The Ed Show for Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
Guests: Ron Allen, Aya Batrawy, Ahmed Rehab, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Sharif Abdel
ED SCHULTZ, HOST: Good evening from New York. I‘m Ed Schultz, and this is MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the situation in Egypt.
“The New York Times” is reporting tonight that the White House and the Egyptian officials are discussing a plan that would force President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately and install Vice President Omar Suleiman as the head of the transitional government. The news comes as the sun is about to rise over Cairo and protesters plan to march in the hundreds of thousands to President Mubarak‘s palace later today.
It‘s a mass movement and it‘s a movement the Egyptian counter forces spent all day today making sure that you weren‘t going to see it. There were reports throughout Egypt today of journalists being assaulted, detained, and even threatened with death.
CBS reporter Laura Logan, her crew detained by Egyptian police.
FOX News‘ Greg Palkot blindfolded and beaten.
ABC‘s Christiane Amanpour, her vehicle was attacked with projectiles.
The BBC‘s Ian Pannell and his crew were stripped of equipment. It was all confiscated.
And ABC‘s Brian Hartman and cameraman Akram Abi-Hanna threatened that they would be beheaded.
Just a quick flavor of what is going on in Egypt.
Also, Ashraf Kahlil of the “Foreign Policy” magazine who was a guest on this show on Tuesday night, attacked on the street. This is the environment in Cairo.
And “The New York Times‘” Nicholas Kristof said today, “I worry about what it is that they‘re planning that they don‘t want us to see.” What are they planning?
Joining me now from Cairo is NBC News correspondent, Ron Allen.
Ron, the situation there is more than tense. The videotape is very telling. What is the scene in Cairo as daybreak approaches there?
RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Good evening, Ed.
At this point, everyone is preparing for another big day of demonstrations. It‘s Friday, the holy day in the Muslim world, and the opponents of the regime have been targeting this day as what they call the “day of departure”—another time when they hope to see the end of the Mubarak regime. The hope is to get hundreds of thousands out into the center part of the city.
The problem, however, is that the military has taken a much higher profile today. There were shots fired. Tanks reportedly fired at the crowds and near the crowds. They‘ve been trying to separate the pro- and anti-government forces and taken a much more visible and active role in trying to stop the violence.
The center of the city has also become a battleground. Days ago, there were hundreds of thousands of people in the square and it was festive. It was a much different mood. But yesterday, it was essentially a war zone. Up to a dozen people, I believe—the last number I saw—have been killed over the past few days. Hundreds have been wounded there; makeshift hospitals have been set up. It‘s gotten bloody and brutal.
And the hope is that that won‘t happen tomorrow, but the expectation and the fear is that that‘s certainly a possibility.
SCHULTZ: Ron Allen with us tonight from Cairo.
Ron, the demonstrations will go to the presidential palace tomorrow. I assume that the palace will be protected by the military. They are calling this—the protesters calling it, as you reported, a day of departure.
I guess this is where the rubber meets the road, isn‘t it? Tomorrow will be the day to see how far these protesters will actually go when they get to the president‘s palace. What do you think?
ALLEN: Well, that‘s a good question, whether they, in fact, do move toward the presidential palace if they begin at the square. It‘s some distance to travel between those two points of the city. It‘s essentially marching through an urban area where there are businesses, shops, so on and so forth. And they have not done that as of yet.
If they do that and they had planned to do this a couple days ago when they tried to gather a million people into the square, if they try to do that, it will be a massive protest unlike anything seen so far. And it will move the confrontation from a contained—relatively contained area in the heart of the city out into the city and, therefore, cause perhaps more widespread damage and escalate this thing to another level. And, of course, confronting the presidential palace and confronting that building. Although, it‘s not a place where the president works and is active very often.
ALLEN: It would just escalate this conflict to a whole new level.
SCHULTZ: Ron, as we started—
ALLEN: And not the opposition certainly wants.
SCHULTZ: Ron Allen, we started this broadcast tonight saying “The New York Times” has reported that the White House and Egyptian officials are working on a deal that would shift the power of the presidency to Suleiman, who was appointed by Mubarak.
Do you get a sense that the Egyptian protesters would accept this transition? And how do they feel about the United States being so involved?
