Here’s your thread to comment if you’re watching; I’ll have the clip up as soon as it’s available if you’re not. I assume he’s going to try to say something while saying nothing at all, but the fact that he waited until after Mubarak spoke has me wondering. Is he going to respond to Mubarak’s address? Announce the suspension of U.S. aid? Anything he says or does against the regime now will send a huge signal to protesters and the military, needless to say.
While we wait, here’s Richard Engel of MSNBC explaining why, no matter what The One says, goodwill towards the U.S. will be hard to come by.
Update: The Journal reports that Mubarak’s speech was pre-recorded. Hmmmm.
Update: Indeed, he said nothing at all. He asked police not to use violence against peaceful protesters, asked protesters not to use violence to make their point, then said that he’d spoken to Mubarak by phone and urged him to take “concrete steps” towards social, political, and economic reforms. A money line: We’re committed to working with “the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people” to that end, which is probably as clear as he can be at this point that we support Mubarak retaining power. Long story short, if you were expecting him to come out and say that Mubarak firing the government wasn’t good enough, you’re out of luck.
Update: If you’re under the impression that sending out the army is standard operating procedure in Egypt, think again. They haven’t been used against protesters in 25 years:
The deployment of army tanks and forces rolled across Egypt late Friday—its first on the streets of the Arab world’s most-populous nation since 1986—appeared to signal a critical power shift away from Mr. Mubarak. Some analysts said the deployment represented a point of no return.
“It means that the military is more in charge than Mubarak, and now there is a lot of uncertainty about who is in charge in Egypt and who is giving orders,” said Issandr al-Amrani, a Cairo-based analyst and blogger.
Update: Oddly enough, a top Iranian fundamentalist is pretty darned stoked about what’s going on in Egypt.
“In my opinion, the Islamic Republic of Iran should see these events without exception in a positive light,” said Mohammad-Javad Larijani, secretary general of the Iranian High Council for Human Rights and one of the most outspoken figures among Iran’s traditional conservatives…
“I am more optimistic about Egypt,” Mr. Larijani said in comments published Friday on the Web site Khabar Online, which is closely linked to his brother, Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s Parliament.
“There, Muslims are more active in political agitation and, God willing, they will establish the regime that they want,” Mohammad-Javad Larijani said.
Some here have even echoed the pan-Islamic rhetoric of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Update: The hometown paper says enough’s enough.
To question, as Mr. Biden did, whether the protesters’ demands are “legitimate” is particularly obtuse. In fact, the leaders of the uprising, including former U.N. nuclear official Mohamed ElBaradei, have set forward a moderate and democratic platform. They seek the lifting of a hated emergency law that outlaws even peaceful political assembly; the right to freely organize political parties; and changes to the constitution to allow free democratic elections. Their platform could transform Egypt, and the Middle East, for the better. But the precondition for change is Mr. Mubarak’s departure from office.
Rather than calling on an intransigent ruler to implement “reforms,” the administration should be attempting to prepare for the peaceful implementation of the opposition platform. It should be reaching out to Mr. ElBaradei – who Friday was reported to be under house arrest – and other mainstream opposition leaders. And it should be telling the Egyptian army, with no qualification, that the violent suppression of the uprising will rupture its relationship with the United States.
Update: Here’s Obama, via Greg Hengler.