Amid rumors that he was potentially fleeing the country, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak made a late night television appearance, lauding his own crackdown on dissent and chiding the “criminal” behavior of protesters in what is being compared conversely to President Obama’s State of the Union Address and the Iranian Shah’s last public speech before his ouster.
There may have been vague mentions of changes in the future, but no concrete promises of changes, beyond a cabinet shuffle amongst powerless Mubarak loyalists that few really had a problem with in the first place. Aimed at calming the revolt, the Mubarak speech actually seemed to spark a new flurry of late night protests demanding his ouster. Then President Obama called.
US officials had denied he had any contact with the Egyptian government so far in the course of the protest (constrasting Egyptian reports that Obama had repeated reassured Mubarak of his support during that time). But once the call was made, a second round of lip-service to “meaningful dialogue” cropped up, again with no specifics.
Perhaps most insultingly, President Obama termed the protests, the mass censorship, and the brutal crackdowns by the US-backed dictator “a moment of promise,” even as officials make it abundantly clear that there is no American appetite for any serious change inside Egypt and the best officials can say is they support “the basic right to use social media.”