And, of course, tonight, the United States is asking other countries to ask Mubarak to step aside. All of this is at a very high level. Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the vice president of Egypt today, Suleiman.
Do you believe that then—how this would all unfold and how is it being received that the United States is in the middle of all this?
ALLEN: Well, the new Egyptian vice president has certainly become the point man for the government. He was on state TV yesterday, doing an interview, a, quote/unquote, “interview,” essentially making a statement.
And the government has been offering more gestures. It‘s now offering a dialogue with the opposition groups, banned groups. It said that President Mubarak‘s son will not run in the upcoming elections in September. All these statements that a lot of people just simply don‘t believe.
If Mubarak publicly, emphatically steps down and hands power to someone else, that may be enough to quell the demonstrations. But I think people really want to see something tangible, because there‘s just no faith, no belief in this government. The government also announced that a number of former cabinet ministers have essentially been banned from traveling outside the country, their assets frozen. One of those people, the former interior minister, who was a much-hated figure, accused by the public of corruption, brutality. So, another gesture, concession, if you will, by the government to try—
ALLEN: -- to answer the demands that have been placed on them. But I don‘t know, I don‘t think anybody knows what will be enough to stop the opposition.
SCHULTZ: And I want to ask you, Ron, have you been targeted as a journalist? We started this broadcast tonight, as well, documenting the number of incident that was taken place, some 43 individual journalist incidents, where there has been violence and threats. Have you been targeted at all?
ALLEN: We were in Alexandria, in the second largest city in the country yesterday, and started filming a pro-government protest and the crowd turned on us and came after us. And we were able to escape down the side street and around the corner and essentially get out of harm‘s way before anything terrible happened. It was surprising and startling that the crowd turned on us so quickly, but this was yesterday.
Actually, two days ago, when the pro-Mubarak forces started raising their profile on the streets, and as that profile increased, we saw what happened yesterday with more people, more journalists coming under fire, being attacked. Demonstrators are targeting the buildings where broadcasters are trying to operate from.
As you know, there‘s been a number of people—a number of agencies that have evacuated their locations to try to get some place safer. We no longer have a live broadcast coming out of central square, as we did for the previous days.
Another thing the government has done and the protesters have done, the so-called “protesters,” I should say, (INAUDIBLE) government, is try and stop the international media, just try and stop the world from seeing what‘s happening here.
We‘ve moved to a position that is safer than the heart of the city.
The strategy that we‘re employing is to try to keep our people in a place
where we can report, but also be eyewitnesses to what‘s happening. It‘s a
it‘s a very dangerous place.
And another thing that happened as we were driving into Cairo, we encountered one of the largest roadblocks that we‘ve seen, checkpoints that we‘ve seen since we‘ve been here. The police were meticulously going through the documents of every driver. We could see that they were taking weapons, clubs, and knives and a huge board with nails sticking out of it out of cars and detaining some people and pulling them to the side of the road.
We were questioned. It was not harassment, we were not physically abused. This all happened over the course of just a few minutes and then we were on our way, and it was all cordial. But it was an indication of just how things have changed here in the past 24 hours.
In fact, every day has been very different. And, certainly, our colleagues who have been beaten and had to be hospitalized are taking grave risks in the heart of the city.
SCHULTZ: No doubt.
ALLEN: And that will continue. So, I guess just the bottom line is that this is really—you can call them protesters, demonstrators, but in essence, in the heart of the city, certainly, this has become an armed conflict.
SCHULTZ: An armed conflict, no doubt. And as you said, no live pictures are coming out of Cairo right now. They have shut down all of the cameras, confiscating equipment from journalists and the main thing is is that they don‘t want the story to get out. And this, of course, is very heavy-handed on the part of Mr. Mubarak and also Omar Suleiman.
NBC‘s Ron Allen live from Cairo with us tonight. The Egyptian government continues to deny any connection to the pro-Mubarak street forces that are out and about, harassing and causing violence, but Vice President Suleiman today blamed what he called, quote, “unfriendly TV stations for inciting protesters.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded more protection for the fourth estate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: There is a clear responsibility by the Egyptian government, including the army, to protect those threatened and to hold accountable those responsible for these attacks. The Egyptian government must demonstrate its willingness to ensure journalists‘ ability to report on these events to the people of Egypt and to the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: One of those journalists is Andrew Burton. He‘s a freelance photojournalist, capturing the chaos in Egypt for several news organizations. Andrew found himself separated from his companions while photographing protesters. He said the environment was friendly until he took a picture of a Mubarak supporter painting slogans over anti-Mubarak graffiti. The last photo he took was this.
