The Fact Checker
The White House says Obama has been tough on Mubarak. See for yourself.
“He’s on several occasions directly confronted President Mubarak on it. And pushed him on the need for political reform.”
— David Axelrod, White House senior adviser, Jan. 28, 2011
With mass protests calling for the end of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s three decades of autocratic rule, the White House insists that President Obama has been a forceful prod for reform in Egypt. Without access to internal transcripts of conversations, it is impossible to know exactly what was said behind closed doors or in private phone conversations. But one indication of whether pressing democracy was important to the administration is the public description of the conversations, either in press statements or by the president himself. A review of official White House statements on meetings and phone calls between the two presidents shows that when given the opportunity to use the biggest megaphone in the world — the voice of the president of the United States — the words were whispered, if said at all.
June 4, 2009: President Obama’s first meeting with Mubarak in Cairo. No mention of reform in Egypt. Obama told reporters: “I emphasized to him that America is committed to working in partnership with the countries in the region so that all people can meet their aspirations.” [Note: On that same day, Obama gave a speech in Cairo that referenced “ the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed” but he did not specifically mention Egypt.]
Aug. 3, 2009: White House announcement of upcoming meeting between Obama and Mubarak. No mention of reform in Egypt.
Aug. 18, 2009: Meeting of the two leaders with the media. No mention of reform in Egypt by Obama. Obama gives a lengthy description of the topics they discussed, including Middle East peace, economic cooperation, even polio eradication. He does not list reform or democracy.
Sept. 1, 2010: White House statement on meeting with Mubarak at the White House. Reform in Egypt is mentioned. Much of the statement dealt with the Middle East peace process but at the end it noted: “President Obama reaffirmed the importance of a vibrant civil society, open political competition, and credible and transparent elections in Egypt.”
Jan. 18, 2011: White House statement on a phone call between Obama and Mubarak. No mention of need for reforms in Egypt, although the statement says the two men discussed the overthrow of the government in Tunisia.