Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Early valentine

Even on television from thousands of miles away, the Egyptian revolution was breathtaking. A moment to mark in history.

President Hosni Mubarak gave the protesters an early valentine by stepping down. What had been expected yesterday was surprising today.

President Barack Obama framed the event as one of the monumental examples of peaceful resistance that the world has seen, even though he was talking about the ouster of a strong ally of the United States for the last 30 years. OBAMA/

“And while the sights and sounds that we heard were entirely Egyptian, we can’t help but hear the echoes of history — echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down the path of justice,” Obama said.

David Alexander and Phil Stewart have an interesting look at how U.S. officials see the head of Egypt’s military council, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi — committed to avoiding another war with Israel but resistant to political and economic reform.

Washington Extra – Wave goodbye

Might be time for a remake of an old classic film, with a contemporary twist: Mr. Smith gets out of Washington (or should that be Dodge?)

More and more lawmakers are deciding it’s time, enough is enough, see ya. The Number 2 Republican in the Senate, Jon Kyl, today announced he won’t seek reelection next year, with a quaint “my heart says it is time to go.”  USA-COURT/SOTOMAYOR

While not an elected official, Federal Reserve Governor Kevin Warsh said today he was stepping down from the central bank’s powerful board.

Diplomatic storm leads to question: what was Wisner?

Frank Wisner created a bit of a diplomatic tempest when he went off message in Munich on Saturday and said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak should stay in place to oversee the transition. “We need to get a national consensus around the pre-conditions for the next step forward. The president (Mubarak) must stay in office to steer those changes.” SERBIA-KOSOVO/

That set the State Department and White House into scramble mode, trying to downplay Wisner’s role, after actually sending him on Jan. 31 to personally deliver a U.S. government message to Mubarak to take more action in response to mass protests.

Administration feathers got so ruffled that the White House tried backpedaling on whether Wisner had actually in fact been an envoy.

Where’s an embattled leader to go?

Spa treatment or desert retreat?

With so many possible locations from which to choose and no worries about stretching the 401K, where’s an embattled leader to settle in retirement? GERMANY/

Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak has announced he will not run for reelection in September. But protesters who have taken to the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities by the thousands are demanding he leave office now.

Mubarak, 82, vows never to flee and says he will die on Egyptian soil.

Nevertheless, a departure with dignity may be among various scenarios under discussion as stakeholders continue searching for ways to bring the crisis in Egypt to an end.

Washington Extra – Game on

Think legacy. That’s what President Barack Obama advised Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Obama tried to appeal to Mubarak’s ego and sense of place in history as he pressed for movement on a political transition. “I believe that President Mubarak cares about his country. He is proud, but he is also a patriot,” Obama said. USA-CANADA/

He didn’t call for the Egyptian leader to immediately step down, but brought up Mubarak’s promise not to run again. “The key question he should be asking himself is how do I leave a legacy behind in which Egypt is able to get through this transformative period?”

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.

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.”