Guests: Ron Allen, Barak Barfi, Michael Singh, Irshad Manji, Bobby Ghosh, Robin Wright, Marc Ginsberg, Brian Katulis, Janine Zacharia
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Liberation? Not yet.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
What a day! Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Leading off tonight: Too little, too late. This is Cairo where the
people have begun to rule. Today they came close. It was the scene here -
now alive for 17 days—that pushed President Hosni Mubarak to give up power to his vice president.
But how far will this revolution go? How many steps will it take for the people to end the regime and banish a leader they‘ve had more than enough of? This much is clear tonight, power is moving to the people step by step. First the people got Mubarak to say he‘s not running again this September. Then they got him to say his son‘s not running, a goal on which he set his heart. Late today, they got him to say that he‘s now going, going now, turning the presidency over to Suleiman, his man.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOSNI MUBARAK, EGYPTIAN PRES. (through translator): I also announce that I will similarly remain adamant to continue to shoulder my responsibility, protecting the constitution, safeguarding the interests of the people, until the authority and power is handed over to this—to be elected by the people in September coming and the fair and free elections, where all the guarantees for transparency and (INAUDIBLE) will be secured. This is the oath that I‘ve taken before God and before the nation, and I will continue to keep the oath.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, no one thinks this is enough. Tonight the revolution goes on in Egypt, with the action here in Tahrir Square, Liberation Square. What more do they want in the streets there, and how many more days will it take for them to get it? That‘s our big story tonight ongoing.
Let‘s go to Tahrir Square right now and NBC News correspondent Ron Allen. A tremendous sense of disappointment crossing through that crowd like a wave late today in the dark when they heard that this president is turning over authority to his own hand-picked guy. Why the reaction? Maybe I‘ve explained it already—Ron Allen.
RON ALLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Chris, people just feel—Chris, people just feel betrayed. They feel like they‘re just being played, if you will. They‘re angry. They‘re bitter. They came to the square with expectations, with hopes. There were rumors all day that—into the evening, certainly, that Mubarak was finally going to step down. And when we told people that we were hearing this, smartly, they didn‘t believe us. They were very, very skeptical. People wanted to hear it from his own lips. And of course, tonight, they didn‘t.
Being in the square, it was just an incredible outrush of emotion. Halfway through the speech, the minute Mubarak started talking about constitutional amendments and that—and the minutiae of how the transition was going to take place, people just tuned out. Interestingly, when he—when his image first appeared on the stage, the square was as quiet as I‘ve heard it in the couple weeks that we‘ve been here. People listened with rapt attention. They were hanging on every word. They really wanted to hear what he had to say.
And halfway through it, they just erupted in “Leave, leave, leave.”
They just didn‘t want to hear any more.
Before this all began, when we talked to people about the possibility that the vice president would take over, people categorically rejected that. They see them as the same, more or less the same. They see Suleiman as just another version of Mubarak, and people said they just want the regime to go.
And one of the perhaps most prudent things that the protesters have done throughout this entire ordeal is that they‘ve been very, very consistent, very clear, they want Mubarak to go. They don‘t want to talk about reforms, they don‘t want to talk about amendments until he‘s gone. That‘s not happening. That‘s why they‘re out in the streets tonight.
We‘re some 12 stories up above the river and above the square, a block away. And I can hear the crowds chanting in the background as they‘re marching through the streets. The streets are dark here. They‘re very narrow alleys, in some cases. And as I was walking here from the square, there was just this echo, this pounding, pounding, surging sound of people chanting “He must leave, go, go, go.”
And people were vowing to stay there all night or return to the square in greater numbers in the morning. And sadly, people were predicting that this whole situation could just get much more ugly than it already is tonight—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Ron, maybe it requires some cross-cultural understanding neither you or I are capable of, but in this country, our country, where I‘m at right now, when we want a leader to go, whether it‘s Nixon or it‘s LBJ or Jimmy Carter even, people say, Just defeat him, have him go home where he comes from. What is this about this urge to have Mubarak leave Egypt, the land of his birth? Why does he have to leave the country for this crowd to be satisfied?
ALLEN: They just want him to leave the scene. They want him to leave office. It‘s not—I don‘t think they‘re demanding that he step across the border. They just want him gone. They wanted to see something tangible. They wanted to see him say the—see and hear him say the words, I am out of here. But what they heard was an attempt, they think, to divide, an attempt to belittle them.
A lot of the people in the crowd are young, educated professional people, people in their 20s and 30s who have gone to universities, who are smart, and they know when they—when they feel like they‘re being played for a fool.
ALLEN: And that‘s—I‘m quoting what people were saying to us. And it‘s really insulting to some people. And in this country, where they don‘t have the same sort of free speech that we have, the ability to express themselves freely, that‘s what they‘re saying. They‘re saying, Look, we‘re not idiots. We know what you‘re doing, and we just want you out of here. It‘s a real, real visceral—
ALLEN: -- gut anger that‘s out there, Chris. It‘s just really, really palpable.
MATTHEWS: Well, when they heard him say that he‘s turning over authority or his office powers to Suleiman, his hand-picked vice president, and now apparently, his hand-picked chosen successor, do they feel that he‘s going to be, like everybody feels and still does, that Putin‘s still calling the shots from behind the scenes in Russia? Is that what they think? Or what—have they thought that far on it?
ALLEN: It‘s a pretty good analogy, yes, because they see one as the other. It‘s very clear here. In this country, there‘s a leadership class that‘s been in power for a long time. One young man that I was talking to, when we talked about the possibility of Mubarak leaving, he said, You know, that‘s not even going to be enough. We want the regime gone.
