White House Tells Mubarak: Transition Must Begin Immediately

Today, Egypt seethed with rage, and the United States lost patience with its ally in Cairo.

Whatever patience the United States might have had for Hosni Mubarak is pretty much at an end after today’s violence:

In today’s press briefing, the White House underscored President Obama’s call for Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak to immediately begin his transition out of power.

Last night, Obama issued a brief public statement that included just one line about a prospective deadline for Mubarak’s exit from power: “My belief is that an orderly transition must be meaningful, must be peaceful and it must begin now,” Obama said.

But White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was more explicit Wednesday.

“‘Now’ means ‘yesterday,'” Gibbs explained. “When we said ‘now,’ we meant ‘yesterday’… that’s what the people of Egypt want to see,” Gibbs said, adding that a process that begins one week, one month, or many months from now won’t suffice.

In the meantime, Egypt’s new Vice-President, and former spy chief, says that there will be no negotiations until the protests end:

Egypt’s newly appointed vice-president has said that anti-government protests must stop before dialogue can begin with opposition groups.

Omar Suleiman made the comments on Wednesday, amid violent clashes in central Cairo between pro-and anti-government demonstrators that have left at least one dead and hundreds injured.

Suleiman, the former head of intelligence named vice-president on Saturday by President Hosni Mubarak, urged demonstrators to respect an earlier call from the Egyptian army and return to their homes, state media said.

Suleiman called on “all citizens to respond to our armed forces’s call to return to your homes and respect the curfew, to support the state’s efforts to restore calm and stability.

“Those taking part in these protests have delivered their message,” he said.

“Dialogue with the political [opposition] forces… requires that the demonstrations end and the Egyptian street returns to normal,” he said.

This, of course, creates a bit of an impasse since the opposition has already said that they won’t negotiate until Mubarak steps down from power. So, the question now is what happens next. There’s a tense standoff in Tahrir Square in Cairo, as well as reports of violence in other parts of the country. As midnight approaches, it looks for all the world like we’re headed for another day of what could be bloody protests.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, World Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. ponce says:

    Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, Mike Huckabee tells West Bank Palestinians to get out of “Israel” and move to an “Arab” country.

    Thought someone here was going to post about his bizarre outburst…

  2. Rock says:

    By what authority does The President of the USA have the gall or gonads to insist that any leader of a sovereign nation must step down?

  3. anjin-san says:

    > By what authority does The President of the USA have the gall or gonads to insist that any leader of a sovereign nation must step down?

    I can think of a few billion reasons. But don’t let that stop you from supporting the dictator of your choice.

  4. Rock says:

    anjin-san. I didn’t say I supported the SOB. Don’t put words in my mouth. I just wanted to know what gives the President the right. Was it written into the loan contract? The USA has poured money into a lot of other rat holes and it always seems to come back and bite us.

  5. anjin-san says:

    Rock. Sorry, you did not say you supported him. Just a run of the mill brain dead slam du jour at Obama on your part. My mistake.

    What is the point of being the most powerful nation on earth if you can’t ever use the power, hopefully to make the world a little better place? Were you this upset when we killed thousands of people in Iraq who did nothing to us to remove Saddam? (head of a sovereign nation) The right got quiet pretty fast when Obama took down Iran’s centrifuges without killing anyone. Maybe we can move this asshole out without a big body count.

    The right needs to make up its mind. Is Obama an ineffectual wimp, or a power-crazed pseudo dictator?

  6. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***The right needs to make up its mind. Is Obama an ineffectual wimp, or a power-crazed pseudo dictator?***lol, what day is it?

  7. John Burgess says:

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Obama Fed-Ex Mubarak a one-way ticket to Jeddah. I’m confident that the Saudis would dust off a spare Guest Palace and make it available to him and his family.

    The choice here is escalating violence or biting the bullet and getting it over with. Mubarak is no longer capable of providing a solution, only continuing to be part of (most of) the problem.

    Telling Mubarak to get out of Dodge is not determining the political future of Egypt except in making one possible thread of that future impossible. The Egyptians who would be hurt by Mubarak’s departure are those who’ve grown fat on the spoils he, the NDP, and his cronies have squeezed out of the economy, foreign aid included. They represent no more than 5% of the population. The other 95% will be happy, even in the face of an unknown future. Here, the familiar devil is so bad that he’s worse, no matter what.

  8. anjin-san says:

    > ***The right needs to make up its mind. Is Obama an ineffectual wimp, or a power-crazed pseudo dictator?***lol, what day is it?

    Exactly right, though not in the way you think.

  9. Rock says:

    anjin-san, I did not slam Obama. I said the President. Any President. Pay attention!

  10. michael reynolds says:

    The time to hesitate is through. (Sorry, Jim Morrison)

    I know as well as anyone that this revolution in Egypt may end badly for its people, and for our interests. But Mubarak just sent thugs in to throw Molotov cocktails at peaceful demonstrators, and then proceeded to beat the hell out of reporters.

    So we’re done equivocating. Mubarak has to go, he has to go now, and I’m glad that Obama has delivered that message.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    By the way, to the Egyptian military: this is why the Israelis bitch-slap you pansies all over the desert. Hesitation, sclerosis, uncertainty, timidity, a lack of initiative and general gutlessness. Not another American taxpayer’s dollar should go to these people.

  12. george says:

    The interesting thing is that many people who thought Bush had no right to remove Saddam think Obama has the right to remove Mubarak, while many who thought Bush had the right to remove Saddam think Obama has no right to remove Mubarak.

