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Meet the Press transcript for Feb. 6, 2011

Offscreen Voice:  How do you define now?  Because now, to me, means today, not September.

MR. ROBERT GIBBS:  Well--no, now means yesterday.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  This morning, the view inside Egypt with leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei and the Egyptian ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry.

Then, what happens next?  And what will it mean for the Middle East and U.S. interests there?  I'll be joined by the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry.

Also, part of our special coverage, insights and perspective from former Secretary of State James Baker.  And reporting from the ground...


MR. RICHARD ENGEL:  They were hunting down reporters.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  ...with NBC's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel.

Then, a special discussion marking the 100th birthday of President Ronald Reagan.  What is his legacy for the modern Republican Party, and what impact does he have on Democrats like President Obama?  Joining us, more from James Baker, Reagan's chief of staff; former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan; former mayor of San Francisco and assembly speaker, Willie Brown; and White House correspondent for NBC News during the Reagan administration, Andrea Mitchell.

Announcer:  Live from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, this is a special edition of MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.

MR. GREGORY:  Good morning.  We go first live to Cairo, where NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is joining us again live on the scene in Cairo.

Richard, what is the latest there?

MR. ENGEL:  There appear to have been major breakthroughs after negotiations today between members of the opposition and the vice president of Egypt.  According to a government statement that we just received, Egypt has made a--several very significant concessions.  One, to end the emergency law that has been in place in this country since 1981, as soon as security on the ground here permits.  Two, to allow more president--more candidates to run for president; to allow greater freedom of the press; to suspend future meetings of Parliament until allegations of corruption and electoral fraud are, are, are fully flushed out; to respect and to appreciate the youth movement that has been leading the protests in the street; to form a follow-up committee to make sure that all of the promises of reform are actually carried out; and to form a commission to potentially release political prisoners.  These are many of the demands that the opposition have been asking for.  Most significant, suspending of the emergency law.  This martial law has been in place for decades.  It is the exact law that Egypt has used to repress political opposition, to repress democracy in this country.  If Egypt is sincere and suspends this as soon as the situation calms down in the streets right now, it would be a major concession.

MR. GREGORY:  Richard, what ends the standoff?  Will it only be when Mubarak decides to step aside that the protests will stop?

MR. ENGEL:  It depends, because right now you're seeing an opposition that is divided.  There are the hard-core demonstrators who are in Tahrir Square who say that this is not good enough, that Mubarak must physically leave the country.  But with every day that this conflict goes on, more opposition members and more people of Egypt are saying, "A lot of reform has been promised.  Maybe we already have won, and now we need to go back to work."

I was out on the streets today, spoke to a lot of people who were part of the demonstrations who are now no longer agreeing with the fact that Tahrir Square is blocked to traffic, that, that, that the government is no longer in an ability to function, that tourists have been frightened out of the country. They think reform has been promised.  They want to make sure that it does happen, but think that it's time to, to move on.  And they don't mind if President Mubarak stays in in a caretaker role for the next several months until elections in September.

MR. GREGORY:  All right, Richard Engel on the ground for us in Cairo once again.  Richard, thank you very much.

We're going to turn now to Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, who has become the leader of the opposition to President Mubarak as this revolt has unfolded.

Dr. ElBaradei, welcome to the program.  I should apologize in advance, we do have a satellite today--delay, rather, that is significant, so we'll just bear with each other through that.

I wonder if you can follow up on what the latest is, the negotiations that you have been part of with the Mubarak government.  What, what's going to come of all of it?

MR. MOHAMED ELBARADEI:  David, thank you for having me.  I should start by saying I have not been part of the negotiation.  I have not been invited to take part in, in the negotiation or dialogue.  But I've been following what is going on.  I can tell you, David, that there is still a huge lack of confidence between the government and the demonstrators.  There's a good deal of fear that, that the government would--will retrench and then come back, you know, again to, to--with vengeance, if you like.  The process is opaque. Nobody knows who is talking to whom at this stage.  The process is managed by the outgoing regime without involvement of the new opposition, if you like, or the rest of the people.  It's managed by Vice President Suleiman, and it is, it is, it is all managed by the military, David.  And that's part of the problem, is the president is a, is a military man, the vice president military man, the, the prime minister is a military man.  And I think if you really want to build confidence, you need to engage the rest of the Egyptian people, the civilians.  And that's why I suggested that we should have a transitional period where a presidential council of three people, including the military, should run things and transitional government.  I haven't heard...

MR. GREGORY:  So is your bottom line position, Dr. ElBaradei...

MR. ELBARADEI:  ...David, also...

MR. GREGORY:  ...that Mubarak must leave and must leave now?

MR. ELBARADEI:  Well, I think that has become a very emotional, I, I, I would say almost an obsession, by many people who have demonstrated, the young people, that if this is a--not a change of personalities.  It's a change of regime, if you like.  It's a change from one person system into a system based on an institution.  And people see the departure of Mubarak, President Mubarak, with dignity--and he obviously is welcome by every Egyptian to stay in Egypt and, and treated with the respect he deserve as a former president of Egypt.  But this has become a, a, a signal or a litmus test of how serious the--his regime is about reform.  And, and that remains the same.  And the demonstration--demonstrators are staying entrenched in the Tahrir Square and other places until this were to take place.

