The NY Times was not interested in delving into the possibility that, after three and a half years in office, our President really does not know who our allies are.
The president was not happy; Egypt, unlike Libya, is crucial to American security interests, given its peace treaty with Israel. At 11 p.m., from his hotel suite in Stapleton, Colo., Mr. Obama got on the phone with Mr. Morsi, who began by offering condolences on the American deaths in Libya.
But that was not what Mr. Obama was calling about.
“The president made his point that we’ve been committed to the process of change in Egypt, and we want to continue to build a relationship with the Egyptian government,” said a senior administration official. “But he made it clear how important it is that the Egyptian government work with us to lower the tension both in terms of the practical cooperation they give us and the statements they make.”
Mr. Morsi brought up the American-made video attacking the Prophet Muhammad, which had set off the violent protests, and Mr. Obama said he understood the ire felt by Muslims, but added that it did not justify attacks on the embassy.
Mr. Obama urged Mr. Morsi to publicly and strongly condemn the attacks. He had already signaled his displeasure earlier, saying in an interview on Telemundo that Egypt was not necessarily an “ally,” although White House officials were playing down the remark on Thursday.
“ ‘Ally’ is a legal term of art,” said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman with the National Security Council. “We don’t have a mutual defense treaty with Egypt like we do with our NATO allies.”
So Obama was simply signalling his frustration; nothing to see here, move on. Well, I suppose Telemundo and Rachel Maddow are not the traditional route for diplomatic signalling, but in this day and age, maybe that beats a Twitter announcement.
But the Times has left out so much that an eager reader relying on the Paper of Record will never be able to guess that an alternative view - that Obama was simply enjoying the sound of his Magic Mouth and reliving his college campus bullshit sessions - is more likely. Let's cut to this AP Fact Check available at the Washington Post:
WASHINGTON — This week’s storming of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo by an angry mob has sent U.S.-Egyptian relations to a new low, prompting President Barack Obama to say he doesn’t see the two countries as allies.
But under U.S. law, they are.
The statement marks an abrupt change from decades when Washington and Cairo were ironclad partners in fighting terrorism, countering Iran’s influence in the region and promoting Arab-Israeli peace.
And while Obama may think Egypt isn’t acting like an ally right now, by U.S. designation it remains one.
The United States designated Egypt as one of the six original “major non-NATO allies” in the 1980s. The status is now enjoyed by 15 U.S. “allies” in total, including Israel, Japan, Australia and South Korea.
Non-NATO allies are granted streamlined defense cooperation, making it easier for them to buy American military equipment and satisfy U.S. export control regulations.
Asked about Egypt’s status, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed Thursday that the administration still considers it a major non-NATO ally of the United States.
Wait - you mean there is a law involved? Our allies aren't just determined by Presidential smiles and frowns?
Well, we remain a nation of laws, and the law in question - 22 USC § 2321k: Designation of major non-NATO allies - requires the President to give Congress 30 days notice before termination of a designation as an ally.
That notice was not given following Egypt's (lawful) transition to the post-Mubarak regime, nor is there any plan whatsoever to cut Egypt loose and put their peace treaty with Israel at risk. Nor does Obama have any intention of listening to "Who lost Egypt?" criticisms before November, if he can avoid them.
Terminating Egypt's status as an ally has not happened, which means the President's ruminations and bloviations about "I don’t think that we would consider them an ally..." are nonsense. Further undermining the notion that this was crafty diplo-signalling is this bit from the Times excerpt above:
“The president made his point that we’ve been committed to the process of change in Egypt, and we want to continue to build a relationship with the Egyptian government,”
We want to build and improve the thirty year relationship but it might all end tomorrow? Was that really how the phone call went?
As to whether this was part of a plan, the Foreign Policy account of the White House backpedaling includes this:
Administration sources told The Cable that Obama's "ally" comment was not pre-arranged or prepared by staff and that the question was not anticipated.
Don't you hate it when the staff throws the boss under the bus?
The WaPo also found the courage to cover this as a news story (buried at one of their many blogs):
White House clarifies after Obama says Egypt not ‘ally’
In an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo Wednesday night, President Obama said Egypt’s relationship with the U.S. is complicated: “”I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy.”
In fact, Egypt was declared a “Major Non-NATO ally” in 1989. So White House staff is doing a little clarifying today.
The breadth and depth of those clarifications are more clear in the Foreign Policy piece cited above.
Ed Morrissey noted the shock felt by NBC News' man in Cairo at the notion that Obama was pitching Egypt under the bus.
And the press corps at the State Department briefing hung a huge "No Sale" sign on the idea that Egypt's status as an ally was really in play.
But none of that happened in TimesWorld, where reporters are eagerly awaiting the next Romney statement so they can gaffe-check it.
OBAMA UNPLUGGED: Surely Obama doesn't just talk first and reflect afterwards when he is on the diplomatic stage? Of course he does, and stop calling me 'Shirley'.
In 2008 Obama was free-associating when he told AIPAC he favored an undivided Jerusalem. That one, his advisors couldn't rationalize.
So yes, the Magic Mouth theory is always in play with this guy. Obama has grown up thinking he can BS his way past anything. And hey, that belief has carried him a long way. And with the media in his pocket, it may continue to carry him.