There’s been a serious policy difference in Washington over how to address the Cairo crisis, and the President has decided to do it his way, against the recommendations of his Secretary of State and the strong representations of Tel Aviv and Riyadh, among other concerned bystanders. Clinton counseled a conservative approach but Obama overrode her advice and took a public stance strongly supporting the revolutionaries.
I’m not going to analyze the implications for Egypt here. I’m more concerned for what this means for the future of Obama’s presidency. Is it too much to hope that he has finally taken charge in the sense of developing enough confidence in his own convictions to override the establishment around him on other issues too, or is this just an isolated case where he had strong feelings based on his own life experience, and enough support from White House insiders to push him over the edge? I sincerely hope that it is the former. His life experience puts him more in tune with contemporary world developments than a lot of the conventional wisdom in Washington, especially within the group that feels responsible for his getting re-elected next year. That group is obsessed with the desire of Obama’s political adversaries to tear him to shreds at the slightest sign of real or apparent misjudgment. But you can lean over backwards to avoid mistakes only so far before you fall on your prat. And the country as a whole wants leadership.
The main reason his adversaries haven’t attacked him more openly over his Cairo policy is that the p.r. aspects are all wrong for them. The revolutionaries have been a lot more telegenic than Mubarak. But there’s bound to be someone a bit brighter than Huckabee who will figure out an angle and weigh in pretty soon. I hope the public will see through their attacks and continue to support the President on this one. The results could be far-reaching, and not only in terms of foreign policy.