Andrew Burton joins us tonight from Cairo.
Mr. Burton, good to have you with us on the program tonight.
At any time did you fear for your life today?
ANDREW BURTON, PHOTOJOURNALIST (via telephone): It has been a sincerely frightening environment here. It‘s now in the early hours of February 4th here. The attack on me took place on February 2nd. And to be honest, I couldn‘t find other photographers, journalists, or even fixers or translators to go out and leave from the hotel on February 3rd. So, I stayed in the entire day.
SCHULTZ: Andrew, how are you communicating with the protesters or those folks of a different language to save yourself in these situations?
BURTON: Initially, while I was photographing inside riots and protests, people were fairly friendly. They were passionate about letting their voices be heard and getting in front of the international news media. I think they were excited that they were, you know, they were being covered. And originally, it did not take a lot of language.
But in my situation, when the mob turned on me, it became very difficult very quickly to try and communicate. I tried to walk away. I was unsuccessful in doing that. They followed me. And to be honest, that was my last experience with the rioters and crowds.
SCHULTZ: How were you rescued? It sounds like you were rescued. How did that happen?
BURTON: Some anti-Mubarak and pro-democracy supporters came to my rescue. I honestly owe them my life or something close to it. They sheltered me. Five or six men surrounded me and told me everything would be all right. They ran with me and really took many more kicks and punches and blows from sticks than I did and I don‘t know what happened to them, but I thank them and owe them a lot.
SCHULTZ: What do you say about—if you could describe the soldiers, why haven‘t they engaged to protect journalists? Have they chosen a side in this conflict w conflict?
BURTON: To be honest, I‘m not sure. I actually had tank soldiers come to my rescue personally. I was dumped inside of a tank for two hours, but that‘s just my personal account. I don‘t know what other reporters or photojournalists—
SCHULTZ: Was that a long two hours for you?
BURTON: Yes, it was a long two hours.
SCHULTZ: And when you got out of the tank, what did you do? Where did you go?
BURTON: I was escorted out of the tank by one of the soldiers. He brought me to the head of security from the Hilton, who put me in a cab and got me back to my hotel safely.
SCHULTZ: Andrew, what‘s your plan tomorrow? There‘s going to be a massive march at the presidential palace.
BURTON: You know, my instinct as a journalist is to head back out. I was very, very frustrated being holed up in the hotel yesterday. I‘ve got the phone number of a few translators here and there are a few more photographers who are planning to go out. We‘d like to go out in numbers and be as minimal—carry as little gear on us as possible.
But, from the journalists here in the hotel, there is still a strong desire to cover this. We don‘t like being intimidated. We‘d like to cover the news. And as of right now, our plan is to at least attempt to go out on to the streets.
SCHULTZ: Andrew, has it circulated through the people of Cairo, the protesters that a potential deal is being brokered by the White House for Mubarak to step down and Omar Suleiman to take over as the president of that country? Has that circulated out or is that still very breaking and fresh news to the folks there?
BURTON: It‘s 5:00 a.m. here. I went to bed at about 1:00 a.m. I had not heard that news until I woke up at 5:00. So, I‘m not sure if it‘s circulating on the streets.
SCHULTZ: As a journalist, do you get a sense that they would accept that, as long as Mubarak is out?
BURTON: To be honest, I have no idea. The pro-Mubarak supporters, it would appear, have been paid off. I‘m not sure what will take place if someone fills Mubarak‘s position. I just don‘t know what to tell you.
SCHULTZ: Andrew Burton, thank you for joining us tonight from Cairo.
Amazing story—the suppression of the story, life threatening situations. As of yesterday, 13 people—or 13 people since yesterday have been killed and the official report is over 1,200 injured.
And, of course, tomorrow is the big day. They say it‘s the day of departure for Hosni Mubarak. And we will see. Hundreds upon thousands of protesters will be at the presidential palace tomorrow and we may know the future of this whole situation in Egypt tomorrow.
