The Ed Show for Thursday, February 10th, 2011
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
Guests: Rachel Maddow, Barak Barfi, Ashraf Khalil, Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Katrina Vanden
Heuvel, Ahmed Rehab, Bobby Ghosh
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Our coverage continues on THE ED SHOW. Good evening, Ed.
ED SCHULTZ, HOST: Good evening, Rachel. And if I may start with you tonight, we go to day 18 of these protests in Egypt and now, we‘re reporting tonight that tomorrow is going to be the biggest day of protests.
What does that mean in your opinion? I mean, when do the Egyptian people say, OK, this guy gave a speech. We thought he was going to leave.
He‘s staying. The vice president shows up, tells us to go home, and, oh,
by the way, don‘t watch TV.
MADDOW: Yes. But my question is: when did the Egyptian people sleep? I mean, I realize we‘ve got a time shift in our coverage of seven hours from the East Coast to the U.S. to what we cover in Cairo but the protests that we have been covering oftentimes are running right through the night as we are covering them.
I mean, right now, it‘s 5:00 a.m. in Cairo and these correspondents are out there and the protesters are still out there. And we see these waves of adrenaline and energy coursing through these crowds, we see the crowds sort of wax and wane with the incredible excitement that they show. It is almost impossible to believe this is going into two and a half weeks now. I do think tomorrow will be the biggest day of protests yet.
The biggest day we‘ve seen up until this point was this Tuesday and it seems like this is something that is snowballing, it is growing. It is not something which we should expect the protesters to tire.
SCHULTZ: Well, not to be inflammatory, but I think people around the world, some of us, me, anyway, are wondering, you know, when are they going to take it to the palace and get something done? Obviously, this guy isn‘t going to step down and I thought the vice president stepped up tonight and pretty much dissed them all, and there they are back on the street.
SCHULTZ: But our coverage will continue.
Thanks, Rachel. You‘ll join us again later on in this hour and I really appreciate that.
Good evening, Americans. And welcome to THE ED SHOW tonight from New York. This is MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the Egyptian uprising.
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt refuses to resign and those conducting the largest popular revolt in Egypt‘s history—well, they‘re outraged. They‘ve been outraged for 17 days. Protesters say Friday‘s demonstration will be the largest since the uprising began last month.
During his speech tonight, Mubarak remained defiant in the face of worldwide pressure for him to leave his position.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. HOSNI MUBARAK, EGYPT (through translator): I cannot and will not accept to be dictated orders from outside, no matter what the source is and no matter what the excuses or justifications are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: OK. I take that as Mubarak saying, United States, just shut up. Mubarak says he has delegated authority to the vice president, Omar Suleiman.
Well, President Obama released a written statement tonight saying, quote, “It‘s not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful, or sufficient.”
We‘re joined tonight by three journalists on the ground in Cairo. They are Barak Barfi, who is the research fellow at the New America Foundation; Ashraf Khalil, a contributor for “Foreign Policy” magazine; and Sharif Abdel Kouddous, senior producer of “Democracy Now” radio and television.
Mr. Barfi, thanks for joining us tonight. We‘ll start with you.
What can we expect tomorrow? When the world wakes up to watch Egypt tomorrow this now being said to be the largest protest tomorrow, what can we expect?
BARAK BARFI, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION (via telephone): Well, people here are vexed by Mubarak‘s latest statement but they are still adamant that he resign. And tomorrow, they are planning to come out in force for the largest protest in the 18 days since this uprising began. They are calling for more than a million people to come out and join them in the square and we‘re likely to see those type of numbers because as you know, Ed, Friday is the day of rest, is the weekend in the Arab world, and people go to the mosques and after they go to the mosques, they‘re going to come out in force and be organized and join the protesters in Liberation Square, Ed.
SCHULTZ: Are the people afraid of the military?
BARFI: Not at all, Ed. The people think the military is on their side. People are taking pictures with the soldiers and the tanks and the armored personnel carriers.
The military is making no efforts to block the protesters to reach Liberation Square. The people believe that the military backs their uprising, Ed.
SCHULTZ: So, why don‘t they take it all the way to the palace? Is tomorrow the day?
You had Hosni Mubarak come out today. There were reports that he was going to step down, OK, the transitional period, and whatever he wants to call it. He goes to Omar Suleiman. But he‘s still there.
And many around the world think that he is still calling the shots.
So, is he inviting them to be more violent and take this to a new level?