ALLEN: They want to see every face, every remnant of what they‘ve seen in power here for the past several decades, gone.
They—interestingly, they trust the military. Some people were hoping that the military was going to take over. There‘s some divide on that, but they felt that the military was some—an institution that could be trusted, that would be a caretaker for a period of weeks and months, where this whole political system was revamped.
But what they don‘t want to see are the familiar faces of Mubarak, Suleiman, the vice president, and others who people have come to know. And for them, it all just represents the same thing. They wanted to see something dramatic. Remember—remember, people in the square feel that they have staged a revolution. That‘s their words, revolution. And they want the government to respond to a revolution. They don‘t want change, they don‘t want reform, they want revolution.
MATTHEWS: And I feel it. Great reporting, Ron. I can feel it from you, and I think we may be seeing some more steps in the days ahead. Maybe the military will grab it. I was myself hoping we would see that kind of clarity by now, but we don‘t have it yet. Thank you, Ron Allen, so much, from the streets of Cairo, from Tahrir Square itself.
Let‘s bring in Barak Barfi now. He‘s a research fellow with the New America Foundation, and is with the protesters in Cairo‘s Tahrir Square, by phone. Barak, tell us about that. We‘re just hearing—do the people now expect they can get more out of Mubarak, that they can get him to leave office, get his vice president to leave office, and turn it over to the military? Is that what they want now?
BARAK BARFI, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION (via telephone): Well, Chris, I have to tell you the mood here has gone from exhilaration to frustration. The people here today heard that Mubarak was going to resign. They thought he was going to go on state television to resign. And he has not done so. Many of the protesters have left the square after his speech, but they‘re saying they‘ll come back tomorrow in force to demand again that he resign. They are clinging to their sole demand that he resign, and they‘re going to come back and they will not leave until he does so, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I thought he turned over his authority to his vice president. How do they read that?
BARFI: They think that Mubarak is trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Suleiman is a regime man. He‘s part of the ruling establishment. He was a spy. He was the spy chief. He was a minister in the government.
He‘s not the kind of reform that the people here on the street want to see. They want to see a movement to a democratic political system, not another authoritarian leader that Suleiman represents, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, what would be satisfactory to most of the people there? I was expecting all day, based on the dynamics of this thing, that the military, after having the meeting of the military command, the military council, that they were going to relieve the civilian government of all authority and take it upon themselves. Would that be enough to quell the anger?
BARFI: (INAUDIBLE) that is what the people in the square and throughout Cairo thought was happening. I was talking with Osman Mahmud (ph), who‘s one of the April 6th movement leaders, and she expressed great exhilaration earlier before the speech. She thought that was exactly what was happening, that the army was taking over, relieving Mubarak of his powers and that he would move to Sharm el Sheikh or even go to Dubai. That was the rumors we were hearing.
But now that he changed—he turned the tables on everyone and he said he‘s not leaving. And that is the sole demand of the people in the square now, Chris, that he leave immediately and resign.
MATTHEWS: Is it possible that the army has missed its opportunity here, that if the army were to do what you and I are discussing here, take power and hold it for a few months and give it to the elected officials in the next election—is it too late for them to do that, if they do that a week from now or two weeks from now? Have they missed the chance to get on this horse?
BARFI: Not at all, Chris. You have to remember the military is a very conservative institution here. The top generals were all personally hand-picked by Mubarak. There is immense loyalty on the part of the generals towards Mubarak. They may be now trying to slowly ease him out of power, and that could be the process that we‘re seeing, a very slow transition from the Mubarak era to the military, and then paving the way for democratic process, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, could it be that the crowd, as it builds tomorrow for Friday—and it could be a huge crowd tomorrow, millions perhaps—will that send the signal to the military they‘ve got to go further and yank it? If they‘ve begun to nudge the guy, they may have to nudge him further and dump not just him, but perhaps get him out of the country, perhaps get his VP out of the country now, and really assert power and turn it over to an elected government after an election? Do you think they might go further then?
ALLEN: Well, first we have to say that it‘s a little bit premature to talk about Mubarak leaving the country. He‘s still president. This isn‘t a Saddam Hussein-like leader that killed millions of people. So a lot of people here would just be happy for him to resign.
A couple scenarios to answer your question, Chris. You have to remember the Egyptian economy is losing $300 million a day because of this crisis. In the last few days, many state employees have gone on strike. We saw people through the Suez Canal company go on strike, the communications companies go on strike. If they—if the laborers go on strike en mass, it could cripple the economy and it could turn the army‘s hand and force them to move against the president, Chris.
MATTHEWS: So that‘s what we—that‘s what you see is the next waterfall here, the next event, is the economy disrupting the politics.
BARFI: Either that, Chris, or we could see mass mobilization and protests, marching on the presidential palace, marching on state television, marching on the parliament. These are all things that people have talked about, and we‘ve seen small, slight movements in that direction. If the people move—if the people move on that, to those symbols of the state power, we could see a whole different ballgame, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Where were you when he announced that he‘s turning over authority to his vice president, Suleiman? What was it like in that crowd when you were in them?
BARFI: As I said, the mood was exhilarating during the day, and then when Mubarak came on to announce that he was not going anywhere, that he was not going to resign, people‘s jaws fell. They started shaking their heads. People were putting their heads in their hands. They couldn‘t believe what they were hearing.
They‘ve been here from over two weeks. We‘re entering our third week of these protests, and there are people here—I‘m looking at people sleeping in tents, people in blankets, people who have been here for days on end. And they were just very frustrated that the president did not resign as they anticipated, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about where you think this is headed. I‘m going to give you clear running room here, the next two weeks. Let‘s not think forever. In the next two weeks, what‘s going to happen?
