Paul Greenberg

Meanwhile, the world watches as familiar scenarios are rolled out, like models proceeding down a Parisian runway. Which will the Egyptians choose, or be forced to choose? Their revolution is still in its earliest stages, like a prepared mix. Just add blood and gore and put on to boil until the desired, or undesired, effect is achieved.

Some of us must not only watch but pretend to act, for they are leaders, or at least nominal ones, and must speak out, tell the Egyptian people what they "must" do, and generally strut and fret their hour on the stage, or maybe just their 15 minutes. Much like play doctors called in after opening night has been a flop, they're trying to rewrite the first act, as if the actors would listen to far-away critics.

Our president, secretary of state, and their teams of ghostwriters must look like they know what they're doing. So they prate and preen and pirouette, shifting from day to day as the revolution itself shifts -- even while the lines they're looking for are right in front of them, in bold script, set down in Philadelphia, Pa., of all places, in the midst of a revolution that really was different, and whose fruits really would prove exceptional:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed....

If the president of the United States is searching for a message to send, a truth to stand for, a declaration of principles sacred and inviolable to proclaim once again, there it is, ready-made, needing only to be repeated far and wide. He needn't wait for the Fourth of July. These principles apply every day of the year. Every year. Everywhere.

If our ever-wavering leader, endlessly caught between principle and politics, has to add a postscript of his own, he need only tell the Egyptian people to beware letting their cause be co-opted by the usual demagogues. And to keep their hand on the plow, and hold fast to their goal: a government of just powers derived from the consent of the governed.

But instead of being forthright, our president hems and haws and maneuvers as the fatal pageant in Egypt proceeds unexceptionally:

One always picks the easy fight

One praises fools, one smothers light

One shifts from left to right --

Politics, the art of the possible....


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.