MR. GREGORY:  But, Dr. ElBaradei, I'm asking your view.  Must he leave power?  Must he leave Egypt?

MR. ELBARADEI:  No, he doesn't have to--of course, he doesn't have to leave Egypt at all.  He's an Egyptian.  He has absolutely the right to live in Egypt.  But he has to cede, to cede power, I think, in the views of the demonstrators, and there are the millions of them, they have.  The regime which he represents lost legitimacy, and he, he need to assume political responsibility and step aside and get, get the country to move on and cede power to a, a transitional presidential council, government--caretaker government, and have a year of transition where we can really have free and fair election, including--which I haven't heard from Richard--including the right to establish parties.  That is key, for people to establish parties and to take the time to go and engage.  And then you will have, you know, among other guarantees, fair and free election in a year's time from now.  Suspend the constitution, suspend the, the Parliament, have a, an, a provisional constitution.  We cannot go through democracy...

MR. GREGORY:  Right.

MR. ELBARADEI:  ...through the current constitution, which is, which is, which is, a, a dictatorial one.

MR. GREGORY:  Let, let me ask you about the United States' influence at this point.  You have been critical of the Obama administration for not having a coherent, consistent message.  What influence is the administration having on events there?

MR. ELBARADEI:  Well, I think, I think the U.S., of course, has a close tie to the U.S., but they are not going to determine the events in, in, in, in the streets of Egypt.  But I think, you know, everybody expects them to, to stand up for the basic universal values--freedom, democracy, rule of law, human rights.  And the, the U.S., at the beginning, has been behind the curve.  I think they caught up, you know, in the last few days.  But then again, David, Mr. Wisner, the special representative, made the statement yesterday saying President Mubarak must stay in power.  That came down here like a, a piece of lead.  Then it was, it was denied by, by the White House.  It was, you know, retracted by the White House.  But I think what people expect here, not the U.S. is going to effect change in Egypt, but the U.S. has to be very clear that they are on the side of the people in their struggle for freedom and democracy for Egypt to move to what I call it, the "second republic," a move from an authoritarian system to a full-fledged democracy.

MR. GREGORY:  Let me show you the cover of a magazine here in the United States called The Week, and the headline is "Egypt After Mubarak," and it goes on, "Should the West fear democracy in the Mideast?" Should we?

MR. ELBARADEI:  Yeah, I mean, I don't think, David, that Egypt is, is any different from any, any other country.  I think the gateway to stability, the gateway to economic and social justice, the gateway to Egypt that is catching up with the rest of the world and with it the Arab world, the gateway to--the road to stable peace in the Middle East, in my view at least, starts and ends with a democratic Egypt where people are empowered.  I think, I think the idea that, that we are not ready here, you know, is almost an insult.  I mean, look at India, David, I mean, India is not--you know, has all the problems Egypt have--poverty, illiteracy--and yet they are absolutely example of democratic system.

MR. GREGORY:  Final question, Dr. ElBaradei, do you want to lead Egypt or will you be just a transitional figure of leadership?

MR. ELBARADEI:  I want, David, to be an agent for change.  I, I made that very clear that I would like to monitor as much as I can and lend my weight as much as I can to see Egypt, you know, going back from what we are to what we should be.  And I--if I can do that in a peaceful, orderly way with every other Egyptian I'll be, I'll be absolutely happy and have fulfilled that mission of my life, is to see my country, you know, what everybody has a right to live in peace, freedom and dignity.

MR. GREGORY:  And yes or no, should Egypt in the future always maintain the peace treaty with Israel?

MR. ELBARADEI:  I, I think so, but it's not just dependent on Egypt, David, it also depends on Israel.  Israel should not continue to apply a policy of force, vis-a-vis the Palestinians, should agree to what everybody knows that Palestinians have the right to establish a state similar to what the proposal of former...

MR. GREGORY:  Dr. ElBaradei, I think a lot of people hearing this--Dr. ElBaradei, people hearing this will hear equivocation, and there'll be great fear about a potential leader of Egypt saying that the peace treaty is not rock solid with Israel.

MR. ELBARADEI:  Well I think, I think everybody saying it is rock solid, but, but, but everybody also saying that, at the same breath, that whether Egypt is a democracy, whether Egypt is a dictatorship everybody in Egypt, everybody in the Arab world will want to see an independent Palestinian state, David.  I don't think anybody disagree with that.  That has nothing to do with the peace treaty between Egypt and, and Israel, which is, as you said, has been concluded, and I assume that Egypt will continue to respect it, you know?

MR. GREGORY:  All right, Dr. ElBaradei, thank you very much for joining us.

I am joined now from Washington by Egypt's ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry.

Ambassador, welcome.

AMB. SAMEH SHOUKRY:  Thank you for having me.

