The Other McCain

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El-Baradei: CNN’s Choice, Not Egypt’s

Posted on | February 3, 2011 | 10 Comments

A little-noted passage in a Wednesday news article:

The Obama administration also reached out to Egypt’s top military officer, stressing the U.S. desire to see calm restored to the streets of Cairo, where pro- and anti-Mubarak forces fought with fists, stones and clubs.

One of the things that has puzzled me for the past couple of days is why U.S. media seem so tardy in following up on indications (see yesterday’s Reuters article and Tuesday’s report by Eric Dondero) that Egyptian military chief Lt. Gen. Sami Enan may emerge as the post-Mubarak leader.

The most obvious explanation — one I discussed by phone yesterday with Dondero — is that the Western press evidently jumped to the conclusion last week that Mohamed El-Baradei is the de facto popular leader of the anti-Mubarak opposition. This media-as-deciders trick gets exposed by Egyptian student Sam Tadros at American Thinker:

CNN’s anointed leader of the Egyptian Revolution must be important to the future of Egypt. Hardly! Outside of Western media hype, El Baradei is nothing. A man that has spent less than 30 days in the past year in Egypt and hardly any time in the past 20 years is a nobody. It is entirely insulting to Egyptians to suggest otherwise.

(Hat-tip: Darleen Click at Protein Wisdom.) El-Baradei is just a media-hyped camera hog with no meaningful popular support and — perhaps most importantly — no support within the Egyptian military. And as the Tadros article makes clear (read the whole thing) the army’s distrust of Mubarak’s son Gamal, who has no military background, was an important background factor in the current crisis. Tadros’ criticism of El-Baradei echoes the quote from the Egyptian university professor who called for Gen. Enan to help form an interm government:

We do not want El-Baradei. He spent too much time abroad, and knows nothing of the daily reality of the Egyptian people. He does not represent us.

This explains a lot about what has happened in the aftermath of Tuesday’s speech by Mubarak. Because El-Baradei is not a popular leader and has no real political base, his status as figurehead leader is dependent on the continuation and success of the protest movement. Once the “transition process” turns to actual politics — i.e., organizing a party, canvassing for votes, etc. — El-Baradei is through.

Remember that before Mubarak’s speech, the protesters had already announced that they were planning their biggest demonstration for this Friday. So when Mubarak announced that he would leave office after the September election, what did El-Baradei say to CNN?

El-Baradei, having already delivered an “ultimatum” that Mubarak must leave Egypt by Friday, said Mubarak would be a “dead man walking” if he did not go immediately. 

This radical intransigence by El-Baradei was the precursor of what has happened in the past two days. El-Baradei clearly wants to get credit as the man who overthrows Mubarak, but if that doesn’t happen now — while El-Baradei still has the protest crowds and the TV cameras — then his moment at center stage is past.

CNN and other Western media are assisting El-Baradei in his self-glorifying game. They need to wake up and smell the opportunism.



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