Well, that was embarrassing.
For most of the day Thursday, news reports suggested that Egyptian Hosni Mubarak was going to step down.
After weeks of people power protests, the dictator was finally exiting.
Then Central Intelligence Agency director Leon Panetta, supposedly one of the adults in the Obama administration, started talking about how there was a “strong likelihood” that Mubarak would exit.
President Obama bought into the line, deliving a speech in which he pretty much said “tune in tonight for this historic transition.”
At the opening of another of the many “Winning the Future” speeches about the economy that have gone pretty much unnoticed since the Middle East erupted, Obama told a crowd in Marquette, Michigan: “What is absolutely clear is we are witnessing history unfold. It’s a moment of transformation taking place because the people of Egypt are calling for change.”
That sure sounded like it was all over but the helicopters taking off from the presidential palace, as did the president’s teasing comment that “we are following today’s events in Egypt very closely and we’ll have more to say as this plays out.”
It was all going so swimmingly, until Mubarak actually addressed the people of Egypt—and said he was staying, at least until September. Then, Mubarak’s appropriately spooky sidekick, Vice President Omar Suleiman, told the protesters to go home, back to work and stop watching satellite television stations like Al Jazeera.
Obama had no immediate comment after the speech.
No kidding. What could he say? “Um, our Mideast forecasts kind of suck”?
The headlines read: “Obama Meets With National Security Team After Mubarak Speech.”
Presumably, the president’s first question was: Does the United States actually have any intelligence capacity in the Middle East. Or are we just winging it?