What do you think?
BARFI: We‘ve got to remember that Hosni Mubarak is a cautious and cunning man, to quote the words of Mary Anne Weaver, author and journalist that has met him many times. He is very precise in what he wants to do. He is running the show, very calibrated behind the scenes how he wants it to go.
Now the ball is in the court of the protesters. They have to decide whether they‘ve had enough and whether they‘re going to march on the parliament and presidential palace. They tried organizing these protests in the last few days. They petered out. Tomorrow could be the day where they make their big thrust forward, Ed.
SCHULTZ: The Vice President Suleiman tonight told everyone to go home. I was amazed at this comment. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICE PRES. OMAR SULEIMAN, EGYPT (through translator): I call on the youth of Egypt, the youth and the heroes of Egypt, go back home. Go back to your work. The country needs your hands. Let‘s join hands to build, develop in creativity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Mr. Barfi, how was that received today by the Egyptian protesters?
BARFI: The protesters that I spoke to in Liberation Square after Vice President Suleiman‘s speech were incredulous. They thought he was taking an arrogant and hardy line, and they have said over a countless times, over the last 18 days, that they want a change in government and they won‘t accept these authoritarian figures, telling them what to do anymore. They have no faith in the president here and they have no faith in Suleiman, Ed.
SCHULTZ: All right. Barak Barfi, thanks for joining us tonight.
Now, let‘s go to Ashraf Khalil, who is the contributor for the “Foreign Policy” magazine.
Ashraf, thank you for your time tonight. Explain this transfer of power that was announced today. Where is—who is the president, who is the vice president? Who‘s on first and second base? And who‘s calling the shots?
ASHRAF KHALIL, FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE (via telephone): It‘s a little bit murky, Ed. It‘s—I mean, President Mubarak made sort of vague mention of transferring some of his powers to Omar Suleiman, the newly appointed vice president and either way, it‘s not acceptable to the protesters here in the streets and here in Tahrir. Even if Omar Suleiman becomes the unquestioned president of Egypt, he is not acceptable to a large percentage of these protesters.
One man told me earlier tonight that Omar Suleiman has been Mubarak‘s counselor for the years that were—counselor for the last 15 years. So, why would we expect anything different?
I mean, they want Mubarak gone but many people told me tonight that even Mubarak‘s departure is just step one. They want the whole system reworked. They want to dissolve the parliament.
They want to go back from parliamentary elections that were widely decried as fraudulent last fall. They want new elections. They want to choose a new president.
SCHULTZ: Ashraf, isn‘t it true that constitutionally within the rules of their government he can‘t turn it over to the vice president? Is that correct?
KHALIL: I believe that, Ed, that is within the letter of the law, but
I mean, I‘ve heard any number of people here, including legal scholars and law professors saying that the Egyptian Constitution has been ignored and monkeyed with so many different times that it‘s very—it‘s kind of facetious to suddenly be hiding behind constitutional technicalities and legal terms at this point.
SCHULTZ: It‘s almost if you listen closely to President Mubarak and the Vice President Suleiman, it‘s almost as if they know the protesters have gone as far as they‘re going to go and they‘re not intimidated whatsoever. Or maybe they‘ve been given some unbelievable assurances by the military that they don‘t have anything to worry about.
This is Suleiman last week telling ABC News that the protesters‘ parents should come get them. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SULEIMAN: We will not use violence against the youth. But we will ask them to go home and we‘ll ask their parents to ask them to come home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: So, did Hosni Mubarak change his mind at the last minute? How did this come down? The world was reporting that he was going to, you know, step away completely.
KHALIL: Well, first I got to say, I find the comments from Omar Suleiman completely hilarious because I spoke to three different people tonight who were there with their parents or parents who were there with their children. So, that one is not going to fly.
As far as the kind of bait and switch with the resignation, I think that‘s something that‘s going to come out in the press, in the coming days. One of the most amazing things about this is that from what the Obama administration was saying before the speech and after the speech, you really got the impression they thought he was going to say something different. I‘m very curious to see what messages were sent from Egypt, from Cairo, to Washington before this speech.
SCHULTZ: Ashraf Khalil, thanks for your time tonight.
We now turn to Sharif Abdel Kouddous, senior producer of “Democracy Now” radio and television.
Sharif, good to have you with us tonight. I appreciate your time as always.
What are the protesters telling you about tomorrow?
