Millions of Egyptians filled the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and other great cities of an ancient land Tuesday to make an ancient demand for the right to govern their own future… for democracy. Their posters, their chants, their pleas have been directed not merely at Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak but at the U.S. government that has so generously sustained Mubarak across the decades of his assumed rather than reguylarly elected tenure.
So what is the official response of the country that has for more than two centuries has imagined itself as the champion of a faith in the power of its founding ideals to — in the words of Thomas Jefferson — "(arouse) men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government"?
State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley tells the world in general, and the Middle East and northern Africa in particular (via an interview with al Jazeera), that the United States is "watching and responding." The responses so far have offered something for everyone — Joe Biden rejecting the notion that Mubarak is a dictator, Barack Obama sending back-channel suggestions that maybe Mubarak (and his son Gemal Dynastic Succession Mubarak) might want to reconsider plans to fake up another election "win" — but scant expression of the faith that "a (ruler), whose caharacter is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people."
Forget, for now, the affirmation that: "Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be" — or that: "Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them."
For now, the United States is "watching" and, if necessary, "responding."
That absurdly tepid line — coming from an administration that small "d" democrats around the world briefly dares hope might renew America’s acquaintance with that Jeffersonian ideal – has drawn passionate condemnation from an unlikely figure.