MR. GREGORY:  Does your government now accept that this is a revolution in your country that cannot be stopped?

AMB. SHOUKRY:  It's certainly a very important moment in Egypt's history. It's a moment of change, one that we are all looking towards with optimism, and the Egyptian people will continue on the road to, to greater democracy, greater social and economic reform.

MR. GREGORY:  Now, ambassador, but my question was very clear.  Do you accept that this is a revolution that cannot be stopped, that things as they were are over?

AMB. SHOUKRY:  Certainly things as they were are over from the 25th of October.  Everybody agrees that Egypt of the future will look significantly different than Egypt of the past.  This is a major moment in our history, and we intend to make full use of it.

MR. GREGORY:  Will President Mubarak step down before September?

AMB. SHOUKRY:  That is a decision for the president to make.  Apparently the political process is one of reconciliation, one of consultation to reach a national consensus on the way forward.

MR. GREGORY:  So under what circumstances would he go?

AMB. SHOUKRY:  Currently, he would leave office when his term ends.

MR. GREGORY:  Right, but you--you're well aware that the Obama administration says that transition must take place now, that the opposition wants him to leave now and not hang on until September.  Are you saying that he will not accede to those requests?

AMB. SHOUKRY:  As I mentioned, that is a decision that the president will take.  And as far as the administration, I refer you to the statements of President Obama last Friday where he indicated very clearly that this was an issue that--to be resolved by the Egyptian people.  It is--he mentioned that several times.  He also made reference to the fact that the president's term is shortly to be over.  And by now, I believe that the transition has--is under way.  The vice president has undertaken very important consultations with the broad spectrum and segments of the opposition and the council of Wise Men and has, I believe, declared today a variety of very important and very meaningful steps that build confidence and that set a road for the future.

MR. GREGORY:  Ambassador, it is widely believed that the Mubarak regime was responsible for unleashing goon squads this week in the streets to attack protesters and journalists alike.  At this point, do you concede that that effort backfired, that it did not stop the movement against Mubarak?

AMB. SHOUKRY:  The government has denied its involvement in acts of violence and has promised a full and wide investigation that will be transparent and that will define those who are responsible.  The situation in Cairo during the demonstrations was one of chaos, of a vacuum of security.  And certainly all forms of violence against reporters, journalists, or demonstrators was widely condemned.  And I, again, categorically say...

MR. GREGORY:  But ambassador...

AMB. SHOUKRY:  ...that the government condemns all forms of violence.

MR. GREGORY:  Right.  But this is not a government that's known for transparency, will all respect, Ambassador.  Do you really expect people to believe that this was just a sudden outburst of violence against protesters and journalists alike?

AMB. SHOUKRY:  I think, whatever the case, we must resort to a full investigative process.  Those who have made assumptions have not provided any definite evidence to indicate one thing or another.  The government has promised at the level of the vice president, the prime minister that they would undertake a full and transparent investigation.

MR. GREGORY:  Your leader, President Mubarak, has often said if he were to leave power the replacement would be worse.  What comes next would be worse. Should Americans be afraid of this transition in Egypt?  Is it possible without Mubarak that an Islamist state could rise up, the role of the Muslim Brotherhood could be one that could endanger the peace treaty with Israel, and that there could be wider chaos throughout the Middle East?

AMB. SHOUKRY:  I believe that the manner in which the transition consultations are being applied will guarantee that Egypt proceeds within constitutional legitimacy, within reliance on institutions.  And when we do have president elections and the formation of a new government, I believe that Egypt will be stable and will be able to deal with its both internal and regional developments in the same manner that it has done in the past.

MR. GREGORY:  Ambassador, we thank you for your time this morning.

AMB. SHOUKRY:  Thank you very much.

MR. GREGORY:  For more on what all of this means for U.S. policy in Egypt and in the Middle East, I'm now joined from New York by the chairman of the Senator Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat John Kerry.

Senator Kerry...(technical difficulties)...quite a lot this morning.  Give me your reaction to what you've heard on where things stand.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA):  Well, I actually was encouraged by what I heard this morning.  I thought that Mr. ElBaradei actually moved.  I think what we've heard from the news from Egypt about the meetings today with Vice President Suleiman, is frankly quite extraordinary.  I mean, if you tally up what has happened in the last 12 days, President Mubarak has announced that he is not running, his son is not running.  He has put a vice president in place.  He has engaged in a dialogue with the protesters.  He is now promising to remove the emergency law, which is a major, a major opening of the door to the democratic process, allowing people to organize, speak, meet at a cafe.  I think that's a beginning.  The most important thing now is to guarantee the process is in place where there are free and fair elections, parties can organize, people can campaign.  And, and, and number two, that President Mubarak, I think, once again, perhaps, address the nation to make it clear what the timetable is, precisely what the process is.  I think if that happens this could actually turn significantly to the good and to the promise of a better outcome.

MR. GREGORY:  As you know, the administration has been very careful in what it has said and when it has said it.  Frank Wisner, who was dispatched, as you know, to Egypt to send a message to Mubarak that it was time for him to step down and not run for re-election, he spoke over the weekend and let me play a portion of what he said, suggesting that Mubarak should not go right away.

