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January 17, 2008
Bush's Egyptian 'Drop By'
President Bush completed his 8 day, 6 country tour of the Middle East with a short visit to Egypt.
The visit was so short that President Mubarak chided him for it:
President Mubarak found an opportunity to zing Bush early in their joint press conference, interjecting in reply to Bush’s compliment about the beauty of Sharm el-Sheikh that “you need much more days.” Bush laughed and acknowledged that Mubarak “wants me back”—but did not immediately accept the invitation, as the President did on the spot when the Israelis invited him to return in May.Indeed, the President's stop in Egypt was barely noted by the press, treating it more like a "drop by" by a politician on the campaign trail. However, the President made up for the shortness of his visit with some pointed words for Mubarak:
Bush seemed to try to compensate for the shortness of his stop with the fullness of his public statement, a virtual tour d’horizon of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship. Repeatedly highlighting the strength of U.S.-Egyptian friendship and American respect for Egyptian history and culture, Bush thanked Mubarak for cooperation on counterterrorism, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and Lebanon. He then transitioned rather gracefully to nudging on democracy issues, noting “Egypt’s role in the world,” “vibrant civil society,” and the important role played by women. Bush praised the roles played by Egyptian “pioneering journalists,” bloggers, and “judges insisting on independence,” and voiced hope that the Egyptian government would “give the people of this pround nation a greater voice in your future.” Politely phrased, but the message undoubtedly got through.While the press has universally shrugged its shoulders with regard to this entire Middle East tour, the President made his views known on transitioning the region to democracy at every stop in the Arab world. Those words can only hearten those who are courageously working to open their socieities and bring a greater level of freedom to the region.
Do not underestimate what those words can accomplish. Most of the leaders of the democracy movement in eastern Europe credit Reagan's consistent and inspirational words of support in keeping them going during the dark times. In that sense, Bush has accomplished more than his critics are giving him credit for.