Daily Rundown   |  August 22, 2013

Is the Arab Spring coming to an end?

The Daily Rundown’s Chuck Todd reports on how recent events like the release of Egypt’s deposed former president Hosni Mubarak, the arrest of Mohammed Morsi and reports of chemical weapons use from Syria may indicate that the autocratic regimes won.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> thursday, august 22nd , 2013 . this is "the daily rundown." i'm chuck todd . my first reads of the morning. is the arab spring officially coming to an end? did the auto kraatz and dictators win? may sound like a drastic conclusion. let's look at the facts as they are today. an egyptian court has ordered the release of former strongman hosni mubarak whose toppling 2 1/2 years ago perhaps the number one signal of the arab spring. mohamed morsi, egypt's first democratically elected leader, is spending his 51st day under house arrest . images consistent with a massive chemical attack are pouring out of syria . these are some of the least graphic pictures that we're showing. but they are still disturbing to watch. the syrian opposition claims president assad 's government unleashed a barrage of surface to surface rockets filled with poison gas on at least ten villages outside damascus on wednesday. if verified, it would be a chemical attack on a scale the world has not seen since 1988 when saddam hussein gassed thousands of iraqi kurds. rebels say about a third of the dead are children. nbc news has not verified the images. the syrian government deny using chemical weapons altogether. it's been two years since president obama first called for assad to go. saying the type has come for president assad to step aside. it's been a year since he warned syria that there would be consequences for using chemical weapons .

>> we have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that's a red line for us. and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons .

>> those consequences have not materialized so far. and the president's critics on syria are getting louder.

>> where does this stop? when does the united states , with very little cost, stand up for these people? and when the president of the united states says that if he uses these weapons, that it would be a, quote, red line , and a game changer, he now sees that as a green light . the word of the the president of the united states can no longer be taken seriously, as it isn't throughout the entire region.

>> on wednesday, the white house rolled out a revamp foreign policy website. it was filled with aspirational quotes that only underline a stark contrast between what the president promised in the middle east and his policy now. in the most forward leaning remark, he made during the height of the arab spring. at the state department in may of 2011 . quote, we have the chance to show america values the dignity of the street vendor in tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator. there must be no doubt that the united states of america welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity. of course he continued in that speech, saying this --

>> after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.

>> the soaring rhetoric then is in sharp contrast to today's situation. here's the problem for the president. while there's general agreement there's a washington paralysis on what to do in both egypt and syria , there's no consensus about what actually to do. that's because there are no good options. to you side with the muslim brotherhood ? do you side with the syrian rebels which include a lot of al qaeda elements? do you side with assad ? the chairman of the joint chiefs has told congress in a written letter while the pentagon could intervene with forces in syria , there are no moderate rebel groups ready to fill the power vacuum . there's also the contradiction of the president himself. though he was aspirationally a small deed democratic values guy when he ran for president, he dropped every hint an obama foreign policy would offer a return to the bush 41 model of stability first. a time when the president was prepared to deal with assad . appointed the first ambassador to syria in five years. supporting mubarak with the definition of stability first. what makes the middle east muddle more challenging for the united states , our number one ally in the region israel has always been stability first. it's why they're quietly cheering on the interim egyptian government . and why they might really deal with the devil they know in assad then the devil they don't. all of this explains why there's no consensus on the right or left about the right