BARFI: Well, Chris, I‘m not as sagacious as you, but if I was a betting man on this, I would say that the army is going to have to move in and do something here. The country cannot remain paralyzed for weeks on end. This is a country of 80 million. You‘re talking about people not being able to get bread. You have to remember the military controls many (INAUDIBLE) factories and industries. They produce the bread for the—that is subsidized for the state for these people. And last week, I was going into restaurants and I couldn‘t find bread at 6:00, 7:00 o‘clock at night.
If the state workers come out and strike, there won‘t be petrol and gasoline. People‘s phone lines could be cut. This could be a scenario which plays—which forces everybody‘s hands, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Barak Barfi, with the New America Foundation, on the streets of Cairo. We‘re going stay with you a bit longer.
Let me—let‘s move on to this issue, and this is—well, I guess we‘re coming out of this. We‘ll be right back.
OK, I‘m ignoring the music. there was a little mess there.
Let me go back to Barak Barfi on the streets of Cairo, and the question now is the crowd‘s mood. And when I watch the crowd today, I share with you, watching it from here in Washington, the exhilaration of that crowd because they believed that they had turned history, that they‘d been able to by force of sitting out there for just two-and-a-half weeks, almost like people waiting for a football ticket or something or a Duke basketball game ticket—they were willing to do that in a peaceable manner, largely. And they were able to act successfully to move toward democracy in their country.
Do they believe what happened today was not a move towards democracy, it was a formal concession by naming his vice president as the sort of the caretaker, but not a move towards the freedom of these people?
ALLEN: They were very frustrated. They don‘t see anything—as one person said to me, I don‘t see anything new in this speech. It‘s the same thing we‘ve been hearing for 30 years. There‘s gone to be change, there‘s going to be reform.
Remember when Mubarak came into office after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981, he said he would serve two terms in office and he would leave. So when people heard the speech a couple weeks ago in which he said he would step down after his term in office ended in September, they said, We‘ve been hearing this story for 30 years. We want to see tangible steps on the ground. We want to see a transition to democracy now.
People are very frustrated not only with the president but also with the opposition parties, who haven‘t been able to produce any tangible results from the regime. We‘re not forming a constitutional committee to review possible changes or amendments to the constitution to ease Mubarak out of office slowly. The committee met yesterday for the first time, and it‘s saying that it will possibly amend six clauses. That‘s a positive step. People want to see more positive steps like that. That‘s a democratic step, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. Great reporting, Barak Barfi, of the American Foundation—the American Foundation—new America Foundation. Thanks for joining us from the streets. We‘ll back to you later.
For more on who the protesters are and what they want, let‘s bring in Irshad Manji, who‘s a professor of leadership at NYU and a senior fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy. Thank you so much for joining us.
This issue of the failure of the dynamic here, of the belief of what people thought was going to happen today, and the total frustration of what actually happened—isn‘t that how revolutions really get geared up?
MICHAEL SINGH, FMR. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Well, this is -
this is very surprising, wasn‘t it? And you know, and there‘s one thing that we still—
MATTHEWS: Well, actually, our reporting was pretty good. Richard Engel said this morning it‘s going to be a turnover to the VP. He‘s not leaving the country. He‘s turning over the authority. That‘s what happened.
SINGH: He did. That‘s right. And—but nonetheless, I mean, we heard from so many senior officials, including from Leon Panetta up on the Hill, that we expected the president to resign.
And you know, what he—what Mubarak said is still not exactly clear. I mean, what I heard was he said that he has delegated power to Suleiman, but he said some power. So even this supposed transfer of power looks like maybe he‘s just talking about what he already did.
MATTHEWS: Well, Michael, Michael Singh, it seems to me it‘s pathetic. The man has obviously got his ears pinned back. He‘s got no sense of—he‘s got earmuffs on. How can you be in Egypt watching what we‘re watching on television—he has local television to watch over there. He knows what‘s going on in the streets outside his country, a million people, perhaps, tomorrow, maybe two million out in the streets tomorrow, demanding a non-violent revolution is what they want, a revolution without major deaths. And he says you can‘t have it.
MATTHEWS: You‘re going to have to kill me to get me out of here, basically. You‘re going to have to defeat the army to get me out of here.
SINGH: Well, it does raise some very serious questions. One is a question of violence. I mean, all these people in Tahrir Square who were expecting him to resign, who now are going to be very unhappy, and we‘ve already heard some initial reports of clashes.
It also raises the question, though, of the government itself, how splintered it is, because some of those Egyptian officials were out saying, He‘s going to resign. Then you had the military council apparently issuing communiques that sounded like they expected the president to resign, as well. So who exactly is calling the shots? Are they talking to each other. Who is the U.S. government—
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to Irshad Manji right now, who‘s professor of leadership at NYU and a senior fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy. Irshad—Irshad, thank you for this.
IRSHAD MANJI, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: My pleasure.
MATTHEWS: It seems to me that we got—we got have dueling banjos, to use an American country expression here, today. We were hearing from the military council, which has only met three times in decades now, at critical times in the history of Egypt, whether it‘s the ‘67 war, the Yom Kippur war, and now apparently saying they‘re going to protect the rights of the people in the street then, as if they were going to take over. We all thought that was what was happening. Richard Engel reported this morning what did happen. We thought it might go further. What do you think is going on over there?
MANJI: You know, I heard you speaking just moments ago, saying that this is rather surprising. Hosni Mubarak has veritable earmuffs on. You know, how can that possibly be? How can he not hear the message?