(Videotape, Saturday)

AMB. FRANK WISNER:  The president must stay in office in order to steer those changes through.  I therefore believe that President Mubarak's continued leadership is critical.  It's his opportunity to write his own legacy.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  You can imagine why that raised eyebrows just days after the president said the transition must begin now.

SEN. KERRY:  Sure.

MR. GREGORY:  Secretary of State Clinton has said, "We respect, Mr. Wisner. He's not speaking for the administration." But there's confusion here, is there not?  What is the U.S. position about what Mubarak should do right now?

SEN. KERRY:  The U.S. position is crystal clear, beginning with the fact that Ambassador Wisner, who is a distinguished diplomat, was speaking for himself and in a very special context about the constitutional process.  The fact is that Egypt has a lot of options with respect to that constitutional process.  I spoke with General Suleiman yesterday.  I spoke with Amr Moussa today.  There's a lot of discussion taking place right now.  There's an enormous diplomatic effort that is in, in place.  And I credit the administration with the rather remarkable outreach effort.  I think the, you know, on Super Bowl day, maybe it's not inappropriate to use the term, the flooding of the zone, that's taking place with the Germans, with the French, with the British, with many other players, the Turks.  There are a huge number of people trying to move this in the right direction right now.  I think that Mr. Wisner's comments just don't reflect where the administration has been from day one.  And that was not the message that he was asked to deliver or did deliver there.

Now, that said, the president has been clear, the secretary of state had been clear that the president wants change, he wants it immediately, he wants it to be meaningful, and he wants it to be orderly.  Those are the terms that the president set out.  The secretary of state has said it has to...

MR. GREGORY:  But, but quickly, Senator Kerry, you said...

SEN. KERRY:  Yeah.

MR. GREGORY:  ...Mubarak should go.  Could you see him staying on for a period of time in an interim period that would actually be stabilizing?  Would you support that?

SEN. KERRY:  David, David, what I said in my op/ed that I wrote last Tuesday was very clear and very carefully chosen.  It said that he must step aside gracefully and begin the process of transition to a caretaker type of government.  I believe that is happening right now.  That is precisely what is going on with Vice President Suleiman, not President Mubarak.  Vice President Suleiman...

MR. GREGORY:  Right.

SEN. KERRY:  ...engaged in discussions with the opposition.  And what is--what I think is needed now is a clarity about this process.  I think that's missing.  I think if President Mubarak were...

MR. GREGORY:  So he could be a figurehead?

SEN. KERRY:  He could...

MR. GREGORY:  Mubarak could be a figurehead?  He could still be president in name only?

SEN. KERRY:  Well, first of all, let's be crystal clear.  It's not up to us. It's up to the Egyptian people to decide what is going to happen here.  That negotiation is taking place right now.  We ought to be elated that they are, in fact, sitting down, that the army has restrained itself, that some semblance of order, even as there are protests, is being restored to the streets.  I think that can be enhanced significantly if President Mubarak were to state even more clearly what the process of transition will be to this sort of, you could call it a consensus government, as Amr Moussa did earlier.  You could call it a caretaker.  What is important is that the Egyptian people understand that their demands are being met, that there will be an election, that it will be open, fair, free and accountable, and that they will have an opportunity to go to the polls and choose their future.  That's the important thing.

MR. GREGORY:  Right.

SEN. KERRY:  And one final thing, David.  We've learned from Gaza and we've learned from Lebanon and we've learned from other experiences that just doing something, "having an election" doesn't bring you democracy.  You have to have an orderly process in place that guarantees the rights and the security of the people and that moves forward in a competent way.  We want to do this right.

MR. GREGORY:  Senator...

SEN. KERRY:  That's as important as doing it.

MR. GREGORY:  OK, Senator, final point, and I, I don't have a lot of time left.  I want to get to a final point here that I think is important, that a lot of Americans are asking about.  Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the president's top military adviser, appeared on "The Daily Show" this week with Jon Stewart, and this is what he said about events that have taken place in Egypt.

(Videotape, Thursday)

ADM. MIKE MULLEN:  Well, I think actually it has taken not just us but many people by surprise.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  How is that possible, Senator?  After 9/11, with our intelligence focused on this region, that the administration could be surprised by what has turned out to be a revolution sweeping the Middle East?

SEN. KERRY:  I'll tell you very easily, and I don't think there's any mystery in it, David.  There's no surprise that there was punt--pent-up demand, no surprise that we needed to have reform.  The fact is, a year ago in Doha, I gave a speech in which I laid out much of what needed to be done in the region.  Secretary of State Clinton, only three weeks ago, made a very dramatic, tough statement in Doha, likewise, in which she said unless there is reform, unless Arab leaders move to deal with the problems, this is an area that's sinking into the quick--into the sand.  It was a very dramatic statement.  What happened in Tunisia is what triggered this, and what happened on Facebook and what happened with Twitter is what suddenly drove it.  And frankly, the Muslim Brotherhood was taken by surprise.  Everybody in Egypt suddenly saw this moment erupt as a consequence of, of, of this pent-up demand and of what happened in Tunisia.  So the fact of the need for reform, the pent-up demand, the anguish, humiliation, anger, frustration, all of those are things that we knew were there and we knew could possibly explode.  But the moment and manner in which it exploded is a reflection of what's happened with respect to the new media and what happened in Tunisia.  And I don't think anybody, even in Egypt...