Stay with us for our continuing coverage of the unfolding crisis in Egypt. We‘re right back.
SCHULTZ: Breaking news: Cairo is holding its breath right now. They‘re calling it the “day of departure.” No one knows what‘s going to happen. We‘ve got live reports on the ground in Cairo, standing by with all of the latest details. The protesters, Hosni Mubarak, the standoff—all of that coming up.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s very crowded here, OK? Everybody, everybody is nervous. We just want peace in this country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He attacked our brothers and he killed them. And do we treat him—this is our solution. We want peace. Only peace. What we want is freedom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom! Freedom!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See what happened to my people. See what happened to my people.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
SCHULTZ: It is coming up on 5:30 a.m. in Cairo, less than four hours until the march from Tahrir Square to the presidential palace; and emotions, obviously, very high. They are calling this the day of departure.
We want to bring in Aya Batrawy, who is a reporter in Cairo for Pacifica Radio and the German Press Agency.
Aya, thank you for your time tonight.
Can you give us a sense of the mood of the people? You have contacts with people inside the square, where they have barricaded themselves. Can you give us a sense of what they are telling you? And is there being—is there a mood shift taking place amongst the protesters?
AYA BATRAWY, PACIFICA RADIO (via telephone): Yes. Well, what we have and what we‘re seeing in Tahrir are a group of Egyptians from all spectrums of Egyptian society, ranging from secularists to Islamists, and young and old, and literate and illiterate, and women and men, who are basically holding their ground and saying, we‘ve come so far, and we‘ve done so much to bring about the kind of human rights and the kind of life that we have been demanding and requesting for so long that it‘s—there‘s no turning back.
And this group of people is holding their ground also, and I‘ve spoken to them and they‘ve said to me, we can‘t leave after we‘ve lost so many people. If we leave now, their lives would be in vain, those people who have died in the past—you know, over week of violence.
So, they are staying there for a purpose—and that purpose is to pressure the president to resign and many of his cabinet and many members of his government.
Now, what‘s happening, though, outside of Tahrir is a tense calm in many parts of Cairo and parts of the country. And there are renewed calls now by elites who are on Facebook and those who are able to access the Internet saying that what happened last night and the kind of violent clashes you saw between these what many believe are government thugs against the protesters is something that not only very much damaged Egypt‘s reputation in the world, which is something Egyptians hold in very high esteem, but is also something that is threatening our security.
And whether that was the message that the government wanted to deliver or not, it seems to be working in their benefit, because it seems like there is a growing chorus of people saying, look, we‘ve gotten a lot. We‘ve come far in the past week. He‘s given us certain concessions that we‘ve asked for. Let‘s wait until September until he steps down and ensure that he does come through with these promises that he made, but let‘s go home. And they‘re calling for people in Tahrir to leave and saying people in Tahrir don‘t represent them.
SCHULTZ: Aya Batrawy with us tonight, reporting from Cairo for Pacifica Radio and the German Press Agency—Aya, how many people will converge on the presidential palace tomorrow?
BATRAWY: Well, what we saw last Friday, a week from Friday when this is expected to take place was very different from what I think we‘re going to see on this Friday. Last Friday was a showdown and a test between the Egyptian public and security apparatus.
SCHULTZ: Well, it‘s going to be a test—
BATRAWY: Yes, go ahead.
SCHULTZ: It‘s going to be a test tomorrow for Mubarak. What if the president of Egypt cracks down on the march tomorrow? Will he lose support?
BATRAWY: Well, what is he going to crack down on? It‘s probably going to be these plainclothes security guards or these paid thugs if anything, because right now, the police is not out in force like it was last Friday. And the military, like we said, has remained largely neutral and has vowed it will not charge at citizens.
And so, the fear I think by many people is that it could lead to a hand-to-hand sort of combat like you‘ve seen on the periphery of Tahrir Square. And so, I think what you‘re seeing are a lot of people, the kinds of people who are involved in the protest on Friday scared actually this time and possibly not going out to protest.
But I think what we also—and it‘s all prediction at this point—are going to see is a group of people who are still going to go out, maybe not in Cairo as much as we‘ll see nationwide, but let‘s also remember that there are other governors throughout Egypt that are also going to see massive protests. But I think in Cairo, the kind of cross section that you‘ve saw of women and children may not come out in full force tomorrow, simply because the security situation is so tense.