I‘ll tell you who it‘s not surprising to. It‘s not surprising to an Arab sociologist by the name of Halim Barakat, who, before anybody else picked up on this, pointed out that old order Arab autocrats paint themselves as father figures who require unquestioning compliance. And therefore, they‘re the ones who, you know, bestow rewards to those whom they favor, and they also mete out the toughest of punishments to those who are in their disfavor.
And notice, by the way, Chris, that Mubarak opened up his speech by painting himself as exactly that old order autocrat—
MANJI: -- the father figure. And he said those who have, you know, damaged the nation irretrievably will also be dealt with in the toughest of terms. This is not surprising, and it gets to the really crucial point of what a generational change we are getting to. We are coming up to a generational tipping point.
MATTHEWS: Well, then who is going to broker this? The people in the street want revolution without blood. The military has all the military power in the country.
MATTHEWS: It‘s not a country of gunslingers, thank God.
MATTHEWS: They‘re not all walking armed and ready to—to lead a revolution, like 1776. They trust the military. How long will that trust endure?
MANJI: Ordinary people may trust the military, but I can assure you that longtime democracy activists and more and more democracy activists now don‘t trust the military.
Look, I was in Cairo in May of 2006 on first anniversary of what was then the biggest demonstration against police brutality and—and state censorship. And democracy activists there, all of them young, said to me that U.S. military aid, Irshad, goes not just to buy weapons from the United States, but it also goes to hush money for the retired generals in the Egyptian army.
Now, whether or not that‘s true is not the point. The point is that there was very little trust from the beginning, even less so now.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to Michael Singh. And I‘m to go back and forth here with your views on this subject.
It‘s—I‘m watching this, reporting this, trying to get to the future. I always like to get an hour ahead of what‘s happening. And I‘m trying—what I see here is what we call an iterative process, a back and forth. There‘s a communication going on here between the military—among the military, to some extent with Mubarak, although he‘s not getting the message, and the people in the streets.
When the military goes to bed tonight realizing they have done nothing to mute this revolution by letting Mubarak pick his handpicked V.P. and now successor, what will be their next step? Won‘t they have to move further and say, we‘re relieving him of command, both of these guys, and we‘re going to invest it in whoever wins the next election ultimately?
SINGH: Well, you would think.
I mean, remember, their first statement was communique number one.
So, the question now is, what‘s communique number two?
SINGH: You know, do they—do they say, no, this is not acceptable, or was this somehow precooked with the military? It sure doesn‘t sound like it from the statement we --
MATTHEWS: They said they were going to meet and support the legitimate demands of the people.
MATTHEWS: That—they‘re not doing that.
SINGH: Well, it certainly doesn‘t sound like it. And, certainly, the protesters in Tahrir Square wouldn‘t—wouldn‘t think that. So, I agree with you. Now the ball is in the court of not only the military, but those folks in—in Tahrir Square. See how they react.
I worry that it‘s not necessarily iterative, but that perhaps this could fall off a cliff at some point, because, once violence starts, if in fact it does start, it‘s awfully hard to get under control.
MATTHEWS: Well, Irshad, your thoughts here. What‘s the next step? Is it the military realizing they have to ratchet this up, they have got to push beyond the current regime and its lackeys?
MANJI: It‘s a good—very good question.
Now, if the military is smart—and I‘m not so sure that the higher echelons of the leadership are—they will know that they really do have to be on the side of the public here, because, ultimately, it will be a new generation of Egyptians who, at the end of the day, whenever that day comes, is going to win.
But, as I say, I don‘t think that they are that smart. And I do believe that they are under order to instigate violence. I firmly hope that the moral authority rests with the demonstrators and that they will resist with every fiber of their being—
MANJI: -- the invitation to join in violence. The moral authority of this unprecedented almost revolution comes from the fact that, so far, for the most part, it has remained self-policed, self-regulated, certainly several-organized, and, indeed, nonviolent.
That is where the great inspiration will come. And I can only hope that the organizers, few as they are, who have managed to pull this off so far, will, you know, trumpet that message to the—
MATTHEWS: Well, there‘s only—
MANJI: -- ordinary folks who have joined in.
MATTHEWS: I—I share your enthusiasm, almost. But I have a problem. Why did the military call a council meeting today, this historic event, if all they‘re going to do is rubber-stamp what Mubarak wanted?
It seems to me—well, I‘m asking you—weren‘t they trying to assert their autonomy—
MATTHEWS: .. .in calling that meeting today—
MANJI: Oh, I—
MATTHEWS: -- without Mubarak there, without Suleiman there? So, therefore, you can‘t just dismiss them and say they‘re just part of the Mubarak regime, can you?
MANJI: Oh, oh, I‘m not dismissing them at all, Chris, not in the least.
What I‘m saying is that I firmly believe, I have faith in the human capacity of the crowds, who are right now very, very frustrated, to realize that they will be ensnared in a trap not of their own making if they fall for the temptation to violence.
And I think that Wael Ghonim and many others like him who do have the higher moral ground here are, in their own technologically savvy ways—
MANJI: -- able to communicate the message that: We can‘t go there.
Stay firm, but stay peaceful.
You know, it‘s—it‘s always interesting to be an academic to some extent, like I am, to some extent, only to the extent that I remember what I learned in school. And studying revolutions is always interesting, whether it‘s the French Revolution, the American Revolution, or the Russian.
And what you see—and you see this in the Third World, what we used to call the Third World, when we had two first worlds, that you give a little, and the people demand more. It isn‘t like, I give you—oh, thank you, daddy. In this case, he thinks he‘s daddy.
MATTHEWS: And I can now go to bed with my milk and cookies. No, daddy, I‘m running the show now, daddy. You‘re now grandpop. And I‘m running the place.
