The Obama administration’s reaction to the massive demonstrations and government crackdown in Egypt has been inconsistent, awkwardly changing from day to day. Instead of supporting the protesters and their pleas for democracy and reform, the administration staked out a position last week supporting the existing hard-line regime. Five days later, the administration completely reversed itself. This kind of leadership makes the U.S. appear weak and vacillating, and is all too characteristic of liberal Democrats who lack strong principles when it comes to freedom and democracy.
The protests were precipitated by the dictatorial actions of Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak. In the weeks leading up to last November’s elections, Mubarak’s National Democratic Party restricted the press and jailed dozens of opposition members. Mubarak’s reelection was widely regarded as rigged. The Obama administration barely said a word. Pro-reform activists planned a protest to begin on January 25, 2011, “Freedom Revolution Day,” organizing tens of thousands of Egyptians to rally in the streets until the 82-year old Mubarak agreed to resign his 30-year rule and give in to their demands for freedom, rights and justice.
Mubarak responded to the protesters by shutting down internet access and limiting cell phone access. He ordered the military onto the streets with tanks, and implemented a curfew, but it has been ignored. The protesters have stood firm, setting fire to police stations and offices of the National Democratic Party. Over 100 people have been killed and thousands injured.
Two days after the clash started, Vice President Joe Biden sided with Mubarak’s crushing of human rights, declaring that Mubarak is not a dictator and should not step down. Outraged, conservatives and human rights activists demanded that the administration cut aid to Egypt until Mubarak stopped the crackdown. Backing down, the Obama administration said it would “review” current assistance. Then the administration distanced itself even further from Mubarak, calling for the regime to unblock internet access. Hillary Clinton asked Mubarak to embrace political reform and democracy. Most recently, Obama called on other world leaders to discuss supporting an “orderly transition” to a new regime.