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS, DEMOCRACY NOW (via telephone): Well, I‘m standing in Tahrir Square right now, it‘s after 5:00 in the morning. There are still thousands of people here and they plan a massive march tomorrow to fill Tahrir. And not just Tahrir, but walking the streets of Cairo.
You know, a couple days ago, for the first time, they occupied the street that holds the parliament building, the People‘s Assembly building. There‘s a few hundred marchers after Mubarak‘s speech walked toward the state TV building, which is a few hundred yards from where I‘m standing right now, essentially a propaganda arm of the Mubarak regime.
There are reports of a few hundred people marching to the presidential palace.
And so, as one protester told me they plan to have the ground of Cairo shake beneath their feet as they take to the streets in numbers and we have not seen yet in this 18-day uprising.
SCHULTZ: Sharif, you were attacked on the street while reporting last week. Are you concerned about another escalation of violence where what media people are left in Cairo are going to be safe? Or is this still a dangerous situation for you?
KOUDDOUS: I want to be clear: I was not attacked. The military approached me and tried to detain us but I was not attacked.
Many thought the reaction to the speech would be one of rage and rioting, but it was not. It was an act of defiance. Many hundreds of protesters here took off their shoes in a display of disgust at Mubarak‘s speech. All the violence that has come has come from the regime. The protesters here have defended themselves against that violence.
But as they continue to remain peaceful and they plan to march and to make their voices heard tomorrow, and to fill the streets of Cairo, as one protester told me, they‘ll try to take Cairo bit by bit if they have to until Mubarak leaves.
SCHULTZ: Sharif, there was a story printed in “The L.A. Times” within the last 24 hours that said that the root of all of this is labor. Did this whole thing start because of labor issues? What do you know about that?
KOUDDOUS: Well, look, this uprising is led mainly by the youth generation, what they call the Facebook generation. But one of those groups is called the April 6th Youth Movement. April 6th is the date of a strike in 2008 in Mahala, textile city, one of the biggest in the world, 30,000 textile workers went on strike (INAUDIBLE) by the regime.
That started this wave of protests that ultimately led in this uprising on 25th. Organized labor joined this uprising this week. It‘s very significant.
There are strikes happening across the country right now. I saw tens of thousands of lawyers walk in here today. Tens of thousands of doctors in their lab coats walked in here today.
Organized labor is very much rooted in this uprising and has now joined it full force and is putting a lot of pressure on Hosni Mubarak right now.
SCHULTZ: I want to—want you to elaborate a little bit more on that. This, I think, is very under reported right now, that the root of this is labor—and you say that there are more strikes that are taking place throughout the country which, of course, was set off by what really happened back in 2008. But this is starting to gain momentum. Correct?
KOUDDOUS: Well, this uprising started on January 25th but it has been smoldering for years and really I think the protests started beginning after the April 6th, 2008 strike in Mahala by textile factory workers that was suppressed.
And now, what we‘ve seen after this uprising led by the Facebook generation, the youth here. We‘ve seen 16,000 workers of several companies working for the Suez Canal authority. We‘ve seen 1,500 workers in Mahala, that same place, strike again. We‘ve seen workers strike out of the (INAUDIBLE) journalists‘ building which is the state‘s newspaper here. We‘ve seen electrical workers strike.
And so, now that organized labor has joined, this will put much greater economic pressure on Hosni Mubarak. Already, the tourism industry has been greatly affected. The Suez Canal is still operation. But if that is shut down, that will be very significant.
So, right now, the pressure is only mounting on Hosni Mubarak to step down. He keeps saying he is making concessions. None of these concessions meet the demands by the protesters.
KOUDDOUS: The number one demand is for him to step down.
SCHULTZ: Sharif Abdel Kouddous, thank you for your report tonight. I appreciate it.
Isn‘t it interesting that all of this arguably started in the Nile Delta over labor issues?
President Hosni Mubarak declared that he was handing over power to the vice president, but that‘s not nearly enough for the protesters in Egypt as our coverage continues tonight. The escalating crisis in Egypt, we will cover all of the events.
Stay with us. We‘re right back.
SCHULTZ: President Obama grapples with the very latest developments in Egypt while the Egyptian vice president tells protesters to go home. They‘re not going home.
Our coverage of the crisis in Egypt continues in a moment. Stay with us. You‘re watching MSNBC.
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to our coverage here on MSNBC tonight.