SEN. KERRY:  ...knew it would happen when it did.

MR. GREGORY:  All right.  Senator Kerry, we're going to leave it there.

SEN. KERRY:  Thank you.

MR. GREGORY:  Thank you very much.

And up next, we'll be back live from the Reagan Library with our special panel.  We'll have more insights and analysis on the situation in Egypt.  What does it mean for the future of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East?  Plus, on this 100th birthday of President Ronald Reagan, what does his legacy mean today?  Our guests:  former Reagan Chief of Staff James Baker, former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, and White House correspondent during the Reagan administration for NBC News, Andrea Mitchell.


MR. GREGORY:  Coming up, what does the Reagan legacy mean today?  Former Secretary of State James Baker and Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan join our roundtable from the Reagan Presidential Library.  It's up next, right after this brief commercial break.


MR. GREGORY:  We are back live at the Reagan Library, joined by our special roundtable, to mark the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth:  Reagan White House chief of staff and former Secretary of State James Baker is here; former Reagan speechwriter, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan; former mayor of San Francisco, and he was a leader in the California State Assembly, speaker--and former Speaker Willie Brown, and he was there when Ronald Reagan was governor; and the correspondent for NBC during the Reagan years, our now chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell.

Welcome to all of you.  And what a gorgeous setting as I look out on a California sunrise here in Simi Valley.  And look at this sight.  There is Air Force One from the Reagan era.  And we are using a table that is so historic. This was indeed the table from the Situation Room of the White House during the Reagan era.  And lest anybody think that I would put all my mess on top of that actual table, there's a very thick piece of plastic here that protects the original.  As a matter of fact, here is the table as it was used during the Reagan administration during those years.  You can see the president and officials looking at a map there around it.  So this is, this is very significant.

I want to, Secretary of State Baker, bring you into this Egypt discussion and ask you what you've heard about.  We went back, and if it wasn't your very first, it was one of your first appearances on MEET THE PRESS back in 1981. And do you know what the very first question was about?

MR. JAMES A. BAKER:  I have no idea.

MR. GREGORY:  It was about Egypt.

MR. BAKER:  Oh, really?  Really?

MR. GREGORY:  And here we are in 2011, and I'm going to ask you about Egypt once again.  What are your impressions of where things are right now?

MR. BAKER:  Well, I think things are moving tentatively, at least, in the right direction.  I think that I agree with Senator Kerry when he says it would be a good thing to have a, a lot more clarity here.  I think if the Egyptian government would say here's how--here's what we plan to do, here's how the election's going to be conducted.  There does have to be time for political parties to form.  You can't just hold an election tomorrow.  And so I think there's all this talk about whether Mubarak does or does not step down, whether he remains as a pro forma president.  That, that's missing the point.  The big--the important thing here is that the process is moving in the direction it ought to move.  It is a sea change, tectonic change in the Middle East but all--for Egypt, of course, but also for the Middle East.

MR. GREGORY:  What about this broader view of the Middle East?  Are we heading down a course where we may be romanticizing change in Egypt toward democracy and not thinking enough about how chaotic it could be?

MR. BAKER:  We don't know yet.  That's, that--the jury is very much still out on that.  And I--someone--one of your guests mentioned the fact that, that in Gaza and Lebanon we had revolution--democratic revolutions that were reversed. I can remember one that was reversed, as well, when we were in, in office way back in 1992.  I think it was, Algeria, where, where radicals co-opted the process and took it over.  And that can happen.  This is a good--this is a textbook case, in my view, David, of why it's sometimes difficult to conduct foreign policy.  Because we have our national interests involved here on the one hand, and we also have our principles and values.  And in formulating and implementing our foreign policy, we have to give, give credibility to both.

MR. GREGORY:  Andrea Mitchell, let me go to you on the Obama administration's influence at this point.  This was the president speaking this week on Tuesday, very clearly, about what it is he wanted to happen in Egypt.  Let's watch.

(Videotape, Tuesday)

PRES. OBAMA:  What is clear, and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak, is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  It must begin now.  How is he doing?

MS. ANDREA MITCHELL:  Well, it was--there was some confusion.  They did not want to be more explicit than that because they did not want to either embarrass Mubarak or create a backlash where other leaders in the region, as well as people in Egypt would begin seeing this, the opposition, seeing this as a "made in America" revolution.  That is the last thing that they want here.  So they had to be very careful.  And in walking that tightrope, there were moments--most recently this rather embarrassing moment with Frank Wisner, who had been their envoy, but was recalled rather precipitously.  He was supposed to deliver this message, "It really does need to be now." That was supposed to be the quiet message friend to friend.  Wisner had a relationship with Mubarak.  Instead, he gets called back and then speaks to the world at a Munich security conference with the secretary of State there.  He's speaking by satellite...