And at some point, that becomes clear. And the more you notch it, and the more they give, the—three steps now, I‘m not running, my kid‘s not running, and I‘m leaving, supposedly, giving it to my V.P. They have won every argument.
Are they going to quit now, Michael?
SINGH: Well, it seems unlikely, doesn‘t it? I mean, we have had apparently the largest crowds yet today in Tahrir Square.
SINGH: And they had these very high expectations. They came ready to celebrate --
MATTHEWS: And today is not a day.
SINGH: -- his departure.
MATTHEWS: It‘s not a Tuesday or a—a Friday.
SINGH: That‘s right. And tomorrow is Friday, of course.
SINGH: And we will just have to see what happens tomorrow.
I mean, the way those crowds are sounding, you would think that something—perhaps there will be even bigger demonstrations tomorrow. And to this point of the military, I mean, the way I see it, so far, the military has acted sort of neutrally, as a stabilizing force --
MANJI: Oh, not at all.
SINGH: -- except that one day last week when they allowed the sort of pro-Mubarak thugs into Tahrir Square, if you remember that. Now it seems like a while ago.
But the question now, it seemed earlier today like they were kind of tilting in the direction of the protesters. And now we‘re going to test that proposition. Now that Mubarak has said what he did, are they really tilting in the favor of the protesters, or are they going to continue to act in this sort of neutral manner?
MANJI: Oh, actually—
MATTHEWS: Two weeks from now—
MANJI: No, no.
MANJI: Can I just—
MATTHEWS: Irshad, I just want to ask—
MATTHEWS: -- you a question.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the future. I always say, stop worrying, Chris, about things that won‘t matter a month from now.
MATTHEWS: OK? Just a little personal advice I give myself. Stop worrying about things that won‘t matter a month from now.
A month from now, who‘s going to be in the hot—the driver‘s seat, the military or the people we‘re looking at?
MANJI: Oh, Chris, come on. I mean, with every twist and turn, you know, the story changes in—in Egypt. I don‘t think anybody can say with any certitude who‘s going to be in charge.
But what I do believe is that, you know, the military certainly is the elite of the elite in Egypt. And for generations, not just years, it has been ruling and running Egypt. So, you know, if I was to be a betting woman—and, as a Muslim, I don‘t bet, but, if I was to do so—I would say that military will still have the upper hand a month from now.
But, you know, forget about the month, Chris. Let‘s take a look at, you know, in the year—in a year from now who‘s going to have the upper hand. And I have got to tell you, I‘m non-monetarily betting on the youth.
MATTHEWS: That‘s right. I think it‘s a good bet.
Your thought, Michael? Who are you betting on, those people in that crowd or the people holding on and scared to death in the barracks right now?
SINGH: Well, I think the question you ask is, who will be in charge?
And I think that one of the fears that we have right now is, when you pit these massive crowds in the square against an apparently—a regime that apparently isn‘t prepared to go anywhere, will authority just simply break down? Will anyone be in charge in a month?
And I think that what the White House is probably hoping here is that, somehow, we can get through this situation with a clear address for the United States to work with on—on resolving this situation.
SINGH: Right now, it‘s just not clear what that address is. Is it the military? Is it Suleiman? Is it those—those people there in the square?
MATTHEWS: It‘s probably the five or 10 guys and women that went to West Point together, trying to re—re—hook—hook up again.
Anyway, thank you.
Irshad Manji, thank you, and Michael Singh.
SINGH: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: much more on who the protesters are. We‘re
looking at the people in the streets. Let‘s go in close on what they want. It looks like they‘re not—well, they‘re not happy. It‘s not good enough. Too late, too little. Too little, too late.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: It‘s about 12:30 in the morning now, a half-hour past midnight, in Cairo, where the protesters are still in Tahrir Square right now. There they are, all night, it looks like, tonight.
Let‘s bring in “TIME” magazine‘s deputy international editor, Bobby Ghosh.
Bobby, we‘re all trying to figure this game out. It‘s not like a boxing match that goes to 15 rounds or a baseball game that goes to nine innings. This is one of those like, what do they call them, you go to the end and see who‘s still alive? I forget the name of it, extreme whatever it is.
And so where is this going to go now the next couple of weeks? Can you see that far ahead, or even tomorrow?
BOBBY GHOSH, DEPUTY INTERNATIONAL EDITOR, “TIME”: Well, for tomorrow, it‘s certain that there will be many, many more people out in the street, if the army allows it. And I think, that far, we can see.
Farther than that is going to be very hard. We know what happened today. And what happened today was that Mubarak and Suleiman essentially showed Tahrir Square a giant finger and told Washington, you can take your $1.5 billion—
GHOSH: -- and shove it.
So, that much is clear. They have—they—they are now on an island by themselves and with a handful of generals who are obviously behind them. How far they‘re willing to hold, how far they‘re—how long they‘re willing to hold will depend, I suspect, to some degree, on—on what happens in the streets over the next few days.
But the other thing that we need to see now—I suspect Washington‘s on the phone to many capitals in the Middle East as we speak—is that I think the next step will be people from the Middle East will have to come in and begin to mediate. The Qataris have already been involved. Maybe the Saudis get involved.
I think Mubarak has made it plain he‘s not going to listen to Washington alone.
MATTHEWS: Why is the military sticking with Mubarak?
GHOSH: That—that‘s all they know.
Keep in mind, he‘s been in charge for 30 years. Everybody in every senior position in the military and possibly many people in mid-ranking positions are all handpicked by him and by Suleiman. When he called himself the father of the nation, he‘s certainly their father. They owe him everything. They owe him their careers.
