2012 GOP Hopefuls Weigh In Or Stay Mum On Egypt
But when it comes to Egypt, it appears that the party's top contenders aren't quite sure how to use the situation to their advantage.
"While House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have offered measured backing for the White House’s handling of the situation, more than a half-dozen of the GOP’s presidential prospects are either avoiding a clear position or simply weighing in with sharp criticism—a reflection not only of a dearth of foreign policy experience but of the demands and constraints of GOP primary politics.
When surveyed by POLITICO Tuesday to ask how each would handle the situation, whether Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak should step down now and if the U.S. should cut off foreign aid to his government, representatives of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal did not respond to requests for comment."
But not everyone's staying mum--or taking the same side.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was open in his criticism of President Obama for not standing behind Mubarak in a more public way.
"This would not have required us to approve everything he did, or deny the rights of the people of Egypt to demand a change of government," Huckabee told the Jerusalem Post of the 30-year ruler who has been a key ally for the U.S. in Middle East politics. "But I think it would have been an important symbol to send to the rest of the world, that we don't just walk away from long-standing allies."
Huckabee defended Mubarak on Fox News Tuesday morning, as well.
“I don’t think anybody is trying to defend everything that [Mubarak] did as president, but they would have liked to have seen at least an acknowledgment that he’s been a friend for all these years,” he said. “So the concern is that if the U.S. will so quickly turn on that friend, how quickly will it turn on its other friends?"
In what RealClearPolitics calls a "pointed attack," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich "said that the administration had not taken the Middle East seriously and suggested that Obama had seriously erred in delivering a 2009 speech from Egypt that was geared toward repairing the American relationship with the Muslim world."
"The president went to Cairo and gave his famous speech in which he explained that we should all be friends together because we're all the same people doing the same things and there are no differences between us," Gingrich said Monday on Sean Hannity's radio show. "Well, I think there are a lot of differences between the Muslim Brotherhood and the rest of us."
On Fox News with Greta Van Susteren on Tuesday night, Gingrich went further.
“I don’t think [members of the Obama administration] have a clue. It’s very frightening to watch this administration,” he said “We should be very frightened of the Muslim Brotherhood. These may be people you can’t dialogue with.”
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty also criticized the Obama administration for not taking a harder line on whether Mubarak should resign.
"I think his time is going to come to an end. It should come to an end," he said at a book signing in West Des Moines on Monday.
Pawlenty said the statements from top officials like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and Obama "seemed inconsistent, bordering on incoherent if you put them all together...I guess I would say their statements taken as a whole look like they were caught off guard and surprised and confused."
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney appears to be playing it a bit safer.
POLITICO notes, "Romney, the only top-tier candidate to come out in support of President Barack Obama’s handling of the situation, asserted Tuesday that Mubarak should step down. And he came closest to expressing support for Obama’s approach, a position that put him at risk with a conservative base that is deeply antagonistic toward the president."
On "Good Morning America" on Tuesday, Romney said, "I don't know that I would say to the president, 'You should call for Mubarak's resignation. That, I think, flies in the face of a long history of friendship between he and our country and our friends, but it is very clear that [Mubarak] needs to move on and transition to the voices of democracy."
And though she hasn't Tweeted, Facebooked or been on Fox News to discuss Egypt, leave it to Sarah Palin to find a whole new way to approach the situation.
Speaking at the Safari Club International's annual convention on Saturday, Palin reportedly referred to a column calling for a "Palin-free month" by the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, who pledged to not write about the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate for a month.
"[S]ounds good, because there's a lot of chaos in Cairo, and I can't wait to not get blamed for it--at least for a month," she said.
But does any of this really mean anything for 2012? Will voters remember Egypt?
TIME's Michael Crowley writes, "My guess is that in the near-term you'll see a lot of Republican criticism of the Obama administration on process grounds-- for being "incoherent," in Pawlenty's words, with a generalized critique that Obama hasn't been a strong enough leader. But what will really matter for 2012 is, once the dust settles, what kind of government has emerged. An Islamic regime in Cairo could be a complete disaster for Obama, much as the Iranian revolution helped to do in Jimmy Carter. A peaceful and secular government could make Obama look like the statesman steward of a great historical advance in American values. More likely, we'll wind up with something more ambiguous whose meaning will have to be litigated by our own democratic process."