    Which once again shows American politics is largely about team sports – with apologies to those who think either that both Bush and Obama or neither Bush nor Obama had/have the right to remove foreign leaders.

  13. michael reynolds says:


    For the record, I have been consistent. I never objected to removing Saddam, I objected the incredible incompetence with which it was done.

    And no one is proposing an invasion of Egypt. We’re talking diplomacy and foreign aid.

    I don’t think good and evil stop at national borders. And I think our obligation as humans is to oppose evil with whatever means we can. That may occasionally mean arms. It more often means diplomacy. Sometimes all we can do is point and condemn.

  14. ponce says:

    “Hesitation, sclerosis, uncertainty, timidity, a lack of initiative and general gutlessness.”

    Sounds like the Israel’s 2006 foray into battle against Hezbollah…

  15. george says:


    From what I’ve seen, you’re pretty consistent in your politics -my comment about it being team sports doesn’t apply to you, nor some others on this forum. But you have to admit, there are a lot of people on both sides (not limited to this forum) who’s opinion oscillates depending upon who’s in charge (remember people toggling back on forth on Bush Sr in Iraq, then Clinton in Serbia, then Bush Jr in Iraq, and now Obama sending drones in Pakistan and the current uprising in Egypt).

  16. george says:

    And I agree that sometimes intervention is necessary; some of the most horrible slaughters, such as in Rwanda, would have been stopped by timely intervention … unfortunately no one seems to feel a need to intervene when its just poor, non-petroleum states killing each other.

  17. anjin-san says:

    > The interesting thing is that many people who thought Bush had no right to remove Saddam think Obama has the right to remove Mubarak,

    I had no problem with removing Saddam, just a problem with killing thousands of innocents, blowing a trillion dollars and handing Iran a strategic advantage in the region on a silver platter.

    Hopefully we can push Mubarak out without too much pain. I am not sure how “right” figures into it. If we are about freedom, we should use some of our vast power and wealth to promote it, not just hop into bed with dictators for temporary advantage. I for one don’t recognize any inherent right of dictators to be in power.

  18. michael reynolds says:


    Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound as if I took it personally. I should be old enough by now to be inured to most forms of human behavior, but I had just come in from dinner and watched some of the tape and seeing Mubarak bring on what may be civil war just to cling to power made me mad.

    But not at you.

    And you’re absolutely right: good and bad are subsets of party ID for too many people. Morality made subordinate to political team sports.

  19. michael reynolds says:

    The only legitimate power is that which derives from the consent of the governed. That’s true in this country and in every country.

  20. anjin-san says:

    > Pay attention!

    I do. You would probably rip Obama if he walked on water tomorrow. If you want credit for being even handed, you have to occasionally be even handed. That being said, I don’t give a rats ass about Mubarak being the head of a sovereign state. He and his cronies have waxed fat while most of Egypt lives on crumbs or less. He maintains torture chambers. Screw him. They can pull a Ceauşescu on him for all I care.

  21. michael reynolds says:


    Preach it brother.

    And in a side note: I can’t believe you can do the little curlicue thing. I can’t even get an accent aigu.

  22. anjin-san says:

    I got skills…

  23. Rock says:

    Good grief, Anjin-san! Do you mean he doesn’t walk on water? Now that is news.

    All I did was ask a simple question. It was a basic generic question, not an opinion. I did not mention President Obama by name and I didn’t mention a specific country. Let me rephrase the question for you:

    By what authority does any President of the USA have the gall or gonads to insist that any leader of any sovereign nation must step down?

    If all it takes is a phone call from the President to get of dictators, then why is the world full of them?

  24. wr says:

    Good question, Rock. Perhaps a lot of countries in the world are getting tired of imperial demands coming out of DC. Would to God that American civilians would feel the same.

  25. Rick Almeida says:

    “By what authority does any President of the USA have the gall or gonads to insist that any leader of any sovereign nation must step down?”

    From the same authority that any human being, I guess, summons the “gall or gonads” to stand against something he thinks is wrong and say, “Stop”.

    It might not always be a great idea to do so, sure. But the idea that any president must stand idly by as important events unfold and offer no judgment is absurd to me.

  26. wr says:

    We are not talking here about standing “against something he thinks is wrong,” but rather about meddling, intruding or intervention. Whatever the American president’s “gall” or the size of his “gonads,” he has no authority to order Egypt around and about only one-tenth of the “authority” he wields in this country.

  27. Jeugenen says:

    The Egyptian People, by forcing the resignation of the hated Neo-Con/ Neo-Lib Puppet Mubarak, have ended the Neo-Con/Neo-Lib political control over their government; as did the Iranian People, when they forced the resignation of the hated Neo-Con Puppet Palavi. And, with the Turkish People under the strong leadership of Erdogan, having rejected the hated Neo-Con/Neo-Lib imposed policies toward the British apartheid state of Israel, there has been a cataclysmic shift of balance of power in the Middle East, which has ended the pernicious political control by these universally hated Neo-Cons/Neo-Libs over the Middle East.
    In America, these hated Neo-Cons/Neo-Libs, insidious agents of the Israel Lobby cabal, are coming under increasing political attack by the Kennedy Liberals, the Reagan Conservatives, the Ron Paul Libertarians, and the Bachmann Tea Parties. Among the British and European peoples, these notorious Neo-Cons/Neo-Libs have always been regarded with disdain. The Arab Peoples, with support from the West, are now gaining the freedom to determine their own future.