Winds of Change in the Middle East

This is a rush transcript from "Specical Report," January 26,2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.




BRET BAIER, HOST OF "SPECIAL REPORT": Clashes in the street of Cairo for the second day as protesters did battle with security forces, really over the economic conditions in the country and of course, the 30-year rule of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Now, today, cost Hillary Clinton urged Egypt not to block the protests. She said, quote "We believe the Egyptian government has the opportunity at this time to implement reforms and respond to legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.

This, however, is a very sticky situation for the U.S., as Egypt is a top ally obviously in the Middle East. We're back with the panel. Steve, how sticky is this for the U.S. administration?

STEVE HAYE, SENIOR EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think it's sticky, because Hosni Mubarak has a history of being a U.S. ally. But I think the president missed an opportunity to say what he had said in previous setting. When he was a candidate back in Berlin in July of 2008, he talked about the human rights; he talked about universality of democracy. When he was in Cairo, he talked about these things.  He said the United States would stand with demonstrators; would stand with people who were trying to see their rights realized.

And what I think we've seen with this president from Iran to his early reaction to Tunisia to now in Egypt a president that is willing to make those kinds of statements when they're safe and virtually meaningless. It's sort of a matter of course; this is what president's say of course before these things. But when it counts when people are in the street in Tehran. When people are in the streets in Cairo he's not willing to lend rhetorical support.

And then what happened after the president's remarks last night is the White House put out a paper statement by Robert Gibbs that was sort of flat but said the right things. Had the president said it an hour earlier, it could have had a pretty significant impact on the ground.

BAIER: He spoke about Tunisia and he had one line about the U.S. supporting all efforts for democracy around the world but didn't obviously single out Egypt. For the Middle East, also a very tenuous situation; as Israel obviously deals with Egypt and Hosni Mubarak almost exclusively.

CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS DIGITAL, POLITICS EDITOR: The Middle East is riot these days. It's young, poor, troubled, disadvantaged and doesn't know which way to go. It's the troubled youth of the world right now.  The way that this goes, there are all these encouraging signs. You can look to Iraq. And I think people do to Iraq, and they say here is a nascent democracy and something that might happen in the Arab world that's positive. But at the same time things could go so terribly wrong. If this energy is directed toward retrenchment of the Islamist forces it could be a new very dark period for the Middle East.

BAIER: So you have Egypt, Lebanon, and Tunisia, where there is a lot of uncertainty.

BRIT HUME, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: We don't know how fully the unsettled atmosphere in Iran has been capped and suppressed.

I think the administration is in a deficit here on this issue.  Steve is right, the president has paid lip service to this concept of universal human rights and democracy, but it's George Bush's policy particularly in his second term, the spread of democracy around the world. It was underpinnings of the Iraq War, which this president did athwart. So I think he's got to go some to get there.  It would have been nice if when the people were in the streets of Tehran an undoubted problem for Hosni Mubarak.  This is an adversary; if he had been there with encouraging words and he was not. And so far what's been forthcoming is mild.  And it does pose an agonizing dilemma in the case of someone like Mubarak who's been a moderate.  You know he's been helpful to us in a number of ways. The problem is you do business with the governments you find and the government's you find aren't to your liking. And you have to pick a moment where you cut yourself free from them and I'm not sure this administration has done that.

BAIER: For example, in Gaza, when the push for election ended up with Hamas.

HAYES: There's a danger any time you do this, but what Brit said in his speech in Cairo, President Obama said some of us are trapped by the fact that democracy was pushed in connection with Iraq, we shouldn't be any longer.  I think he still is.

BAIER: Thank you for playing the role of Nia-Malika Henderson.

HUME: I hope she won't be disappointed.

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