Mubarak, Gaming Out Egypt, and the President’s Words About Universal Rights: Today’s Qs for O’s WH – 2/2/11

Feb 2, 2011 2:56pm

TAPPER:  I assume, as this crisis has developed, that the president and the national security team have been gaming out all the possible outcomes each step of the way.  Is that a safe assumption?

 GIBBS:  I think we have done that as events have transpired and as events have changed, sure. I will say this, Jake, to — I would go back again and look at what this administration, what this president has said specifically about changes that need to happen to respect the universal rights that we've spoken of, both in Egypt and throughout the Middle East.  And I would point you to Secretary Clinton's recent speech in Doha as to —  as outlining a series of these steps.

TAPPER:  As you game this out, what's the best-case scenario here and what's the worst-case scenario? 

GIBBS:  Well, I don't want to get into a series of hypotheticals because I think what's — I think we would –

TAPPER: Well, you just said you guys are getting a series of hypotheticals.

GIBBS:  I'm just not going to get into them here.  Of course, we are — we are planning for a full range of scenarios. I think it's important, Jake, to understand that — I think it is hard to even imagine several days ago the events that happened yesterday.  And so events across this landscape are happening very quickly.  We're watching those events.  We're planning for those events.  There's a deputies committee meeting that starts very shortly where we will get into a — they will get into a whole range of issues.

Obviously, we're concerned about the violence that I talked about.  We're concerned about reports of food and fuel shortages in some of the cities, and the ability to get what might be at certain entry points and ports over to — over to people that are in desperate need of them.

TAPPER: Do you think that Mubarak is a dictator? 

GIBBS:  I think that –

TAPPER: But more importantly, does the president think Mubarak is a  dictator? 

GIBBS:  The administration believes that President Mubarak has a chance to show the world exactly who he is by beginning this transition that is so desperately needed in his country and for his people now.

TAPPER:  Does the president have any regrets that when this crisis began to unfold eight days ago, he — his public statements were not more in line with the speech he gave in Cairo in 2009?  In other words, the initial comments – 

GIBBS:  I don't — I don't think –

TAPPER:  — were a lot more pro-Mubarak – 

GIBBS:  No — Jake – 

TAPPER:  — cautioning demonstrators not to engage in violence as well as the –

GIBBS:  Well, Jake, I don't think — I — let me be clear. Eight days later, we don't think violence should be — we don't want to see violence on protesters.  We don't want to see looting.  There's — you know, let's be – 

TAPPER:  His comments yesterday were – 

GIBBS:  Hold on –

TAPPER:  — that the protesters were an inspiration.  His comments on Friday were:  They have the right to do what they're doing, but they shouldn't engage in violence.

GIBBS:  And that continues to be our posture.  Jake, I think  – 

TAPPER:  Certainly it's a journey.  I mean, certainly his –

GIBBS:  Jake, I think for us to not acknowledge that — again, I don't know what you guys, from a coverage standpoint,  predicted would be what we'd be looking at on Wednesday last Thursday. Again, I think we are watching events that have not transpired as they have in this region of the world in thousands of years.  We have — obviously, a considerable amount of staff time has been spent on this.  Some of the president's time, obviously, has been dedicated to watching and — watching, taking note of and responding to the events that have transpired.  Again, what we're watching is history being made.

TAPPER:  So no regrets that his initial comments weren't more in line with the 2009 Cairo speech? 

GIBBS:  Again, I think that — I think the notion that what our — what we have said in public and in private at all levels of our government, to all levels of the Egyptian government, to governments throughout the Middle East have not been in line with the Cairo speech is simply wrong.  We — in the Cairo speech, the president stood up for a universal set of values and actions that had to be taken by governments.  As you've heard him say over the course of many days here, they have to be responsive to their people.  That is — that is precisely what the president believes.

These are not going to be determinations that are — as I've — as I said a few days ago, these are not determinations that are going to be made by us.  Nobody in Washington will determine the range of freedom of assembly or freedom of speech for those in Tahrir Square.  And I don't think anybody in Tahrir Square is looking for us to gauge what the fence posts are on those freedoms.

TAPPER:  No, but I think they're — they want the president to be standing up more for them and less for Mubarak.  I think that's what they — that's what they're telling our reporters, anyway.

GIBBS:  Again, I think you're — I — Ben, I think — I don't  know the degree to which they've heard everything that the president's said.  I think the notion that the president has somehow shifted from one side to the other is completely inaccurate.

-Jake Tapper


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