The choice in Egypt, we have been told for years, is between Hosni Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood. It is a proposition of fear, a myth that plays into our ever-increasing hysteria about Islamism. I’d hate to think that the choice we will be asked to make in 2012 is between Barack Obama and right wing extremists. In 2008, after years of compromise, I finally voted for and not against someone. What’s happening in Cairo may tell us what kind of choice it will be in this country two years hence.
The Obama Administration was dealt a terrible hand when it took office in 2009. All the adages about the difference between campaigning and governing could not have been brought into sharper relief. For those caught up in the promise of the former the reality of the latter was destined to be disappointing. So for many of his supporters, all of the President’s accomplishments — and they were of historic proportions — were viewed not so much for what they produced but what they failed to accomplish. It wasn’t the passage of landmark healthcare legislation, but the fact that it lacked the essential public option. I share those disappointments but, knowing the limits of Presidential power in the jungle that is legislative Washington, have remained supportive of Obama. I still am.
That said, I think the President has thus far failed to meet the challenge of what my last post called a moment of truth. Diplomacy is an art that often requires nuance and a good bit of dancing — all those frank and useful discussions. The State Department is good at that and its entrenched ways account not only for Hilary Clinton’s cautions statements but also in large measure for policies that seem so inconsistent with American ideals. The President is not the Secretary of State. This is not a time for measured double talk. It’s time to state the obvious — that Mubarak is done and must go now — and to finally take a stand on the side of those whose ideals we proclaim to share. At a time like this there is no excuse for not getting and doing it right. We need straight and unambiguous talk. Barack Obama, we're waiting for you and getting impatient.