Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty slammed the Obama administration's response to protests in Egypt over the last two and half weeks. He compared the White House response to the "Tower of Babel" and said the mixed messages added up to something "nearly incoherent."
"This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour asked the Republican, a potential candidate for President in 2012, what he would have done at the beginning of the crisis.
"First of all," Pawlenty replied, "before [Obama's] administration spoke like a tower of Babel, with multiple voices saying multiple things, they should have had one message that was clear and consistent and measured and appropriate. Instead you had the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the national intelligence director going off in different directions, saying nearly incoherent things, at least inconsistent things," Pawlenty said.
"It's really important the United States of America speak with one voice. So, first of all, get your own team on the same page. That's lesson number one in a crisis: communicate clearly. Number two: we have to articulate, when we have that kind of an uncertain crisis unfolding, what our principles are," the former governor said. "One, we don't want a radical Islamic result. Two, we favor democracy. And President Mubarak and Suleiman or anyone else who may be purporting to be leading the nation needs to embrace those principles."
The Muslim Brotherhood
Pawlenty criticized the President's statements on the Muslim Brotherhood."When President Obama was asked the other night…directly in an interview right before the Super Bowl, do you think the Muslim Brotherhood should be running Egypt, he wouldn't answer the question. They asked him two or three times and the President of the United States ducked the question whether he thought it was a good or a bad idea whether the Muslim Brotherhood should be running Egypt," Pawlenty said, referring to an interview with Bill O'Reilly on the Fox network.
"I'm telling you," Pawlenty told Amanpour, "it's a bad idea and we need to do whatever we can to minimize the likelihood of that outcome."
On Fox, O'Reilly asked the President if the Brotherhood was a threat to the United States.
"I think that the Muslim Brotherhood is one faction in Egypt. They don't have majority support in Egypt. They are –"
O'Reilly interrupted. "Are they a threat?" he asked again.
"There are strains of their ideology that are anti-U.S. There's no doubt about it," Obama said.
"But you don't want the Muslim Brotherhood," O'Reilly tried again.
"What I want is a representative government in Egypt. And I have confidence that if Egypt moves in an orderly transition process, that we'll have a government in Egypt that we can work with together as a partner," the President said.
Pawlenty said that he hoped the military, now in control of the country, would embrace free, democratic elections. The military is "certainly one of the highest functioning institutions in that country and now we need to see if the trust and confidence that people have in them holds true," he said.
"One of the things we're going to be looking for as a first measure is what is the process and what are the rules that they're going to use to move towards elections. And also, are they willing to amend that constitution in ways that support in a permanent, reliable way a democracy," Pawlenty added.
"Now the Egyptian military, as you know, is mostly equipped with American equipment and technology and training," Pawlenty said later in the interview. "Insuring and guaranteeing, or at least offering the continuation of that kind of relationship is one lever, one apple or one carrot to hang out," he said.
"And pulling it is one stick?" Amanpour asked.
"Yes," he replied, "but keep in mind, if you pull it, I'm sure some other countries will be willing to fill the void and then we lose leverage in that scenario. So this is a very delicate situation."
"But I think one thing we can say to the Egyptian military is we value the relationship, you value the relationship, we want it to continue on a positive note and if you value that, here's our expectations and here's our principals, one is amend that constitution and two is move towards democracy," the Governor explained.
An Uncertain Future
Amanpour, who sat down for a worldwide exclusive interview with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, asked Pawlenty about Barak's take on Egypt. "Barak told me that he did not see what happened in Iran 30 years ago happening in Egypt," Amanpour said. "If that's good enough for him, is it good enough for you?" she asked.
"Well, we don't know what the future of Egypt is going to yield at this point. So anybody who says they know what's going to happen in Egypt 10 years from now or 20 years from now and that's good enough for them, I would say it would be good for everybody to step back and wait and see because the proof's going to be in the pudding," the former governor said.
Amanpour then pressed Pawlenty on a question of the United States' historical support at once for democracy, generally, and dictators, specifically. "What should the United States do when a country is clamoring for democracy but the U.S. has supported the authoritarian regime for decades?" she asked.
"That's why it's important to not be sitting -- only supporting the authoritarian regimes for decades. That's why we -- 10 years ago, 20 years ago we should have been pushing President Mubarak to make these changes, even if incrementally, so that the people of Egypt could see the United States was pushing for those values and that we were getting results," Pawlenty said.
"And maybe the straw that broke the camel's back or at least one of them was the 2010 parliamentary elections. They were manipulated by Mubarak and the United States stood silent. That sends a powerful, negative signal and we should have called him out on that," he told Amanpour.
Amanpour pressed him on the fiscal cost of democracy building. She asked if he would cut or increase foreign aid.
"I'm not one that says we should eliminate foreign aid. I don't think that is a wise course," Pawlenty explained. "Now, should we redeploy it and reprioritize it? Yes. And a good example would be two years ago the aid to Egypt, democracy-building initiatives were cut by 50 percent, as we mentioned earlier. Bad idea, and you look back on that now and you say not a good idea."
Pawlenty expanded on his ideas. "I believe our role around the world is, first of all, protect our national security interests as we define them; and two, as we have the opportunity to push towards democracy, push towards freedom, push towards openness. We need to do that," he said.