubarak’s use of martial law to detain Islamists — a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who himself spent months in jail under the “emergency law” — is poised to resort to similar tactics to control unrest and violence from secular groups. After six decades during which military-backed secular autocrats used the threat of an Islamist takeover to justify authoritarian rule, the order would bring the military into the streets to protect an elected Islamist, dashing the whispered hopes of some more secular Egyptians that the military might step in to remove Mr. Morsi.

Kirkpatrick didn't even remind readers that Morsi gave himself virtually "unchecked power" until his tenth paragraph.

In his report on Morsi's moves to reinforce his support with the Brotherhood, Kirkpatrick seemed to side against the opposition for not giving "new concession" offered by Morsi more respect:

As tens of thousands chanted for his downfall or even imprisonment in a fourth day of protests outside the presidential palace, Mr. Morsi’s advisers and Brotherhood leaders acknowledged Friday that outside his core base of Islamist supporters he feels increasingly isolated in the political arena and even within his own government. The Brotherhood “is who he can depend on,” said one person close to Mr. Morsi, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Mr. Morsi appears to believe that he and the Brotherhood can deliver a strong vote for the draft constitution in next Saturday’s referendum — strong enough to discredit the opposition, allow him a fresh start and restore some of his authority.

Struggling to quell protests and violence around the country, Mr. Morsi appeared to offer a new concession to his opponents Friday by opening the door to a possible delay in the referendum on the draft constitution, now scheduled for Dec. 15, and even potential revisions by the Islamist-dominated constitutional assembly.

But opposition leaders turned a deaf ear, reiterating their demands to begin an overhaul of the assembly itself. “He has to take these steps, and I hope that he listens to us,” Mohamed ElBaradei, the former United Nations diplomat and coordinator of the opposition front, said Friday in televised response.

But Mr. Morsi’s advisers said he held out little hope of reaching a compromise and planned to continue rallying his Islamist base, a strategy he displayed most vividly in a televised speech to the nation Thursday night. Addressing clashes between his Islamist supporters and their opponents that had killed at least six, Mr. Morsi all but declined to play the unifier, something he could have accomplished by sympathizing equally with those injured or killed on either side.

Instead, he struck the themes with the most resonance to his Islamist supporters, arguing that his backers outside the palace had come under attack by hired thugs paid with “black money” from a conspiracy of loyalists to the ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, and foreign interests determined to thwart the revolution. And he also said that some of the culprits had “direct links” to the political opposition, calling on Egyptians “to stand up to these heinous crimes.”

One wonders if Kirkpatrick even recognizes the vast difference between what he contended on Wednesday and reported on Friday.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.