And, as we know from—from dictators in other parts of the world, they usually don‘t pick very smart people to be at the top of the military, because they‘re frightened of that. So, they will pick people who have absolute—who probably have very little other claim to the job, very little other credibility as commanders, and whose position and whose futures rest on their connection to Mubarak.
He is their anchor. He is their lifeline. He is the only person they know. And they haven‘t yet developed or—or shown the courage to cut themselves loose from him.
MATTHEWS: But he will be gone. Under God‘s plan, very few of us live past 90. And he‘s 83, going on 83. How do they keep their wagon hooked up to a—a horse like this?
MATTHEWS: It—it still doesn‘t make sense to me. You have—you‘ve laid it out as a past. You have told me the past, the prologue and all. But looking even a day or two into the future, this isn‘t a good horse to be riding right now.
And his son is not going to get the job, is he? So, who are they—who are they betting on to take care of them if they keep their loyalty up?
GHOSH: Well, I don‘t think the military cared very much for the son to—in the first place. Their—their man, their first choice, I think, would be Suleiman. And then, after Suleiman, they‘d have to figure out, once Suleiman gets the job, they would have somebody else lined up to succeed—
MATTHEWS: I see.
GHOSH: The way the military works is that you have one guy at the top, and then four or five people beneath him, any one of whom—none of whom individually has enough power, but any one of whom could be handpicked by the man at the top and placed as his successor.
So, their chain of command and—and their attitude towards—towards a chain of command hasn‘t changed. What they fear most of all is uncertainty. They fear, well, there‘s going to be an election in September, and then we won‘t know who‘s going to be in charge.
That‘s something that they fear. They fear that their enormous economic stakes—they—this is a military that owns factories, that owns businesses all over.
GHOSH: This is like the Pakistani military. They own—they manufacture everything from olive oil to Jeep Cherokees. They‘re worried about who gets to—
GHOSH: -- who protects those interests, who protects their business interests as well.
MATTHEWS: Are you shocked at—well, I hate to say if anybody is shocked about this, but the (INAUDIBLE), if you use that old word, the amount of money that Mubarak was able to grab in this 30 years, apparently, they‘re talking about $70 billion. Well, just assume that‘s off by $69 billion. He‘s got a billion dollars in cash all at the whole—the same time he‘s been working full-time, supposedly, as head of that country. How do you grab that kind of money?
GHOSH: Well, 30 years—
MATTHEWS: How does that happen?
GHOSH: Thirty years is a very long time. And you grab them in large
in large amounts every time you get a chance. And—and he has a whole establishment, he has a whole infrastructure whose job is to do that. And this is not just Mubarak.
Every dictator is the same all over the world. It‘s not—it‘s not that he has to physically go or he has to figure out how to make the money. He has a bagman. He probably has a hundred bagmen. That‘s how they do it.
MATTHEWS: Well, I was thinking, how many bagmen? We‘re think—
Bobby, you and I think exactly the same way. How many bagmen does it take
it‘s an old question, I guess—to get $70 billion pulled—pulled together?
Anyway, thank you, Bobby Ghosh, for joining us tonight.
We‘re going to have live coverage straight through the night, next two-and-a-half-hours, actually, up until 7:00 Eastern. Rachel Maddow is going to join us—join me at 7:00 here for our big edition at 7:00 on HARDBALL.
When we return—good question—who‘s really in charge tonight in Egypt? It looks like it‘s still Mubarak and his—and his named replacement, Suleiman, with the continuing permission of the military. But who is gaining power over there, and who is beginning to lose it? My bet is, Mubarak is beginning to lose it, but not fast enough for the people in the streets.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
One question still lingering tonight who‘s actually in charge in Egypt and which way is the power going with Mubarak now—not stepping down exactly but turning over power to his V.P.? What does all that mean? And is the military really getting ready to grab power?
For more on this, I‘m joined by Robin Wright of the Woodrow Wilson International Center, and also, Marc Ginsberg, who served as ambassador to Morocco in the Clinton administration.
Mr. Ambassador, thank you. Robin, I‘m a huge fan. I‘m a huge friend.
So, here we go. We all spent the day here covering, anticipating with some glee, I must say, that the military was going to play that positive role militaries have played in different times in history—they come in, they restore order, they allow an election and they pull back. That would be, of course, too idealistic. And this time, they look like they call a meeting of the high command of the military and nothing happened. All that Mubarak did was turn over his authority he claims to his veep. Nothing is happening in terms of relieving him of authority.
ROBIN WRIGHT, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER: But it‘s not over. And one of the most interesting things is to look what happened in 1952, when a group of young officers, not the senior military commanders, mobilized together under the Free Officers Movement and they together ousted the monarchy, which had prevailed for a very long time.
MATTHEWS: Right. The Albanian monarchy of Egypt.
WRIGHT: Yes. The question now is: is there a divide sufficient within the military that either galvanized the senior leaders to take action or the younger officers?
MATTHEWS: OK. You were suggesting as we came on there might be a coup within coup. What we thought would be a coup was undermined by another coup and somebody stopped them from doing what they thought they‘d do, take over and dump Mubarak.
MARC GINSBERG, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MOROCCO: Chris, I can‘t come up with any other explanation when where you see the sequencing of what took place that also entrapped our CIA director when—testifying today when he said he believes there‘s going to be a change of government.
There‘s two principal people involved in this in the military. The old crony Defense Minister Tantawi, and then you have Sami Annan, who is the chief of staff, who‘s closer to the United States. What I think was happening here is that there was at least some predilection on the part of the military that they would be able to announce in effect a transition by which Mubarak would, in effect, depart, somewhere, maybe to (INAUDIBLE). This crowd was ready for a wheel‘s up party.