SCHULTZ: Yes. And how do you think the army will respond if, you know, if the march does turn violent?
BATRAWY: These things have, unfortunately, already turned violent. And what we‘ve seen in the past week or so is that the military has remained neutral. It has—it has promised it will not attack citizens and it has not really made its position very clear to many people. And in fact, the protesters in Tahrir are saying simply watching many of our unarmed protesters being killed is taking a position.
And so, it‘s pretty obvious that the military will not get involved and will not work to shoot at any one side tomorrow.
SCHULTZ: Aya, how are the protesters who want Mubarak to leave—how are they responding to the treatment of the journalists who were trying to get the story out to the rest of the world?
BATRAWY: I think for those who are still calling for Mubarak‘s ouster, which is still, you know, a representative number from the Egyptian public, this is no surprise. And this is nothing new. I think to the rest of the world who hasn‘t followed Egypt on a day-to-day basis, this may be a bit surprising, because Egypt did appear on the surface to be tolerant and did appear on the surface to be a country of moderation.
Let‘s not forget Obama came here and gave a speech to the Muslim world from Cairo, because it represents so many values that American likes to tout and its allies.
But I think what it comings down to is that when push came to shove, this government, I believe, showed its intolerance towards anything that may reflect negatively on its own image, regardless of actually that it did in the end only hurt itself more by cracking down on these journalists, of course.
But you have to understand, a lot of foreign journalists have left because of this. And I don‘t think right now it‘s about P.R.-ing and public relations and making themselves look great. I think right now, they are thinking of survival.
SCHULTZ: OK. Thinking of survival, but obviously trying to move forward. And there‘s potentially a deal being brokered tonight with the White House and Egyptian officials that Mubarak would step down and Omar Suleiman would turn in as the president. He would take over the transitional government.
How do you think that would be received by the protesters? Would that be enough in your opinion for them to possibly accept that and wait for the elections?
BATRAWY: I think you are going to get a very mixed reaction to that if that happens. First of all, it‘s doubtful that that could happen. President Mubarak is a very strong-headed man. He‘s an army officer, retired—you know, he‘s in the air force and he said very clearly, I will step down when I want to step down, the way I want to. And there seems to be a bit of rift between Cairo and Washington right now.
But if that is the case and Omar Suleiman does take over after Mubarak, you will find some people in Egypt who support that decision but question the U.S. interference possibly in that. And then you will also find a large spectrum of these protesters who are still camped in Tahrir saying he is still one of Mubarak‘s man, and we are calling not just for the ouster of Mubarak, but his entire government.
SCHULTZ: And, Aya, you mentioned a rift between Cairo and the White House. And it‘s being reported by “The New York Times” that Mubarak will not meet with White House officials or negotiators at this point. It‘s all going through the vice president, Omar Suleiman.
Aya Batrawy, thank for your report tonight.
Still ahead: Dennis Kucinich on the White House negotiations with Egypt and a human rights monitor joins us live from Cairo. That‘s all coming up on our continuing coverage of the crisis in Cairo.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHAHIRA AMIN, JOURNALIST: We were not allowed to report on what was happening in Tahrir Square. I spent the whole day yesterday at Nile TV, and we were just covering the pro-Mubarak rallies, which I thought was ridiculous. And I don‘t want to be part of their propaganda machine. You know, when the system doesn‘t suit you, then just walk out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: That was Egyptian journalist Shahira Amin telling the BBC why she resigned her post as anchor of the state-run news channel, Nile TV.
Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.
Breaking news tonight: “The New York Times” is reporting that the White House is negotiating with Egyptian officials. The deal they‘re discussing—to replace Mubarak with Vice President Omar Suleiman.
And in Cairo this morning, protesters are preparing to march on the presidential palace. It‘s a day that could determine the outcome of this uprising.
In Cairo today, Ahmed Rehab from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, he is the executive director of CAIR‘s Chicago office and he joins us tonight.
Ahmed, thank you for your time.
Give us a sense of how intense it is going to be in the next few hours, leading up to the massive march that‘s going to be taking place at the presidential palace?
