The hours tick by, and it’s evening. The American anchors, playing for time, keep saying that they have been told the speech is coming, “expected any minute now.” But after a while you can hear something in their voices, some creeping doubt, and you know they’re wondering: “As I talk and people dance, is a military coup taking place in the palace? What’s happening? Why isn’t he speaking?”
And then the speech, a long, confusing address that seems to say nothing. And made worse by the atmospherics: the Dracula lighting, the dark-dyed hair and pale face of the president, the small, seemingly empty studio apart from everyone and everything. In attempting to assert command, he seemed utterly besieged…
“My government is over,” Mr. Mubarak might have said. “Between now and the September elections, the people of Egypt will have a time of peaceful transition. New candidates for leadership will rise. Egypt, seven months from now, will choose from among them. Egypt will be free and democratic.” He could have added that he hopes to be remembered by history as a leader who did many good things, and hopes to be forgiven by the people for those things that, we all admit, were not good.
End of story. And the people would have forgiven him. Many would have thanked him.