President Obama watched President Mubarak‘s speech tonight on Air Force One. Then President Obama met with his national security team.
Tonight, the White House released a statement. It says, quote, “The Egyptian government must put forward a credible, concrete, and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy. The universal rights of the Egyptian people must be respected and their aspirations must be met. We believe that this transition must immediately demonstrate irreversible political change and a negotiated path to democracy.”
If I may add, it‘s a lot of political tap dancing that‘s going on by the White House. Nothing heavy-handed at all. They are spectators to this.
Monitoring the events in Egypt with us tonight, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of “The Nation” magazine.
Katrina, good to have you with us tonight.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, THE NATION MAGAZINE: Thank you.
SCHULTZ: How is in your opinion the president and his advisers and the State Department handling all of this now that we go to day number 18 and mixed signals from the president and really demeaning talk coming from the vice president telling these protesters to go home but—oh, by the way don‘t watch television. What do you make of all of this?
VANDEN HEUVEL: You know, I think we all need to step back a little and speak with some humility.
Egyptians are putting their lives on the line. Hundreds of thousands came out yesterday as you reported, Ed, across the country—labor, doctors, lawyers, across class, gender, religious lines. I think it is the Egyptians to sort out, and they will. They have shown the world, they have shown us what a democracy movement looks like.
I believe that behind the scenes, because this country has over invested in, quote, “stability,” propping up dictators, intelligence, security, military apparatuses that we have to be using our leverage, that $1.5 billion a year we give the Egyptian military, to make sure that there is some process, some outcome that will resolve in a more democratic country.
But as you pointed out, Ed, earlier, you know, the labor movement, others in Egypt, have been working toward this moment for years. And it is those people who in this country, human rights organizers and independent trade union organizers, were the ones who put a check on the repression, not our government.
So, I hope that this is a moment to redefine U.S. national security thinking in this region. It is a beginning. It is a process just as democracy is a process.
But we must begin to disinvest from security intelligence apparatuses which don‘t make us secure and reinvest in civic governance, and in economic development which Egypt as it emerges from this extraordinary moment will need desperately.
SCHULTZ: Katrina, what do you make of some of the comments that are coming from conservatives in America? Almost endorsing Hosni Mubarak. And now, it‘s being reported that obviously labor has played a big role in these uprisings around the country.
I mean, does labor‘s role in this suggest why some Republicans are supporting Mubarak?
VANDEN HEUVEL: No, I think conservatives—I think these neocons have a very hard time with democracies that emerge from within a country. The great failure of this last decade was the belief you could bring democracy at the tip of a bayonet, with bombs in President Bush‘s case. That is a disastrous fraud.
So, I think neoconservatives are very uncomfortable when they see real democracy in the streets and, of course, labor is something they wish to repress at home. And they don‘t love dissidents at home and they don‘t love dissidents abroad. So, to me, it‘s a kind of coherent whole I‘m witnessing.
SCHULTZ: So, I sense, Katrina, tonight that you think that the White House has gone as far as it can go, that this is going to have to be a really done by the Egyptian people and President Obama or our position can‘t be too heavy handed, or it could be easily misinterpreted and it could cause more problems.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Yes. I think it is a mistake because I think what‘s important, what we‘re seeing in the streets is not any Americanism. This is a departure. And I think if there is a heavy hand, but let us see behind the scenes some real movement toward pushing toward some kind of process of democracy. If a heavy hand could back fire in Egypt.
On the other hand, if we see tomorrow, this extraordinary Friday, which is predicted to be 20 million, if we see a military crackdown, if we‘re not using our leverage behind the scenes in good ways, you could then see an outbreak of real anti-Americanism because there is hope. President Obama in Cairo spoke of a new engagement with the Middle East. Words matter. Words matter.
And let us hope our actions will some day soon equate with our deeds, because for decades as we have propped up one dictator after another, we have not done well by the values of a country that began in democracy and must continue to find that balance in the right way in this world.
SCHULTZ: And one other issue—the White House says there must be a negotiated path to democracy. What do they mean by that? What negotiated path? Either Mubarak is in or he‘s out, and there is a new path to a new government that is going to satisfy these people, that is going to satisfy labor and work with labor and create jobs?
What do you make of it?
VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, I mean, there are four demands—we hear from this wonderful network, this broad network, including labor, but young people and across the spectrum—as I said, professionals, middle class, people out of the military who didn‘t get pensions and are sick of the corruption. But they want a constitutional process. They want fair and free elections. They want an end to this emergency law which doesn‘t give space for a process that needs to begin.