GINSBERG: What happened between the time when these—
MATTHEWS: We want to know. Everybody in our news division wants to know what happened today because that‘s where we were headed today.
GINSBERG: Well, I think actually what happened is that the military was being prepared by Omar Suleiman to basically prepare for a transition with Mubarak leaving, and that what happened between some—several hours, the military was basically told, no, this is not going to happen.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Mubarak buckled and said, no, I‘m not—I‘m not going quietly into that good night?
GINSBERG: Well—if anything, I don‘t think he not only buckled, I think he was basically prepared to announce that he may, indeed, fire, maybe the chief of staff. There may have been an internal power play on the part of Mubarak not to basically follow.
MATTHEWS: OK. This is what we‘re all talking about if you missed this. This is really important. This came out from the military today in Cairo, basically saying they‘re taking over.
Listen to this. “Based on the responsibility of the armed forces and its commitment to protect the people and to oversee their interests and security, and with a view to the safety of the nation and the citizenry, and the achievements and properties of the great people of Egypt, and in affirmation and support of the legitimate demands of the people, the supreme council of the armed forces convened today.” And what happened—
WRIGHT: Well, nothing happened. But I think one of the—you know, we‘re all looking at just the two dynamics, President Mubarak, the military, and then the people on the streets. The fact is, something else has begun to happen in the last 48 hours that really could be as decisive as what the military does. On Wednesday, you saw thousands of people turn out to strike. This is what brought down the shah of Iran in the end. It was when the economy froze up, when people didn‘t turn out to work, whether it‘s work the Suez Canal—
MATTHEWS: A general strike, yes.
WRIGHT: And it‘s a general strike, and the kind of reaction you‘re seeing tonight, this has moved beyond the groups of political opponent opponents, this has moved to the broader population. And you‘ve begun to see that play out in the way that they‘ve moved, whether it‘s to parliament or state-controlled television, they moved out of the square, they‘re making a stand beyond just this little island in the middle of Cairo. And this is happening all over Egypt as well.
So, we‘ve really marked a turning point—
MATTHEWS: OK. What we‘re looking for is a leader. Mohamed ElBaradei, of course, was with the International Atomic Energy Commission, he put out a Twitter today. Here‘s what it is. He put out a Twitter. I‘m going to try to read it now.
Mubarak not stepping down. What power will be—it‘s all. Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now—Marc.
GINSBERG: Look, this has always been the dilemma. If there‘s no backbench, that is for the public to basically embrace a person who they can rally around, all these young people who have all this energy still are leaderless. There is no one they‘ve embraced as the person who speaks for them, ElBaradei—
MATTHEWS: Would they have been happy if the military relieved them of that worry for the next couple months? If they just said, out Mubarak, out Suleiman, we‘re holding the fort here for a while until they have an election.
GINSBERG: Look, if you‘re going to throw the baby out with the bath water, you got to make very well certain that everything happens at the military itself has been able to essentially enjoy. The emergency decrees that basically bind that country up in knots has to be lifted, has to be free press. There has to be all these constitutional changes or you throw the constitution out.
GINSBERG: The question ultimately is: can all of these people in the street agree that if Mubarak steps aside and they force him to step aside, that there is someone who they can embrace and right now, their biggest challenge from Wael Ghonim to all the people who have been demonstrating in every city, is there someone who is basically not going to hijack—hijack this revolution?
MATTHEWS: Who‘s that popular figure over there? We‘ve been hearing his name. He‘s got about 25 percent support.
GINSBERG: Well, Amr Moussa.
MATTHEWS: Amr Moussa is the one.
GINSBERG: But Amr Moussa is one of these—one of these people who has popular support. He‘s the current secretary general of the Arab League, former foreign minister under Mubarak. He‘s a creature of the regime.
GINSBERG: He‘s no particular ally to the United States.
GINSBERG: He‘s certainly no friend of Israel. But he does have popular support.
WRIGHT: Among the older generation.
GINSBERG: Among the—among the—
WRIGHT: He does not have—he does not have support among the younger generation and that‘s where the future really will be decided. And I think that, you know, we‘re all looking for is that ElBaradei, you said Amr Moussa and so forth—I think none of the established figures are likely to be the long-term leader.
WRIGHT: I think we‘re going to go through a transition.
MATTHEWS: OK. Ideal solution, the military says the old crowd is out, we‘re going to deal with a commission of people put together from the streets, would that work?
WRIGHT: Oh, no. Of course not. I mean, it has to be something that pulls together all sectors of society—that‘s what the Egyptians want, that‘s what the outside world wants. The issue of the military may not be as straightforward as it seems. There are many who were chanting on the square tonight, you know, we don‘t want the military either.
WRIGHT: It is the terms that are critical. It‘s less who does it than whether it meets the kinds of—
MATTHEWS: You know, they got an election scheduled for September. The real issue, speaking as an American, is to get the constitution fixed so you can have an honest election and then begin to form political parties and get this done.
GINSBERG: The problem is, is that you have—the way this constitution works, it‘s the parliament that decides who‘s the president. It‘s not by direct presidential election. There‘s a validation.
WRIGHT: That‘s not true.
GINSBERG: Yes, there‘s a validation vote that occurs.
MATTHEWS: OK. They can‘t change that.
GINSBERG: Well, they can change it because it‘s the presidential election, but then it has to be validated.
GINSBERG: And, by the way, the only people who can run under this current constitution are members of Mubarak‘s own party.
WRIGHT: But that‘s why—
MATTHEWS: That‘s why we never trusted the elections.