AHMED REHAB, CAIR CHICAGO (via telephone): Ed, it‘s good to be on the show.
Let me begin by saying that I‘m here in my individual capacity as an Egyptian who‘s interested in seeing democracy take place in this country like many other Egyptians. I‘m not here representing CAIR.
The mood is very apprehensive. It‘s very tense. People don‘t know what to expect tomorrow. It‘s just played out like a TV drama, so far, with lots of twists and turns. The violence that we saw on the streets, the, quote-unquote, “civilian violence,” really was not there. It was a new phenomenal.
It didn‘t occur until the, quote-unquote, “pro-Mubarak” forces or supporters came on to the streets, who are really nothing but a farce. I mean, a lot of people suspect that they were paid thugs, that President Mubarak himself was involved in that. He‘s too much of a political veteran and this was very politically naive action. Probably individuals in the Democratic National Party, which is quite the culprit here, the ruling party in this country, where most of the corruption occurs, probably somebody tried to play up to the president by doing him this favor, which obviously backfired.
SCHULTZ: Ahmed Rehab with us tonight—you say that you are not there on an official capacity with CAIR. You‘re there as an Egyptian citizen. Give us a sense of how determined these people are now to see Hosni Mubarak leave. And would they accept the reported negotiation of the vice president, Omar Suleiman, taking over for Mubarak? Do you think that that would disperse the crowd, go home, and wait for the elections? Would they accept that?
REHAB: I think I agree with the previous report from Aya, who was on your show just a few moments ago, that you‘re going to find a mixed bag. I was there marching with the Egyptian public on the first Tuesday, and then there again on the Friday that claimed Tahrir Square. And back again on the million man march. I was not there during the violence yesterday, but I talked to a lot of people.
And what I can tell you is that one of the demands of this revolution was change. People want democracy. They want freedom. They want human rights.
They want transparency in government. And they want an end to the politically corrupt atmosphere that really permeates many levels of government. Not just at the very top, but through all levels.
As far as Mubarak himself, my personal take on that is that the fact that he‘s going to leave in September satisfies the requests that Mubarak be out of the picture and that we get change. That does not have to happen instantly. The reason I say that is because I got a sense of how many average Egyptians really have a lot of respect for him as an individual, even if they don‘t like him as a politician. He‘s been around for 30 years.
Egyptians are sentimental people. They‘re also a very proud people. They don‘t want somebody who is a symbol of their country for so long be ousted in a humiliating fashion the way Ben Ali of Tunisia was. And I can respect that.
Now, for me, what I rally want to see happen is change in terms of the political culture, in terms—I mean, the corruption. So, I hope that there are rallies tomorrow, they don‘t fixate on Mubarak, who will be out of the picture, but rather on ending corruption, on calling for the end of emergency laws in this country.
SCHULTZ: How thorough was the crackdown today in your opinion? And will we get any coverage of this march tomorrow?
REHAB: Well, again, the crackdown that occurred on the journalists and even on the pro-democracy public was not—did not take place directly by government forces, meaning the police or the military, but rather by individuals, but many people don‘t know where they came from. Again, they suspect that they‘re paid thugs.
I don‘t believe that they‘re going to dominate tomorrow. I think the government learned its lesson, those in the government that were involved. The police itself, and that was the only violence we saw previously to—prior to the thugs, the police violence against the protesters in the early days of this revolution, which was a week ago, they‘re not going to be in full force tomorrow.
REHAB: So I don‘t suspect that you‘re going to see violence from them either, especially after the prime minister gave orders to the minister of interior, who‘s head of the police force, not to interfere in the protests in any violent fashion.
SCHULTZ: Ahmed, one quick question—there‘s not a legal entity that Mubarak is negotiating with. I mean, who‘s representing these people? I mean, if he makes a deal with the mob, how do you know it‘s going to stay?
REHAB: You mean in terms of the core democracy public?
SCHULTZ: In terms of all of that. I mean, for it‘s really—there‘s no legal entity there or no formation of a government that Mubarak would be negotiating with or Suleiman. So who‘s representing these people?
REHAB: Well, the pro-democracy public is not a political party at the table. They‘re the public. And their demands are clear.
They want an end to the Mubarak regime. They want free elections that are transparent and that are free and independent judiciary can oversee. They want a two-term presidency, not a presidency for life. They want a new parliament, because the last parliament elections were heavily rigged.