So I think that there is a coherence to their demands and the White House in the background and the international community. I mean, don‘t forget there is a west that is bigger than the United States—with humility can respect what Egyptians are doing and work behind the scenes again to find a way forward.
SCHULTZ: Katrina Vanden Heuvel, always a pleasure.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Thank you very much.
SCHULTZ: Thank you for joining us tonight.
Egypt has the largest military on the African continent but it remains to be seen if it can maintain order as the revolutionary transition goes forward. Tomorrow is the big day. What about the military?
My colleague Rachel Maddow will join me as our coverage of the escalating crisis in Egypt continues. Stay with us.
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to our continuing coverage tonight of the protests in Egypt.
Mohamed ElBaradei posted today, “Egypt will explode,” on his Twitter account after President Hosni Mubarak refused to step down.
Now, ElBaradei is calling on the military to intervene. ElBaradei tweeted, “The army must save the country now. I call on the Egyptian army to immediately interfere to rescue Egypt. The credibility of the army is on the line.”
Egypt has the largest armed forces on the African continent. They are very powerful and independent. The Egyptian armed forces report only to the president who, at this hour, is still Hosni Mubarak.
For more on the military situation in Egypt, we are joined by my colleague and friend, Rachel Maddow, host of “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.”
Who‘s guarding the fort over there? Can I ask it that way? I mean, this is—this is really unusual.
Now, you reported tonight, Rachel, that the military council met today, which is a very unusual occurrence in the structure of their government. Tell us about it.
MADDOW: (AUDIO BREAK) equivalent our Joint Chiefs of Staff if our Joint Chiefs of Staff met three times every 40 years—I mean, these guys met in 1967. They met in 1973, both times during wars. And they met today. And that was it. It is a rare occasion for them to convene the supreme body of their military.
But they did it today. They met without Hosni Mubarak and without Omar Suleiman, who is the vice president, to whom Mr. Mubarak has transferred all of his powers apparently. And the military met independently.
They told protesters all of their demands would be met. They put out a communique saying as the military they were going to be meeting in—continuously from here on out in order to protect the people and make sure the legitimate demands of the protesters were met.
That‘s the reason everything that happened today happened. That‘s the reason Tahrir Square filled up. That‘s the reason all the networks went to wall-to-wall coverage. It‘s the reason everybody thought Mubarak was going to resign. It‘s because everybody thought that the military was finally stepping in.
Whether we were going to call it a coup or not was sort of the only thing yet to be decided. But the military had taken the side of the protesters. They had split themselves off from Mubarak. And that is how this thing was going to end.
It was reported not just by us, but by everybody, with multiple sourcing. Then something happened and it changed. And Mubarak stood up there and he indicated no split with the military. He indicated that Suleiman would be the guy taking power.
We‘ve heard nothing from the military since. So what started all of this was the military saying—giving every indication they‘d split from the government. Now the government says that‘s not happened. We haven‘t heard anything from the military.
It‘s the other shoe waiting to drop.
SCHULTZ: Tomorrow, I guess you could say, in the sense of where the military is going to come down, depending on how aggressive these protesters are en masse, how aggressive they are going to the presidential palace, if that is the plan, what the military will do. Will they defend the palace? Will they defend Hosni Mubarak? Will they defend the vice president?
MADDOW: It‘s an interesting question, too, when you look at the structure of their military. There is a presidential guard, a sort of subset of the military that‘s even autonomous—slightly autonomous within the structure of the Egyptian military. That‘s who‘s responsible for the president‘s security and for the physical security of the grounds around the presidential palace.
And so we could be facing a situation where protesters—the military in general has not been confronting, where protesters march to that presidential palace. As you‘ve been suggesting tonight, they get there and they find that a faction of the military is willing to defend that palace with force.
Then do we have a split between the military, where there is a standoff between different armed factions? Are we looking to the military itself to find out if there might be a mutiny situation? I mean, it is a very well paid, very well organized, very professional military. But we are starting to see signs of splits within that military, with sympathizers among the rank and file wanting to join the protesters.
SCHULTZ: I am curious just how good our intel is on all of this. I wonder if the White House is as confused as many people around the world as to what actually is going on in Egypt, and who is in charge, and how this is going to unfold. Pretty much a crap shoot, it seems like to me. What do you think?
