November 29, 2012

Five Days After Morsi’s Virtually Absolute Power Grab, AP Pair Writes That Egypt Is ‘Moving to a More Democratic Government’

In a Tuesday evening dispatch at the Associated Press (saved here for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes) on the status of U.S. foreign policy in Egypt, Bradley Klapper and Julie Pace either displayed an amazing level of clairvoyance or indulged in a level of fantasy ordinarily reserved for trips to Disneyland. I’m betting that it’s the latter, that this AP report will in short order come to be seen as a complete journalistic embarrassment, and that the Obama administration is drinking from the same koolaid jug.

The good news is that they at least finally acknowledged a linkage that most of the rest of the establishment press has studiously ignored, namely that “After winning U.S. and worldwide praise (for brokering an Israel-Hamas ceasefire), Morsi immediately cashed in on his new political capital by seizing more power at home.” But it’s all downhill from there (bolds and numbered tags are mine):

The United States has been here before, praising an Egyptian leader for championing Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts while expressing concern over his commitment to democracy at home. But with options limited, the Obama administration is keeping its faith in President Mohammed Morsi. [1]

In a hectic week of Mideast unrest [2], Morsi emerged as America’s key partner in working toward peace between the Jewish state and the Hamas leaders of the Gaza Strip, assuming a leadership role left vacant since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster nearly two years ago.

After winning U.S. and worldwide praise, Morsi immediately cashed in on his new political capital by seizing more power at home. [3]

His actions are the latest reminder that Washington can’t be sure where its relationship will stand with the Arab world’s most populous country as it transitions from decades of secular autocracy. It’s moving to a more democratic government, but one that is less pro-American than its predecessors. [4]

For now, the U.S. – as it did for years with Mubarak – wants to separate Morsi’s domestic political maneuvers from his role as a Middle East mediator.

“We believe firmly that this needs to be resolved internally as part of a transition to democracy,” [5] White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said of Morsi’s new decrees, which place him above any kind of oversight, including that of the courts.

After dropping its allegiance to Mubarak in February 2011, the United States had hoped to create a new, more sustainable Egyptian alliance, structured on the legitimacy of a truly representative government. To get there, it had to work with a recalcitrant military leadership unsure about handing over power to popularly elected Islamists. It is now left trying to persuade Morsi, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood [6], to settle disputes with his opponents through negotiations.

But the U.S. isn’t sure how hard to push, given the tangible if halting progress toward democracy Morsi has made. [7]

Notes follow.

[1] — The Obama administration isn’t just “keeping its faith” in Morsi. Barack Obama himself has not, as far as I can tell, condemned Morsi’s power grab at all or taken meaningful negative action against him in any way.

[2] — “Hectic”? How about “violent,” or “deadly”? “Unrest”? How about “unprovoked Hamas attacks”? It really is something to see the press whitewash acts of war by those with whom it seems to have inexplicable sympathies.

[3] — Finally, the obvious linkage, five days after it should have been reported in that way, and wasn’t. It took the editorialists at the Wall Street Journal and Investor’s Business Daily to break the ice on this obvious point.

[4] — So a ruler seizing near absolute power is now a sign that a country is “moving to a more democratic government.” For historical perspective, I wonder if the press wrote things up that way during the Pinochet military dictatorship which followed the assassination of communist Salvador Allende in Chile in the early 1970s? (To be clear that wasn’t a sign of things “moving to a more democratic government” at the time either, though Chile did eventually get there.)

[5] — Yep, the White House is drinking from the same koolaid jug as Bradley Klapper and Julie Pace.

[6] — So when did Morsi leave the Brotherhood? The closest evidence I could find is that right after he was elected, he was said to be about to “resign as president of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).” That isn’t the same thing, guys. Morsi’s Wikipedia entry describes him as “a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood.” I can’t come up with any evidence that the assertion is wrong.

[7] — So a virtually absolute power grab is part of “tangible if halting progress toward democracy.”

The hundred thousand or so anti-Morsi demonstrators currently making noise in Tahrir Square may turn out to be as ineffective as their freedom-loving comrades in Iran in 2009, when Obama and his administration pointedly avoided saying anything which might offend the regime in Tehran. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood has shrewdly decided not to demonstrate in support of Morsi as they had originally planned, because they know that a visible confrontation between them and true democracy advocates might generate really bad optics and regain world attention. It would not be unsafe to bet that the current demonstrations represent a lot of sound and fury which will ultimately signify nothing advancing democratic progress, and that Egypt is not so slowly heading in the direction of late-1970s Iran.

Let’s come back to this in a few months to see if Klapper and Pace are truly clairvoyant about Egypt’s moving towards “more democratic government” or mere dupes, i.e., the Islamist version of “useful idiots.”

Cross-posted at


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