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

MS. MITCHELL:  ...and he says that Mubarak needs to stay on.  That was not the message.  That was reversing, in fact, what is being said now both publicly and privately, and they had to slap him down, which was a bit of an embarrassment.  But what they are doing is what Senator Kerry said, flooding the zone, going to all of these leaders and trying to get the message to Mubarak, "You can stay perhaps in title, but you have to give up power." And we're seeing that in play right now with Suleiman.

MR. BAKER:  And if he gives up power, the transition is--could--you could argue that it is beginning now if, in fact, he gives up power and is there just in a pro forma role.

MR. GREGORY:  Peggy Noonan, we're talking about Ronald Reagan at 100, and one of the issues that Ronald Reagan confronted and, indeed, led this country through was the end of communism.


MR. GREGORY:  He spoke so movingly in 1987, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." How is this administration dealing with what some have called a "Berlin moment" in the Middle East?

MS. NOONAN:  Oh, I don't know if it is a "Berlin moment." Sometimes I think we, we make a mistake to compare the previous drama to the current drama.  I think President Reagan, in general, would tend to approach Egypt with the thought and the conviction that America is the beacon of freedom, in some ways a teacher, an example of democracy and republican forms of government.  I think he might be very specifically helpful in terms of information about how good things can happen in Egypt.  However, I think he would also keep, obviously, a shrewd eye on America's interests, for we do have interests, and we are a separate nation.  I don't think President Reagan would likely have confused himself thinking Egypt is ours.  He would remember Egypt is the Egyptians'.  The people there will order and choose their future.

MR. GREGORY:  And, Mr. Mayor, we are at a point here, as we look at the Middle East, where there are a lot of questions about what kind of change this would actually bring about and what is in U.S. interests.

MR. WILLIE . BROWN:  Well, I think we have to make sure that the U.S. interests in every way is the first thing on our agenda.  I think John Kerry was attempting to demonstrate that when he responded in the manner in which he did respond.  In addition to that too, David, people have been very careful not to answer your questions directly about what will happen after this transition takes place...

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

MR. BROWN:  ...and after their new elections because the Muslim Brotherhood may arise.  There may very well be the kind of people that are adverse to the U.S. interest.  And the U.S. has got to be careful and make sure that doesn't happen.

MR. GREGORY:  Let me, Peggy Noonan, introduce the, the celebration here about Ronald Reagan, and speak more generally about that.  You write in your column, Reagan--"Ronald Reagan at 100," the following:  "The biggest misunderstanding about Reagan's political life is that he was inevitable.  He was not.  He had to fight for every inch, he had to make it happen.  ...

None of it was inevitable.  The political lesson of Ronald Reagan's life: Nothing is written." What does the centennial celebration mean to you?

MS. NOONAN:  Oh, I think it, it means capturing this most extraordinary life--political life and, and life as a man in the world--and also thinking a little bit about his, his meaning as a leader, you know?  David, I think he is someone who reminded the American people in the 1970s that we are not victims of history.  So many things were going against us.  He said, "Look, we don't have to be victims of history.  We can do A, B and C to make things better. We can work together, we can turn this thing around." The fact that he did that and turned things around, I think, deepened public faith in and trust in--for our institutions and our way of doing things.  And when people say he made us feel better, I think that's what--how he made us feel better.  He made it work again.  He reminded us that it can.

MR. GREGORY:  We're going to make that an introduction, we'll take a quick break and continue talking more about that, and particularly some of his views that have particular resonance and his legacy that has resonance with the modern-day Republican Party.  We'll take a quick break and continue from the Reagan Library with our roundtable right after this.


MR. GREGORY:  We're back for more of our special discussion on Ronald Reagan, and Egypt as well, with former Secretary of State James Baker and the rest of our panel.

Mr. Secretary, let me ask you one more question about Egypt.  Why--you've heard the discussion here--why is the United States not doing more to provide the clarity that we seek?  Why not lay out the plan?  You were talking about Ronald Reagan speaking truth to power around the world.

MR. BAKER:  Well Ronald Reagan did speak truth to power when he gave the speech at the Brandenburg Gate, but he also was willing to ask a tyrant to leave, when he asked Marcos to leave the Philippines.  But here's a little--I think it's a different situation, David.  We had, we had a sort of a special relationship with the Philippines.  We had bases there.  There were, you know, it was a different situation.  This has to be done by the--the clarity has to come from the Egyptian people and the Egyptian government.  And the--and it's not up to the United States to say, "Here's how you form political parties in Egypt.  Here's what--here's exactly the way you ought to conduct this campaign and everything." We can lay out the principles, and we should, and we--I think we have.  And I--that's some of the things I heard Senator Kerry say.

