BREAKING: NBC News says Mubarak is stepping down, to be replaced by VP Suleiman.
Nick Kristof gives Team Obama a thumbs-down in Egypt:
President Obama and his aides were blindsided by the crisis from the beginning (as were we in the news media), and I fear that they’ve mishandled it since. When the protests began, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton described Mr. Mubarak’s government as “stable” and “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”
Then our special envoy, Frank Wisner, called for Mr. Mubarak to stay in power, saying: “President Mubarak’s continued leadership is critical.” The White House has tried to backtrack, but it has been backtracking from backtracks so much that on Egypt its symbol might as well be a weather vane.
Uh huh. Team Obama could offer a weathervane as a symbol but it would take them months of polling and focus-grouping to figure out what the weather vane ought to look like. (I picture a donkey with its tail between its legs. Well, among my ideas that are anatomically possible...)
Back to Mr. Kristof:
When well-known journalists like Anderson Cooper of CNN were being beaten up in Tahrir Square, the White House found its voice. But now that foreign reporters are no longer being routinely harassed, it has lost its sense of urgency. “Now” is no longer in the White House lexicon.
"Now" is so yesterday. And has been for a while.
Mr. Kristof closes with a cred-promoting display of erudition:
Many years ago, when I studied Arabic intensively at the American University in Cairo, I was bewildered initially because for the first couple of months I learned only the past tense. That’s the basic tense in Arabic, and so in any Arabic conversation I was locked into the past.
The Obama administration seems equally caught in the past, in ways that undermine the secular pro-Western forces that are Egypt’s best hope. I hope the White House learns the future tense.
Well, they have us tense about the future, if that helps.