MADDOW: One of the things that we tried to really track down with some fresh reporting late this afternoon was whether or not the U.S. military was talking to the Egyptian military. Because if the military is key to how this all sorts out, maybe if we have military-to-military contacts, maybe that will be the way we‘ll be able to get some good intelligence.
From our sources, from NBC News sources in Washington, we were not told that there‘s been any fresh level of contact between the U.S. military and the Egyptian military here. So what we‘re waiting to find out is if they split from the government. There is no indication from Washington that we‘re going to be able to find out through the generals and through all of these people who have all this very close military cooperation over the years.
SCHULTZ: Rachel Maddow of “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW,” thank you for working late tonight for THE ED SHOW. I appreciate it so much.
MADDOW: Thanks for having me, Ed. I appreciate it.
SCHULTZ: Absolutely. Protesters are calling Friday a day of martyrs to honor the 300 dead so far. But Friday may also bring the largest crowds into the streets of Cairo since the crisis began, with the uncompromising demand Mubarak must go. Our coverage of the escalating crisis in Egypt continues in a moment. Stay with us.
SCHULTZ: Coming up on THE ED SHOW on Monday night, the absolute attack on labor in this country and the wage earners, and how many governors across America are going after pensions. How do you grow the economy by cutting somebody‘s pension? Don‘t we have enough money to take care of it? That‘s Monday night here on THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.
And thank you for joining us tonight as we continue to watch the events unfold in Egypt. Rejoining me now to get the latest on the massive protests in the streets of Cairo is Sharif Abdul Kouddous senior producer of Democracy Now radio and television.
Mr. Kouddous, the reporting that is taking place out of Egypt, are we getting the filtered or unfiltered story coming out of Egypt, as opposed to what we saw before the crackdown by Mubarak‘s thugs last week?
KOUDDOUS: It is hard for me to tell on the ground here what the reporting has been. As a journalist, it‘s hard to get information from outside of Tahrir.
What I can tell you is right now it‘s sunrise. It‘s prayer—sunrise prayer here in Tahrir. And today the Egyptian people are going to deliver their response to Mubarak‘s speech last night. It promises to be a massive day.
We saw the Mubarak regime try to crack down on journalists. We saw many western journalists detained, journalists beaten. One journalist was killed. That has not quelled the protests here. And there‘s—I‘m glad to see that many reporters, both Egyptian, Arab and western, continue to cover this popular uprising very closely.
SCHULTZ: Outside of the fact that there‘s just going to be more people, what do you expect to be different tomorrow?
KOUDDOUS: Well, some protesters—there are different plans happening, but they plan to march in different areas of Cairo, not just in Tahrir, but in different areas, places where they took to the streets on the first day of this uprising on January 25th. Places like the parliament building, places like the TV building, places in downtown Cairo, places in other districts of Cairo.
And so—and also the sheer numbers are just supposed to be much greater. We‘ve seen the Mubarak regime use different tactics to try and quell this uprising. We‘ve seen them use brutality. We‘ve seen them use state propaganda. We‘ve seen them use other types of tactics, giving so-called concessions.
All of those have not worked. They‘ve only made the protests grow and grow. So instead of quelling them, they‘re actually swelling them.
SCHULTZ: If commerce starts to break down—unemployment is high—but now you‘ve told us earlier tonight that there are strikes taking place that are going to affect the economy. How long can Mubarak hang on? How long can his regime stay in place? Because there is going to be a complete breakdown of society if these strikes continue to grow. And it would seem that the desperation of the people would become even greater.
KOUDDOUS: Well, that‘s right. The economy is suffering greatly. What the Mubarak regime has tried to do is to have the public blame the protesters for the economic situation. That has not happened. They are blaming Mubarak for the economic situation. And so as strikes continue, as this uprising continues to have its grip on the economy, more and more pressure will come to bear on Mubarak.
It is unclear how long this will take. As one man just told me, Mubarak is rigid. He‘s a military man. But with enough pressure from us, he will break.
SCHULTZ: How will he break? Today, he gives a speech and basically, despite all of the protests of the last 17 days, he says, I‘m not going anywhere, and I‘m going to do this pretty much on my time, although the vice president is going to take operational control. I mean, that‘s how I read it.
It seems like the people of Egypt can‘t break Mubarak from getting out of the way. He is going to do it his way and that‘s it. Or am I reading that wrong?