MR. GREGORY:  Willie Brown, let's talk about politics.  Let's talk about the view of government that is being debated in our country right now.  And Ronald Reagan, January 20th, 1981, his inaugural address, pretty much made clear his view of government.  Watch this.

(Videotape, January 20, 1981)

PRES. RONALD REAGAN:  In this present crisis government is not the solution to our problem.  Government is the problem.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  Isn't this the very debate that we are having today in our debate over spending, debate over role of government in this economy?

MR. BROWN:  It is the debate we are having today.  But, you know, 1981 was a far cry from when Ronald Reagan actually started in government.  It was 1966, 1967.  And at that time period, he was not mouthing those kinds of words. Apparently Peggy wasn't writing for him at that time, and therefore he wasn't saying those kinds of words.  He really learned about government and the operation of government and what government could or could not do in the eight years that he spent as a governor of the state of California.  And they were really incredible learning years for this extraordinary, gifted person.  So it doesn't surprise me in 1981 he would be saying the words that we're still living with and trying to address today.

MR. GREGORY:  And as much as modern-day conservatives, Andrea Mitchell, may take that sentence from his inaugural as gospel and run on that in their own debates with President Obama in Washington today, indeed Reagan was much more of a pragmatist than he was an ideologue when it came to the major issues.

MS. MITCHELL:  Absolutely.

MR. GREGORY:  Taxes, Social Security, and the like.

MS. MITCHELL:  I mean, he said, "This is--the sound you hear around my feet is the concrete breaking around my feet," whatever the exact words were. People are trying--Republicans in particular, obviously--trying to appropriate Ronald Reagan for their own political purposes now.  But his vision and his ability to work across party lines was so far broader.  He stuck to his principles.  He was authentic, which is I think one of the reasons why he's so admired after all of these years.  But he knew when he needed to compromise, and he did.  And he reached out with Democrats, not just the boll weevils who were the conservative Texas Democrats, but with Tip O'Neill and liberal Massachusetts Democrats as well when he needed to get something done with the help the really--the guidance of people like Jim Baker.  But the genius of it all was that Ed Meese was there, there were conservatives there, and, and Jim Baker, more moderate Republicans.  And it was a bit messy at times, but he had a range of views.  And Nancy Reagan bringing even more people in to the--into play.

MR. GREGORY:  Would he think the tea party was up...

MS. NOONAN:  I got to--whoa, whoa, whoa.  Republicans are not, I think, trying to appropriate Ronald Reagan.  Ronald Reagan was a Republican. Conservatives aren't trying to appropriate him.  He was a conservative. Willie, he became a public figure in America two years before he was governor in 1964, and he laid out a speech as stern, if not sterner, in its conservatism in which he explained his views on taxes, "Cut them"; his views on the size of government, "Too big, too bullying"; his views on the Soviet Union, "Hold it back, it is expansionist." This was all very clear.  As a president, as a governor, he was pragmatic in his operation.

MS. MITCHELL:  No, Peggy, I'm talking about some of the candidates, some of the--some of the candidates and the Sarah Palin quotes.  I'm talking about one wing of the party.

MS. NOONAN:  Oh, you mean some people are trying to claim him as a mantle.

MS. MITCHELL:  Exactly.

MR. GREGORY:  Right, which it--James Baker, what would Ronald Reagan make of the tea party movement within the Republican Party today?

MR. BAKER:  He wouldn't have any problem with it.  The, the Republican Party was, was divided actually when he came upon the scene and when he won.  And he--and during the two terms of his presidency.  But one thing that, that we ought to note here, since we're here on his 100th birthday, Ronald Reagan practiced bipartisanship.  He understood that we judge our presidents on how successful they are in getting their programs through the Congress.  And I, I remember so many times I'd be sitting there in the Oval with him, we'd be debating whether we were going to do a--make a particular agreement with the Democratic House, for instance.  He'd say, "Jim, I'd rather get 80 percent of what I want than go over the cliff with my flag flying." He said it all the time.  So he was--he, he knew when to hold them, he knew when to fold them. He was an extraordinarily fine negotiator.  He'd learned all that as head of the Screen Actors Guild.

MR. GREGORY:  All right, we're going to come back after another short break, talk about what impact he actually has on Democrats, like President Obama.  We will also be back with an exclusive first look at this newly renovated Reagan Library with our special tour guide--you couldn't get a better one--Peggy Noonan, showing us around after this break.


MR. GREGORY:  Daylight here in Simi Valley, California, the view outside. The beautiful Reagan Library.  And we're back with our roundtable.  This was, Willie Brown, former mayor, former speaker of the Assembly in California, the cover of Time magazine recently that shows Ronald Reagan and Obama's admiration for him, "Why Obama loves Reagan." Is this aspirational?  Is this a president after a tough midterm election who simply wants to match the electoral success of Reagan?  Or is there something more?