WRIGHT: No, no. It‘s actually
MATTHEWS: I‘m trying to be hopeful here. I‘m trying—is there a way through these woods and it‘s going to have to be through elections ultimately.
MATTHEWS: Ultimately. Therefore the question is: how do you have a decent election in that country?
GINSBERG: Well, you‘ve got to rid of—you‘ve got to get rid of the constitution. You‘ve to get rid of it.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. Thanks, Robin, it‘s always great, Robin Wright. And thank you, Ambassador Marc Ginsberg.
Up next, much more reaction of what we heard today from Hosni Mubarak or what we didn‘t hear and where things go from here. It is one of the murkiest speeches ever deliver. We‘re going to go to Jerusalem for reaction from Israel. They‘re worried.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back.
How will today‘s events play in the greater Middle East and how will it affect U.S. relations with Egypt, Israel and other Arab allies?
Let‘s go to Jerusalem. Brian Katulis is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and Janine Zacharia is a friend of ours from “The Washington Post.”
Let me go right now to you both. Let‘s start with Janine.
Janine, Israel, you‘ve been there for a number of years. We visited with you over there. John Reiss, my executive producer, and I hung out with you over there for a while. Tell us—is there big concern, middle level concern? How would you rate the concern by Israelis in the middle politically about the tumult in Egypt?
JANINE ZACHARIA, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I can tell you, for the leadership, it‘s certainly, whatever is bigger than big, it‘s humongous. They‘re really freaking out here about—in terms of what exactly is going to happen there. Enormous fear, as you heard, from Prime Minister Netanyahu about how this could be a replication of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. They‘re worried that whoever comes post-Mubarak at minimum will be beholden to the Muslim Brotherhood who rejects the peace treaty with Israel.
So, they‘re watching this naturally very cautiously. I say the middle
the average Israelis, they were probably a little bit more interested in the national basketball championship game that was preempted tonight for Mubarak‘s speech in which he shed absolutely no clarity on the situation. So, they‘re watching it cautiously, but they‘re not as involved in the day-to-day dramas of this.
MATTHEWS: Brian, the question is, Israel and how isolated it feels. It‘s never had that many friends in the region from the beginning of the creation of modern Israel in the ‘40s. And, of course, even the immigration there back in the early part of the last century. They‘ve never had a lot of friends but they‘ve had allies at a certain level, like King Abdullah more recently, and further back, Anwar Sadat. And that‘s a diminishing number of people. Now, it may be down to one.
BRIAN KATULIS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Yes. Well, you look at the trends in the last year. Right before this Egypt turmoil, Hezbollah took control of the government in Lebanon just north of here. Turkey, which is an ally of the U.S. through NATO, has had strained relations with Israel for several years now.
So, there‘s a growing sense of isolation. And as you said, they were starting out with very few friends in the region. And it strikes me that, you know, many Israelis are deeply concerned about what comes next in Egypt. But I‘ve got to say, what comes next is going to take quite some time. You‘ve got an old order that‘s controlled the country since 1952 in Egypt. And despite the passion of the protesters and enthusiasm, I think this is going to be a long, protracted negotiation over power which I think will unfold for a long period of time here.
MATTHEWS: Janine, do you think there‘s any chance that that Arab citizens of Israel and the Arab residents on the West Bank would begin to demonstrate like this? Peaceably, but dangerously politically?
ZACHARIA: Yes, well, there‘s already been attempts in the West Bank to hold some protests against Mubarak, which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has prevented. And they‘re expecting some demonstrations to try and take place tomorrow. There‘s a concern here also in the West Bank like there is throughout the greater Arab world, you referred to, Chris, that the longer this drags on, the more pressure there‘s going to be on those other regimes to also reform or maybe even be ousted as well.
Now, every situation, we have to be cognizant, is different. King Abdullah is different than President Mubarak or the monarchies in the Gulf are different. They have different needs. But every single leader in the Arab world has tried, has taken steps to placate their people, whether it be Kuwait which said we‘re giving everybody 3,000 grand and 14 months of free food or Algeria which said, you know, we‘re going to repeal certain law.
Everybody is worried watching what‘s going on. It‘s not only the Israelis. It‘s the whole region.
MATTHEWS: Did the Saudis agree to pack up the money to pay for the $1.3 billion or whatever we give to Egypt if we stop giving it to them? Did they offer to compensate that—Janine?
ZACHARIA: That was their—that‘s what was reported, yes, that‘s what the Saudis conveyed to the White House. They are so—you know, people I talked to, officials I talked to, the Saudis are very upset with President Obama for what appeared to be the rapidity with which he dumped President Hosni Mubarak initially—I mean, another strong U.S. ally. And there‘s a feeling in the region, well, if they‘re going to dump him that quickly, what happens with us?
And so, they‘re ready to step in and sort of—I think it‘s a pressure tactic, though, to put on the United States. Maybe Brian agrees or disagrees with that. But—
KATULIS: Yes, I think that‘s right. And one thing I would add is that there‘s a strong sense of declining U.S. influence in this part of the world.
KATULIS: And I think it‘s natural. I think we‘ve asked repeatedly certain things of certain allies and we‘ve been snubbed or we stated certain goals. And in the case of Egypt, we stated clear goals. When we don‘t meet those goals, there‘s this crisis of efficacy that we can‘t get done what we say we‘ll get done.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Thank you so much.
KATULIS: And I think that‘s a real dangerous dynamic.
MATTHEWS: Thanks, Brian Katulis and thank you, Janine Zacharia, in Jerusalem.
We‘re going to continue covering the developments in Egypt. I‘ve got two more hours of live coverage coming up right now. Coming back, in fact, right after this.
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