From Tuesday’s Special Report All-Star Panel Appearance:
On President Obama’s payroll tax extension proposal and scheduled defense sequestration:
He [Pres. Obama] may or may not [push for a vote next week]. But everything he does is about campaigning. He gave up the governance phase of this triumph about three months ago. This payroll tax cut and demanding it be paid for by taxing the one percent, this is part of an Occupy Wall Street campaign. That is what he is running: It’s you and me, the president is saying, against the 1 percent.
This is what everything he does has to do with. He doesn’t expect any of this ever to end up being enacted. It’s all a pose.
And part of that, of course, is cutting defense spending, which I think is rather shocking when you get your own defense secretary saying it will devastate the military — and implying he will resign. If you look at the statement he [Secretary Panetta] made, where he said I couldn’t recommend a budget that included these cuts, it looks as if Panetta, as a matter of honor, would have to step down if the sequesters end up being enacted.
And you get a president adamantly saying that he will ensure that the sequesters are put in place. You’ve got something unprecedented: The president undoing his own military in the middle of a war that he, himself, escalated in Afghanistan. I’m not sure we have ever seen anything like that.
On the prediction that the Muslim Brotherhood will make large gains in next week’s Egyptian elections:
I think they will and that is the reason that the Brotherhood has cleverly not joined the huge demonstrations in the street right now.
Those demonstrators are young, liberal urbanites. And of the three parties in play here — the military, the Brotherhood, and the young liberal urbanites — the latter are the weakest. They are the ones who will be swept away by this. If anybody expects they were going to have a liberal democracy emerging as a result, I think they will be disappointed.
The Brotherhood is going to win the parliamentary election. The only question is: Will it [also] win outright the presidential election and seize all power next year?
The military is on the defensive now. It’s no longer in control. In fact, it made a concession today that it would relinquish all power on the 1st of July next year. But the demonstrators aren’t accepting that.
It’s like in the last hours of the Mubarak regime. He made a few concessions at the end, but what they want is the government to resign today. If it does it could be a catastrophe because it would be unstable, a government of national unity led perhaps by Mohamed El Baradei, the famous IAEA inspector who covered for Iran’s nuclear program for 10 years and was awarded with a Nobel Peace prize. (That tells you a bit about Norway and… the value of the prize.) But nonetheless, it would be a weak civilian government dominated by the Brotherhood.
Our interest is anything except an Islamist Egypt. If Egypt is Islamist, [as] the largest, strongest, most important Arab country in the world, it would be a catastrophe — regional and global.
But the Brotherhood is mature and disciplined. And that is why it’s not joining in the demonstration. It’s afraid if the demonstrations are out of control and the military is on the defensive, it will declare martial law and postpone or cancel the elections, which the Brotherhood will win. So it’s showing the maturity and the discipline that the young urbanites don’t have.
In [the] history of the French, the Russian, and the Iranian revolutions, it starts with idealists who want to have democracy, and we know how it ends. It doesn’t always end that way. But with the military and the Brotherhood contending, if I were a young liberal urbanite I would be a little careful about what I hope for.
On the suggestion that an Islamist government in Egypt might resemble Turkey’s:
In Turkey, it [Islamist rule] didn’t come about as a result of a revolution. In places in which it comes as a result of a revolution and chaos — the best example is Iran — you get one man, one vote, one time. And that could happen in Egypt as well.