MR. BROWN:  No, no, no.  In reality, Barak Obama has always been, in his political life, an admirer of Ronald Reagan.  Many of the qualities that he exhibits are reflective of what Ronald Reagan was really all about.  He has not been able, frankly, to demonstrate those in the first 18 months or so of his administration simply because he had such an awesome majority in the Senate and an awesome majority in the House, and that majority was dominated by the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party, far beyond what Obama really is.  Obama is more like Reagan than he is like anyone else, probably including Bill Clinton, believe it or not.  And he is therefore a real admirer, and it's genuine.

MR. GREGORY:  Secretary Baker, is it also important to learn from some of President Reagan's failings?  Did deregulation, its impact on the economy, did deregulation of the financial industry have a negative effect, running up huge budget deficits?

MR. BAKER:  Well, let me just, let me just suggest to you that the deregulation of the financial industry didn't occur on Ronald Reagan's watch, it occurred for the most part, I think, on Bill Clinton's watch.  But, but, sure, any leader should learn from the experiences of the past and of, and of other leaders.  But I might not, not agree with Willie.  It...

MR. GREGORY:  You don't buy the Obama/Reagan nexus?

MR. BAKER:  No, I don't buy it.  And here's why.  President Obama made a fundamental mistake, in my view, when he subcontracted out the formulation of his domestic policies to the, to the most liberal elements in his party up on the Hill.  That prevented him from then being able to go moderate Republicans up on the Hill and say, "Hey, what kind of change do you need in, in my bill?" If he'd sent his own bill up there, "Let me tweak the bill a little and you can go back to your district or your state and say, `Look what I got in the president's bill.'" That's what President Reagan did in the first term...

MR. GREGORY:  Right.

MR. BAKER: get support from House Democrats.

MR. GREGORY:  Andrea, just about 15 seconds here.  But he--the president, in his State of the Union, talked about doing big things.  That was Reaganesque.

MS. MITCHELL:  That was, and he was trying to project this optimism and, and generosity of spirit.  And also, coming after Tucson, we saw so memorably--Peggy wrote the speeches that really gripped our hearts--the way Ronald Reagan was comforter in chief, not only commander in chief.  And that sensibility was something that I think Barack Obama identified with.

MR. GREGORY:  All right.  We are going to leave the discussion there.  Thank you all very much.

But before we go, the newly renovated Reagan Library reopens to the public tomorrow.  And we spent some time walking through the new exhibits with the ultimate tour guide, Peggy Noonan.  And here are some of the highlights of some never-before-seen pieces of Reagan history on display here.


MS. NOONAN:  Here's the left side.

MR. GREGORY:  Right.

MS. NOONAN:  That's the bullet hole.

MR. GREGORY:  This is something that the public has never seen.  This was the president's suit, the one he was wearing March 30th, 1981.

MS. NOONAN:  You know, Reagan had only been president for nine weeks when he was shot.  The American people had barely gotten to know him.  I always think the most beautiful thing that was said that day was not by Reagan but by--was by his doctor.  At one point when the doctors were going to operate on Reagan and they were about to make him unconscious, Reagan quipped, "I just hope all of you are Republicans." And the doctor, a wonderful liberal Democrat, quipped back, "Today, Mr. President, we are all Republicans."

MR. GREGORY:  January 28th, 1986, the Challenger disaster, and this is unbelievable.  This is the president's diary, the actual diary, and there it is, Tuesday, January 28th, he writes about the day.

PRES. RONALD REAGAN:  The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.

MR. GREGORY:  And there's a name right here in the upper left-hand corner, "Noonan." You, you worked on this with him.

MS. NOONAN:  I worked on it with him.  He would have to tell the American people, "The search has been called off.  We know we've lost all of them." Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY:  You can see the most famous line, that final line...

PRES. REAGAN:  As they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God.

MS. NOONAN:  David, the, the poem that the president quoted by John Gillespie Magee Jr., called "High Flight," I thought if the president uses this, it will be because he knows that poem and loves it.  And if we don't hear it, it'll because he didn't know it and he didn't love it.  He called me afterwards and he said, "How did you know I knew that poem?" It turned out to have been very important to him.  I just had a feeling that it was.

MR. GREGORY:  And this is a, a poignant end to this, to this museum.  1994, "The Sunset of My Life." This was the letter he wrote to the American people about having Alzheimer's.

MS. NOONAN:  Here we have for the first time the audiotape the president made.

PRES. REAGAN:  At the moment I feel just fine.  Let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your president.  When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country or ours and eternal optimism for its future.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  And you can watch my full tour with Peggy Noonan of the newly renovated Reagan Library, including some early essays written by a young Ronald Reagan, and some great stories from inside the Oval Office.  It's up on our Web site.  That's

Peggy, it really was very special.  Thank you.

Stay with NBC News and MSNBC for continuing coverage of the unrest in Egypt. And at 2 PM Eastern time today, MSNBC will have live coverage here at the Reagan Library of the ceremony commemorating the Reagan centennial, including remarks by Nancy Reagan.  And you can watch the re-air of this program, of MEET THE PRESS, immediately following at 4 PM Eastern; because, after all, what is there to watch on television today?

We will be back next week in Washington.  We'll have an exclusive interview with the speaker of the House, John Boehner.  If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.