Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Chaos theory

Something to ponder while thinking about the crisis in Egypt: Chaos Theory or Domino Effect?

EGYPT/Embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak tells ABC’s Christiane Amanpour that he’d like to step down but… “If I resign today there will be chaos.”

It seemed fairly chaotic on the streets of Cairo where protesters were fired upon and journalists were detained. Egypt’s prime minister told the interior minister not to obstruct peaceful marches at tomorrow’s “Friday of Departure” rally.

Mubarak’s image with Official Washington appears shattered. White House correspondent Steve Holland broke the story that a draft resolution sponsored by Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator John Kerry called on Mubarak to transfer power to an inclusive caretaker government. The measure shows broad, unified American concern about Egypt.

The United States continued to condemn the violence in Egypt and urge political transition. And while a handful of lawmakers have said publicly that Mubarak should leave, there has not been an official U.S. call for him to immediately step down.

Washington Extra – Line dance

Here’s something that Republicans might want to hear: the White House is promising that its budget will include serious deficit control.

EGYPT-USA/“The budget will show a very serious path of deficit reduction,” White House Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew said in an interview with Reuters’ White House correspondents Alister Bull and Jeff Mason.

While the budget will make “tough choices and tough cuts,” Lew said, “there will also be the question of how far do you want to go in some of these areas and what are the consequences of going beyond a certain line.”

Washington Extra – Waiting for Mubarak

Much of the day was spent waiting…

Waiting for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to make his move so that U.S. officials could react and the crisis could lurch into potentially calmer territory. EGYPT/MUBARAK-TRANSFER

It became clear that something was up when the State Department delayed its media briefing before canceling it altogether, and the White House indefinitely delayed its briefing.

Official Washington tends to clam up when it sees movement toward possible resolution of difficult situations so as not to disrupt chances for success.

Washington Extra – People’s choice

The United States has decided — it is up to Egyptians to decide.

CANADA/Anyone looking for a clear sign that the United States does or doesn’t back its ally of 30 years, President Hosni Mubarak, won’t find it in the official words out of Washington today.

Instead, Washington took the firm stance to perch on the tightrope — call for Democratic reforms, stay away from public opinions about Mubarak.

“We’re not picking between those on the street and those in the government,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Washington Extra – Job prospects

The U.S. economy grew 2.9 percent in 2010, the biggest GDP gain since 2005, but still too weak to make a big dent in the unemployment rate which ended the year at 9.4 percent.

EGYPT/USAEgyptian protesters again took to the streets seeking to oust President Hosni Mubarak from the job he’s held for 30 years.

Rather than risk a fissure in messages, the White House held its press briefing, while the State Department canceled. In the strongest public message so far, the United States warned Egypt it would review some $1.3 billion in aid based on the government’s response to the massive protests.

Washington Extra – Red light, green light

The White House seems to be in go-slow amber mode over the protests in Egypt – declaring President Hosni Mubarak an ally, but supporting free speech as the American way.

It’s much easier to take a stance when the government is not an ally, as happened with Iran’s crackdown on street protests in 2009 when President Barack Obama said firmly: “I strongly condemn these unjust actions.” USA/

Today, Obama was asked in a YouTube interview that took questions from the public about the protests in Egypt. His response: “Egypt’s been an ally of ours on a lot of critical issues, they made peace with Israel, President Mubarak has been very helpful on a range of tough issues in the Middle East, but I’ve always said to him that making sure that they are moving forward on reform — political reform, economic reform — is absolutely critical for the long-term well-being of Egypt. And you can see these pent-up frustrations that are being displayed on the street.”

After the big speech, pyramids!

CAIRO – After the pressure of his big speech to the Islamic world had ended on Thursday, President Barack Obama got down to the serious business of all Egyptian travelers — visiting pyramids.
 
OBAMA/EGYPTSwapping his speech suit for beige chinos and a navy blue polo shirt, Obama helicoptered to the hot and dusty site of the Khufu pyramid with advisers David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and body man Reggie Love.
 
“This thing is huge,” he said standing at the base of the pyramid and urging Love to come for a closer look.
 
The pyramid is estimated to weigh 6 million tons and originally stood about 480 feet high.
 
“Hear that guys?” Obama shouted to reporters. “No evidence aliens actually built this.” 
 
The president avoided the temptation of riding a camel but watched as Emanuel, Jarrett and Love mounted the seated beasts and were  then lifted high in the air as the animals stood.
 
“I just want you guys to know,” he told accompanying reporters, “if you weren’t here, I’d get on a camel. I don’t want to give you guys the satisfaction.”
 
Obama toured the nearby sphinx with Dr. Zahi Hawass, secretOBAMA/EGYPTary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and pronounced it as awe inspiring.
 
And he visited the Solar Boat, a 130-foot vessel found buried near the pyramids.
 
At one point the president entered a subterranean tomb and called attention to one of the hieroglyphs with a round face and big ears.
 
“Hey, that looks like me,” a member of the group quoted him as saying. “Look at those ears.”

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credits: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama at sphinx; Obama in front of pyramid with Hawass)

from FaithWorld:

If Hillary goes to Jakarta, can Barack be far behind?

Is U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Jakarta a hint that President Barack Obama will pick Indonesia as the first Muslim country he visits in his drive to improve U.S. relations with the Islamic world? There were lots of other suggestions when he first mentioned this back in December, including Egypt (the New York Times pick) and Morocco (judging by what might have been a write-in campaign on our comments page).

My tip at the time was either Indonesia or Turkey. In recent weeks, Turkey's star has probably faded as its relations with Israel soured recently. Those strains came after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan angrily accused Israeli President Shimon Peres of "knowing very well how to kill" in Gaza during a debate at the World Economic Forum in Davos and then stormed off the stage. (Photo: Hillary Clinton with Jakarta schoolgirls, 18 Feb 2009/Supri)

Clinton said all the right things today, like telling the country where Obama spent four years as a boy that it was proof that modernity and Islam can coexist. "As I travel around the world over the next years, I will be saying to people: if you want to know whether Islam, democracy, modernity and women's rights can co-exist, go to Indonesia," she said at a dinner with civil society activists. Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda reciprocated by telling her Indonesia shared the United States' joy at Obama's election and she should tell the U.S. president "we cannot wait too long" for a visit.