Matthews on Egypt: It’s as if we needed Obama to make this happen
An instant classic from Newsbusters. Shot for shot, for pure ignorance and sycophancy, this might be Tingles’s all-time most surreal moment. And not merely because of the Obama messianism involved, either — although, to be sure, that’s plenty surreal too under the circumstances. In fact, Tapper’s updated his post from earlier this afternoon with a few more fun facts about how little the White House cared for democracy in Egypt until now. Not only didn’t we need The One to “have this happen,” he actually cut the financial lifeline that could have brought it about sooner:
Windsor tells ABC News that the administration gave roughly “7 million dollars of assistance to civil society, but they made a decision that that assistance would only go to those groups that were approved by the Egyptian government” – contrary to the policy of the Bush administration. “For several years, assistance was going to independent as well as to registered groups, and this policy was changed unfortunately.”…
As covered at length by the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, for fiscal year 2009, the Obama administration “immediately halved the money for democracy promotion in Egypt; the civil society funds were slashed 70 percent, to $7 million.”
Says Windsor: “The attitude of Obama administration toward the pro-democracy movement was to put them at arm’s length, and make sure that US interaction with the pro-democracy movement did not in any way ruffle the feathers of a dictatorial regime.”
So, fine. Matthews is an Obama apologist who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Nothing groundbreaking there. But … what’s with this line?
And here he is, and he comes into office, and this jubilant situation in Eqypt, with the first time in our lives we get to see people from the Arab world in a very positive democratic setting.
You could read that one of two ways. If by “democratic setting” he’s including electoral settings, then he’s grievously insulted the Afghans and Iraqis who turned out to vote over the past decade knowing that suicide bombers could (and did) show up at the polling place. If by “democratic setting” he means something more revolutionary, then why doesn’t Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution that ended Syria’s occupation in 2005 qualify? Mass demonstrations, a dictator on the run, no bloodshed — all the “very positive” elements were there too. Granted, that moment has now come to naught, but then this might come to naught too. And this time, it might not take five years. Read this smart piece by David Frum about how the path to liberalization in Egypt runs through economic growth, which is bad news given (a) the military’s cartel-like control of industry and (b) the fact that growth almost certainly won’t happen fast enough to satisfy impatient Egyptians. His conclusion, I think, is spot on:
But the most likely course is also the most depressing: Egypt opens a little, then closes again. The regime tries to buy popularity by bloating the state sector. It emits nationalist noises against the United States and Israel, downgrading co-operation with former partners. Its foreign policy pivots away from the West and toward Turkey and Iran. In this scenario, Egypt’s future would resemble its Nasserist past: exploiting nationalism to justify authoritarianism. The new dawn will yield to the old twilight.
Will Matthews “credit” Obama if that disaster ends up happening? Of course not. But at least we’ll get another all-time classic “Hardball” moment when he tries to explain it away.