The Clintons, Mubaraks and Bushes
How does Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak deal with charges of creating a political dynasty?
- "Has anybody who criticizes me for 'machining' Gamal's elevation looked at the way in which Hillary Clinton tried to muscle her way to the Democratic Party's nomination?"
- "Isn't that what father Bush, a president, did with his sons, one of whom is now a president? And before that, didn't grandfather Herbert Walker Bush raise his son George H. W. Bush to become President of the United States?"
- "Gamal has to be elected by the people. Egypt is not a country like Japan — where the leading party elects a new head, who then automatically becomes head of government."
- "Don't those who criticize me so ardently abroad realize just how complex and risky a venture it is to hold Egypt together — not to mention steering it away from the cliff of fundamentalist extremism?"
- "This being the Middle East, our process is a bit more opaque — but then again, unlike the Americans, we never claim to be God's own gift to humanity in terms of transparency and standards."
When examining the Middle East, the U.S. media regularly express their concern about the way in which Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak is trying to hand over the presidency after 26 years to his son Gamal. Full of moral indignation, they charge that making one’s son president smacks of nepotism — and shows a blatant disregard for democracy.
Given that barrage, here — presented in the form of an inner monologue — is Hosni’s side of the story, as he looks at the United States from the other side of the Atlantic and from the inside of Abdeen Palace, where Egypt’s president resides.
“Now, I know,” says Hosni Mubarak, as if speaking to himself, “U.S. democracy fighters are hard on my case, especially after the debacle of ‘bringing’ democracy to Iraq.
“What better way for America’s leading newspapers, such as the Washington Post, to cover up their amateurishly short-sighted editorial support of the Iraq invasion than by going after my efforts to let my son take the reins of Egypt?
“The Americans probably believe that criticizing me fervently — rather than coming clean on their own failures — represents some kind of catharsis.
“Now, I realize there are some problems with my trying to shoo my son into the post of president. But I am really tired of serving in this post. Twenty-six years of the daily grind of being de facto king of Egypt is enough for any human.
“Second, don’t those who criticize me so ardently abroad realize just how complex and risky a venture it is to hold Egypt together — not to mention steering it away from the cliff of fundamentalist extremism?”
“It is all nice and well to call for open and fair elections, but the fact of the matter is we are a country on the precipice. Three times the population of Iraq, but with none of its oil. A grand history millennia ago, just as Iraq, that now-failed country.
“Always the object of foreign interventions, even if the biggest, most recent one in our case lies half a century back, when the Brits, Americans and French fought over the Suez Canal. Thankfully, and unlike in Iraq’s case, we came out victorious — effectively saved by the wise Americans against our former colonizers.
“But back to Gamal, my son. I definitely trained him well — and have prepared him for a long time to offer the people of Egypt a modern, contemporary, skilled version of a leader.
“What’s so strange about that? Isn’t that what father Bush, a president, did with his sons, one of whom is now a president? And before that, didn’t grandfather Herbert Walker Bush raise his son George H.W. Bush to become President of the United States?
“And how about Senator Albert Gore? He and his wife raised Al, Jr. — now a distinguished Nobel Peace Prize winner — to get to the White House ever since the poor boy was born.
“As the Gore saga shows, the story doesn’t always work out as planned. And frankly, neither is there a guarantee that I will succeed with my plan to have Gamal become President of Egypt.
“Sure, I have pretty good control of the National Democratic Party of Egypt, which would nominate him for the post.
“But has anybody who criticizes me for ‘machining’ Gamal’s elevation looked at the way in which Hillary Clinton tried to muscle her way to the Democratic Party’s nomination — by sheer force, of money, of networks, of clannish loyalties, of subservience to the ruling powers inside the party?
“What’s so different in our case? Not much. Sure, this being the Middle East, our process is a bit more opaque, but then again, unlike the Americans, we never claim to be god’s own gift to humanity in terms of transparency, standards and all the other great things in life.
“Plus, unlike Hillary, who has never truly run anything other than the First Lady’s offices under Bill and now a U.S. Senator’s office, Gamal has had executive responsibilities. He has ably served as General Secretary of the Policy Committee — and most recently as Deputy Secretary General of the National Democratic Party.
“Given all that, I do resent the self-righteous way in which American elites criticize me. Don’t they know that Gamal has to be elected by the people? Egypt is not a country like Japan — where the leading party elects a new head, who then automatically becomes head of government.
“Now, I know people say our elections here are rigged. Well, yes, there is a little opaqueness here, as in many other places.
“Anyway, who on earth are the Americans to call me names for that?
“And haven’t you seen, once again, stories surfacing in the mighty, high-tech United States about worries regarding voting machine irregularities?
“Let’s face it. What the Republican elites do so effectively to restrain the voting rights and ranks of the social underclass is not very different from how we try to suppress the Islamists’ vote.
“With one crucial difference: We Egyptians aren’t the ones who are constantly calling the Americans names for presumed or very real voting irregularities.”
Having said all that to himself, Mubarak the Elder then reflected upon which U.S. president in his lifetime he had really liked and admired.
None more than Texas’s really great president, LBJ. Truth be told, he always felt especially close to that particular, self-described son of a bitch. After all, Lyndon Johnson and Hosni Mubarak had been elevated to their top-gun positions only from their posts as clear second fiddles to very popular presidents — in a moment of national tragedy.
Whether it was John F. Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963 or Anwar Sadat’s in October 1981, Lyndon and Hosni are, in effect, blood brothers — rising to lead the nation through tumultuous times.
Firm in his knowledge of close kinship with one of modern America’s deftest political operators, Hosni Mubarak all of a sudden felt pretty calm and self-assured about the odds of handing the reins to his son Gamal.
His son’s odds to become President of Egypt, he thought, are at least as good as Hillary’s in her country. What would that first meeting between the two would be like? And who would be a smoother operator, more respected by their nation’s public?
“Let’s wait and see,” Hosni mused and turned out the lights for the night.