KOUDDOUS: Well, they see this as a standoff, and they‘re willing to out-wait him. Mubarak has been in power for 30 years. It may take longer than 17 days to get him out of power. In Tunisia, it took four weeks.
So people here are resolute. They‘re steadfast. Their numbers only continue to grow. Many of the activists here tell me what can we go back to? We have been denouncing the Mubarak regime for three weeks now and our faces have been all over TV. We will be targeted.
There is no choice. This is our chance. And we‘re not looking back.
SCHULTZ: Sharif, tell us about the people who are protesting. Do they go home and eat dinner? I mean, are they destitute? Are they—do they just have the shirts on their backs? How do they function? What is it like day to day in Egypt, from what you can see, how they‘re functioning?
KOUDDOUS: The protesters cut across class lines, cut across religious lines, cut across political lines. So some protesters spend a few days here, then will go home and regroup and then come back. But there‘s always the presence of many thousands here. It‘s grown from just a couple tents to a virtual tent city, with pathways and different kinds of encampments and food now.
And, you know, you never go hungry in Tahrir. People are always giving out bread and sandwiches and water and juice. And they‘ve really made this an occupied space, their space. They are very proud to continue to occupy, despite this, despite attacks by Mubarak‘s thug and despite continued propaganda against them.
So it‘s really young and old, rich and poor who are here. And few of them have stayed constantly for the two weeks. Many go home after a few days and come back again. But there is always a very big and visible presence.
SCHULTZ: Sharif Abdul Kouddous, thank you for your time tonight and that excellent reporting from Cairo. I appreciate it very much.
Our next guest just got an apartment overlooking Tahrir Square. He is an eyewitness to the revolutionary changes in Egypt that might have seemed unthinkable just weeks ago. Our coverage continues in a moment.
(BEGNI VIDEO CLIP)
RARIA ALAA, PRO-DEMOCRACY ACTIVIST: I know that tomorrow is a huge day. It‘s unlike any other day. Not like any day when people just gathered there. Millions and millions are going to gather tomorrow. And they want to mobilize and do something more. I know that they no longer want to sit ignored like this in Tahrir Square. They want to do something further.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: A protester in Tahrir Square tonight talking to al Jazeera about what happens when the sun comes up in Cairo, which is moments away. Today, in Tahrir Square, the protests were led by striking workers, laborers. Outside Cairo, protesters set fire to buildings. And in the south of Egypt, farmers were angry over bread shortages and blocked roads with flaming palm trees.
Joining me now on the phone from Cairo is Ahmed Rehab. He is the executive director of the Chicago office of the Council on Islamic American Relations.
Ahmed, great to have you with us tonight. Your anticipation of what is going to unfold when the sun comes up not too long from now in Cairo?
AHMED REHAB, COUNCIL ON ISLAMIC AMERICAN RELATIONS: As a peaceful resolution, the only weapon that you have is numbers and perseverance. And that is precisely what these people have shown the world that they are capable of. It‘s a glorious revolution from that perspective.
They have been very restrained, very committed to peaceful means. But that does not mean they‘re going to sit idly by as this government continues to ignore their legitimate requests and demands for freedom and democracy.
SCHULTZ: Mohamed Elbaradei Tweeted after Mubarak‘s speech today that, quote, “Egypt will explode. The army must save the country now.”
What did he mean by that in your opinion?
REHAB: Well, when you have millions in the streets and you have—you don‘t have a police force manning the streets anymore, because of the dubious government‘s decision earlier—two weeks ago to remove the entire police force off the streets, you can expect anything. I don‘t expect violence from the protesters. But should there be large numbers and should they descend on sensitive locations, like the state television building or the presidential palace, one may anticipate a government response that can be less than peaceful.
That is a concern that I think Elbaradei is referring to.
SCHULTZ: How long are these protests going to last? I mean, what has to happen for the crowd to be satisfied and disperse and know that there is going to be fundamental political change and Mubarak is going to be gone? Because everything that‘s been said so far has only motivated them to come back.
What is it going to take and how long is that perseverance that you talked about? How much resolve do they have?
REHAB: Ed, when the revolution started, it started as an appeal. People had no expectation but for reforms to happen under the current administration and for Mubarak to promise not to run for office. But when the government responded with brutality, first through the police force and then later through thugs really that they hired to intimidate people and reporters, and after people shed blood, and the blood price for freedom was paid, the demand increased. And the demand—the bar became higher.
