Egypt: Obama's communication highwire
On CNN Sunday morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, when asked whether or not Obama is trying to "back away" from embattled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, that "we do not want to send any message about backing forward or backing back."
In this interesting bit of doublespeak, Clinton summarized the at once highly complex and utterly basic communications challenge the Obama administration faces in responding to the protests in Egypt: What do you say when you're faced with the leadership dilemma of siding with your moral principles or the interests of the country you lead?
The answer, it seems: Say plenty that's ambiguous and not much that's definitive, all at the same time.
But if the administration has been criticized for not having a clear message in response to the dramatic events in Egypt, it's because they've had little choice. President Obama and his staff find themselves in the unenviable position of needing to not go so far as to say Mubarak should step down--that could seem like meddling, destroy relations with other Middle East governments or, most critically, contribute to a sudden political vacuum that could bring extremists to power--while needing to publicly and vigorously encourage the idea of true democracy.
That's why, rightly or wrongly, the White House's message over the past several days may have seemed muddled. Since the crowds began protesting, the administration has talked about the "close partnership" the U.S. has with Egypt and has even defended Mubarak (thanks to Vice President Joe Biden) as not being a dictator. But it has also begun to call for "free, fair and credible" elections and an "orderly transition" to a "real democracy," with Clinton saying the U.S. was "ready to help with the kind of transition that will lead to greater political and economic freedom."
In responding to the crisis in Egypt, Obama faces one of the toughest challenges of his presidency. As outlined in a recentBloomberg piece, the uprising presents his administration with a bewildering dilemma between American ideals and American interests, and most presidents who've come before him have ultimately chosen the latter, with differing fates. Privately, to the extent the administration can influence the outcome, it is surely trying to advocate for both--a true democracy that also secures U.S. interests. Publicly, however, Obama and his cabinet are walking a tricky communications tightrope and ultimately may be forced to pick sides.
That said, the situation in Egypt has complex ramifications for U.S. policy throughout the Middle East, and is not easily broken down into simple answers or black-and-white choices. Yes, there have been missteps in the administration's messaging, such as Biden going so far as to say Mubarak should not step down. But the context and consequences of the uprising in Egypt are incredibly nuanced. We should expect the White House's response to be similarly so.
January 30, 2011; 4:18 PM ET |
Save & Share:
Previous: FCIC report: What if the SEC paid like Goldman Sachs? | Next: How Huntsman's affiliation with Obama could help him
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: fresno500 | February 2, 2011 12:00 PM
Posted by: nychap44 | February 2, 2011 8:27 AM
Posted by: gigigirl2 | February 2, 2011 6:57 AM
Posted by: robertmerry | February 1, 2011 9:03 AM
Posted by: info22 | February 1, 2011 9:02 AM
Posted by: jonswitzer | February 1, 2011 7:52 AM
Posted by: LETFREEDOMRING2 | February 1, 2011 6:19 AM
Posted by: chaemoondriver | February 1, 2011 1:37 AM
Posted by: martymartel3 | January 31, 2011 8:28 PM
Posted by: dumbreddown | January 31, 2011 6:45 PM
Posted by: knjincvc | January 31, 2011 6:34 PM
Posted by: JAH3 | January 31, 2011 5:38 PM
Posted by: truth34 | January 31, 2011 5:05 PM
Posted by: puck-101 | January 31, 2011 5:02 PM
Posted by: TraderX | January 31, 2011 5:00 PM
Posted by: bandcyuk | January 31, 2011 4:59 PM
Posted by: TraderX | January 31, 2011 4:54 PM
Posted by: dunnhaupt | January 31, 2011 4:52 PM
Posted by: jKO2010 | January 31, 2011 4:36 PM
Posted by: october30 | January 31, 2011 4:25 PM
Posted by: october30 | January 31, 2011 4:25 PM
Posted by: puck-101 | January 31, 2011 4:23 PM
Posted by: gneubeck | January 31, 2011 4:07 PM
Posted by: lufrank1 | January 31, 2011 3:32 PM
Posted by: jksesq1 | January 31, 2011 3:23 PM
Posted by: areyousaying | January 31, 2011 2:58 PM
Posted by: klausdmk | January 31, 2011 2:55 PM
Posted by: LarryG62 | January 31, 2011 2:46 PM
Posted by: ameytahl | January 31, 2011 2:39 PM
Posted by: jksesq1 | January 31, 2011 2:25 PM
Posted by: rosefarm1 | January 31, 2011 2:16 PM
Posted by: syzito | January 31, 2011 1:28 PM
Posted by: kkrimmer | January 31, 2011 1:09 PM
Posted by: Quatermass | January 31, 2011 12:30 PM
Posted by: kjordan3637 | January 31, 2011 11:36 AM