Sources tell ABC News that after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak spoke last night, handing over powers to his vice president but not stepping down, the White House and Obama administration in general conveyed to Egyptian government –at all levels – that his message was not enough for the demonstrators, whom they needed to satisfy or the crisis would continue and get worse.
On Thursday White House and administration officials had been told by Mubarak advisers that he was planning to step down — but no one was certain what he would do. Members of Mubarak's own Cabinet thought he was stepping down. But Mubarak has proven himself mercurial and quite reluctant to give up power or be seen as having been chased out of office – so the White House hedged its bets.
The president give an optimistic statement earlier in the day, talking about bearing witness to history and praising the young generation marching in the streets of Cairo. But he didn’t get ahead of Mubarak. The White House has been surprised by his actions and there was no upside in trying to predict what a most unpredictable man would do.
Ultimately even Mubarak aides didn’t know what he would say. Was U.S. intelligence bad? “We have good intelligence,” an official told ABC News. “But we can’t get inside someone’s head.”
Thus President Obama didn't know what Mubarak was going to say until he said it. And once the US saw that the reaction in the streets of Cairo was one of disappointment and anger, they pushed for more.
“Not to satisfy us,” one official tells ABC News, “to satisfy them,” the official said, pointing to mass protests in Tahrir Square.