Morning Memo: Monday, January 31

CAIRO, EGYPT - JANUARY 29: A protestor in Tahrir Square holds a photo showing President Mubarak's face crossed out on January 29, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. Tens of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets across Egypt in Cairo, Suez, and Alexandria to call for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Riot police and the Army have been sent into the streets to quell the protests, which so far have claimed 32 lives and left more than a thousand injured. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Good Morning!

Egypt’s Enigma Continues…

Top Topics:

Egypt’s Protests Continue To Be Strong

Egypt’s Military Gets More Aggressive

Top Egyptian Opposition Leader Calls For Mubarak’s Resignation

Clinton Calls For A Peaceful Transition

President Obama Calls For Meeting In The Middle on Egypt

Mubarak Will Take Measures To Stabilize Economy

Countries Start Evacuating At Cairo Airport

Crisis Plagues AU As It Begins Summit

Tunisia’s Top Islamic Leader Returns

South Sudan Has Officially Voted For Secession

Figures of Note:

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Opinions of Note:

Washington Post Expert Roundup on Egypt

Steven Cook on ElBaradei’s Role in Egypt

Videos of Note:

Vice President Joe Biden on Why this is not like 1989

Fareed Zakaria Interviews ElBaradei

Hillary Clinton From “This Week” on Egypt

Mark Zuckerberg and  Jesse Eisenberg Together on SNL

My First Thought: Transition Back Towards Foreign Policy

The Obama presidency has been characterized by domestic policy achievements: healthcare, repealing DADT, the extension of the Bush tax cuts, financial regulation, a new food safety bill, starting race to the top, amongst a whole host of other large accomplishments.  He lacks in foreign policy substance.  Sure, he got the senate, after some unfortunate arm twisting and needless argument, to ratify the START Treaty to help “reset” relation with Russia and he did make a promise to reduce troops in Afghanistan around the middle of July.  Other than the minor diplomatic head games, his presidency has been marred with domestic objectives.

A trend like this is not uncommon in a presidency.  Most presidents do not campaign on platforms of foreign policy because they do not have that much experience in dealing with foreign policy in the first place.  Other than being in the senate foreign relations committee, Obama’s record for foreign policy was very little.  President George W. Bush also had very little foreign policy experience as did Clinton.  George H.W. Bush and Richard Nixon are exceptions to this rule, in the modern era, because they both served as vice presidents and H.W. Bush served as head of the CIA.  Many presidents also avoid foreign policy just as a matter of precaution to not spark an international incident.

However, in order for a president to step into the fray, a big cataclysmic event must happen.  For George W. Bush it was 9/11 and for Obama it could be the Egyptian protests.  Even though the president is playing it safe in Egypt this could be his rallying cry to support those who are trying to bring democracy to the Middle East, not by force, but through organic action.  Moments like this in history change a president’s view on the world. Suddenly, nothing on the domestic plate matters that much.  He must be careful not to get too sidetracked for fear of defining a agenda he does not want, like another Freedom Agenda pronounced by Bush.  Whether or not a regime change comes to Egypt history will be moving in the direction of that part of the world.  Obama must develop a coherent strategy to engage with Middle East democracy movements.  Without that crucial new strategy, he could miss the train on foreign policy.

Photo Credit: CBS News 

Graphs from Ezra Klein and the Economist

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