People now wanted a full regime change. They don‘t trust the current regime to institute reforms. The end goal is democracy. And the only reason the people are so adamant is they don‘t believe this regime is capable of bringing about democracy.
SCHULTZ: Ahmed Rehab, thank you for your time. Appreciate it. The chant in Egypt today “revolution, revolution until victory.” Our continuing coverage of the crisis in Egypt continues. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are chanting revolution, revolution until victory. And victory here means that this regime has to go down. It‘s not about Mubarak or Suleiman. We don‘t want the military. We don‘t want the police state anymore. We want a modern, secular state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: A modern, secular state. Let‘s see if it happens. Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the situation in Egypt. Hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo earlier. What they had hoped for was the resignation of their President Hosni Mubarak. What they got was a very confusing speech.
Mubarak did not back down. He says he will stay put until the September elections. Can these people keep this up that long? Tonight the people of Egypt are demanding answers and preparing for another round of massive protests, which is being billed as the biggest protest to date, which will happen in a few hours.
Joining me now is the deputy international editor for the “Time Magazine,” Bobby Ghosh. Bobby, good to have you with us. Appreciate your time.
BOBBY GHOSH, “TIME MAGAZINE”: Hi, Ed.
SCHULTZ: What is your call? What do you think is going to happen? How would this protest in the next few hours, throughout the next day, day number 18, be any different from any of the others that are out there, in the wake of what Mubarak did today and in the wake of what the response was from the vice president?
GHOSH: I think the sheer outrage at Mubarak‘s speech and Mubarak‘s defiance is going to bring more people out into the streets tomorrow and maybe in the next couple of days. A great deal depends on whether the military is prepared to allow that.
Let‘s remind ourselves that all of this has been possible over the last two weeks because the military has made—basically taken a back seat. The military had an opportunity today to finally distance itself from Mubarak. It choked at the last minute. If the military allows the people to continue to come out, then I think you will see this momentum continue.
You have new people joining in the last couple days. You had trade unions. You had doctors, lawyers, and other professional groups. I think even more of these will join.
But the crucial question is, will the soldiers stand back and let it happen? Will the soldiers remain a buffer between Mubarak‘s thugs and the peaceful protesters?
SCHULTZ: What do you think will be the breaking point?
GHOSH: I think the breaking point—for Mubarak, it‘s hard to know. If he wasn‘t persuaded in the last couple days, it is hard to know what it‘s going to take. I suspect it‘s going to take the generals to go back to him and say, we can‘t keep doing this indefinitely. The economy is suffering and people are—what you‘re hoping for, that people just go home is not happening. You have to go.
The other thing that needs to happen I think is some of the neighbors need to get involved. This can‘t just be about the United States trying to influence, however softly, events there. I think the neighborhood needs to get involved. And maybe the U.S. needs to bring them in, the Saudis, the Qataris, the other people, the Kuwaitis.
And I think these are people with whom Mubarak has had relationships for a very long time. And they need to be whispering in his ear and saying, look, you had your moment. It‘s time to go. They need, by the way, to be saying the exact same to Suleiman. They need to be telling him you can‘t fantasize about becoming king after the king.
At best you can be there very temporarily. Those crowds don‘t want you any more than they want Mubarak. So you should be prepared to go as well.
SCHULTZ: Mr. Ghosh, do you think those neighboring countries are prepared to do that?
GHOSH: Well, I think some are. I think that Qatar—the Qataris have shown an interest in doing that. They‘ve done that in other parts of the region. It‘ll take the U.S. to press them a little harder. I think they don‘t want to see this revolution continue to gather momentum any more than anybody else does, because the more you see this happening in Egypt, the more it‘s likely to happen elsewhere.
There are some players in the region—I‘m not suggesting Muammar Gadhafi is going to go talk to Mubarak. This is his worst nightmare. But there are others in the region who I think can play a role.
SCHULTZ: From “Time Magazine,” international editor Bobby Ghosh with us tonight here on our coverage. Thank you so much for joining us.
That‘s THE ED SHOW. I‘m Ed Schultz. For more information on THE ED SHOW, go to Ed.MSNBC.com or check out my radio website at WeGotEd.com. Of course, I‘m on the radio, XM satellite; 167 is the channel from noon to 3:00 eastern time.
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Labor issues and the attack on labor in America; that‘s Monday on THE ED SHOW right here on MSNBC. “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell starts right now.
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