These are the demands from the street, from the public. The only thing the government needs to do is put out public announcements with a set of schedule—
REHAB: -- and guarantees that these demands are going to happen.
SCHULTZ: And this is—and this is one of the things that the Mubarak people are saying, is that they don‘t know if those demands will change, if they were to relinquish power.
Ahmed Rehab, thank you for joining us tonight. I appreciate it very much.
Our coverage of the crisis in Egypt continues after this. You‘re watching MSNBC. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: This, I would argue, is probably the most dangerous period of history in—of our entire involvement in the Middle East, at least in modern times. Israel is in danger of being surrounded by countries that are against the very existence of Israel or governed by radical organizations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: That was Senator John McCain on FOX last night, fanning the flames on the situation in the Middle East.
Here now to discuss the right‘s inflammatory remarks and where the United States currently stands is Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.
Congressman, good to have you with us tonight.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: Thanks, Ed.
SCHULTZ: It seems to be a running narrative by a lot of conservatives in this country that they‘re painting this to be some sort of an opportunity for Israel to widen this complication in the Middle East by doing something militarily. And that fearmongering that‘s being thrown out by Senator McCain—what‘s your response to that?
KUCINICH: I think that across the political spectrum, people are aware that this is a momentous occasion. It certainly does have an impact on Israel, but we have to remember that Egypt wasn‘t a really strong partner for Israel under Mubarak, because Egypt looked the other way while the occupation is going on and the settlement building was taking place. It‘s a new—it‘s a whole new terrain that‘s going to be formed here diplomatically.
And I think that we need to—the United States‘ role should be to reach out to the Arab and the Muslim world to look to establish relationships that can protect our friends in Israel, at the same time, address some of the pressing issues that are of concern to the people, not only in Egypt, but throughout the Middle East with respect to repressive regimes.
SCHULTZ: Are those kind of comments fanning the flames in your opinion? To say that Israel is now in its most dangerous position in recent time?
KUCINICH: Well, John McCain is a very strong supporter of Israel and he has every right to make the characterization. But I think that as you point out, we have to be very cautious right now about causing the events to cycle in a certain direction or to be seen only through the prism of one country. For example, the United States—we can‘t look at this only through our eyes and not allow that there‘s many different interests at stake here.
We have to be very careful that we do not put ourselves in a position of trying to direct events in Egypt—because in some ways, as Professor Levy (ph) has recently written, in some ways, it‘s none of our business.
SCHULTZ: Well, what about that, Congressman? Should the United States be negotiating the departure of Hosni Mubarak?
KUCINICH: We should be encouraging it. We cannot directly push him out. I think that it‘s important for the United States to use the connections it has with the Egyptian military to make sure that the military plays a role in a peaceful transition.
This has to be about a peaceful transition. It must be to protect those millions of Egyptians who are peacefully crying out for a new government, which is not repressive, which will address their economic needs.
So, you know, again, Senator McCain someone I have a great deal of
respect for, but we have to be very careful that we don‘t use this moment -
which is inherently dangerous—to create more danger. We have to see it in a way that gives us a chance to have new openings towards peace with other nations.
SCHULTZ: Congressman Dennis Kucinich, I appreciate your time tonight.
Thanks for joining us.
KUCINICH: Thank you.
SCHULTZ: Stay with us for our continuing coverage of the crisis in Egypt. We‘ll return with more right here on MSNBC, on THE ED SHOW.
SCHULTZ: In Cairo this morning, they‘re calling it the “day of departure,” but no one knows what‘s going to happen when the protesters make it from Tahrir Square to the presidential palace in just a few hours.
Stay with us for our continuing coverage of the crisis in Egypt.
SCHULTZ: It‘s coming up on 6:00 a.m. in the morning Cairo time. After the sunrise and the call to prayer, then comes the march on the presidential palace. What happens there could determine Egypt‘s future.
Sharif Abdel Kouddous is a senior producer for “Democracy Now” radio and television. He joins us tonight from Cairo.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS, DEMOCRACY NOW (via telephone): Hi, Ed. Thank you for having me.
SCHULTZ: You bet, Mr. Kouddous. Good to have you with us.
They are calling it a “day of departure.”
SCHULTZ: Yes. Sharif, this is Ed. They are calling it a day of departure.
SCHULTZ: Does that mean that tomorrow something really big is going to happen? How do you see this?
KOUDDOUS: Well, it‘s unclear exactly what is going to happen. I would say today, it is 6:00 a.m. (INAUDIBLE) I‘m speaking to you from Tahrir Square. There are tens of thousands of people here.
This is almost 24 hours up to the brutal assaults by the Mubarak regime on the peaceful protesters here at Tahrir. They managed to hold the square, but they suffered terribly. You can‘t walk 10 yards here without seeing someone bandaged up with, someone bruised, someone with a cast on or someone limping or with a deep gash or wound.
So, they‘re pretty proud of the fact that they‘ve managed to maintain occupation of the square, but they did suffer for it.
And it‘s unclear what‘s going to happen today. Some people have said they are planning a march on the presidential palace, even though Hosni Mubarak is in Sharm el-Sheikh in Sinai.
Some people are saying they should hold their ground here and to keep the occupation of the square. They‘re afraid they‘re going to lose it. But regardless of what happens, many expect the numbers to be vast.
SCHULTZ: But to call it a “day of departure,” are they going to have trouble marching on the palace? Are they going to meet resistance on the way to the palace? Is this going to be a street fight all the way there?
KOUDDOUS: Well, the military has not blocked their way in any way so far. That remains to be seen.
And again, Ed, I have to stress, it‘s not clear that there is going to be this mass-coordinated march. There is disagreements amongst groups of whether to maintain control of the square or march on the palace. The military has not harmed them yet, but what happened yesterday is that the military did stand by and let thugs on horseback and camel come in here and beat them and throw stones at them and throw Molotov cocktails at them.
And so, they are a bit more apprehensive about the army‘s stance than they were previously.
SCHULTZ: OK. So, they have been subdued? Or do you see them as determined as they were several days ago?
KOUDDOUS: Oh, I would say more resolute than ever. They are defiant.
After managing to hold off the mob that came in yesterday, armed with whips and sticks and Molotov cocktails and guns, live ammunition was used as well, and that they managed to hold it here, they are more determined than ever to oust Mubarak from office. And, yes, so, they‘re defiant and they have set up barricades now, they have a defense system now. They are not subdued, but there are many wounded. But I would say they‘re almost as strong as ever.
SCHULTZ: What is the response of the protesters knowing that journalists are being detained, equipment is being confiscated, and the suppression of the news is well underway by the Mubarak regime?
KOUDDOUS: Ed, this is a very ominous development. It‘s much harder to work here now. The people that I work with who have cameras—we have to hide the cameras in bags when we walk on the streets of Cairo.
Here in Tahrir, it‘s fine. The people here welcome journalists. It‘s the Mubarak regime that‘s trying to crack down.
And so, I would say Tahrir, it‘s safest to be in Tahrir for journalists.
SCHULTZ: Are the Mubarak loyalists growing in numbers or diminishing in numbers?
KOUDDOUS: Today, we saw running battles, a lot of rocks around the periphery of one of the entrances to Tahrir, and the protesters here were actually gaining ground on the Mubarak forces, is what I saw. And so—and the numbers of the Mubarak forces seem to be dwindling.
And so, it‘s unclear what‘s happening on the outskirts. As you know, Ed, I can only know what I‘m seeing on the ground right here in Tahrir.
KOUDDOUS: But it seems that they‘re dwindling, from what I can tell.
SCHULTZ: Sharif Abdel Kouddous, senior producer of “Democracy Now” radio and television—you are brave along with all the other journalists who are there, trying to do the job for the world. Thank you, Sharif. I appreciate your time tonight.
KOUDDOUS: Thank you for having me.
SCHULTZ: You bet.
Stay with us for our continuing coverage of the crisis in Egypt.
You‘re watching MSNBC.
SCHULTZ: It‘s coming up now on 6:00 a.m. in Egypt, Friday morning, three hours until protesters will start their march from Tahrir square to the presidential palace. What will they do there, what will Hosni Mubarak do? What will the army do could determine Egypt‘s future.
That‘s THE ED SHOW. I‘m Ed Schultz.
“THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell starts right now.
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