Bush on Dream

For the last week Dream TV's interview with President Bush has been talked up in Egypt, but can you understand any of this? And can Bush get any more condescending (and wrong) when he tells the interviewer she has her job because Egypt is a "society that honors diversity and gives people a chance to realize their talents?" I suspect the standard for Middle East reform that Bush has is having the same foreign policy as the Saudis and being slightly less bigoted than the Saudis -- then you pass the test.



Q Yes. My first question is, people in Egypt, sometimes they get confused -- on the one hand, they hear the U.S. statements, speeches that stress on the long-lasting relationships with Egypt, the strategic importance of Egypt to the U.S. and to the Middle East, Egypt as the major player in the peace process. On the other hand, they could see indications that contradicts with this -- U.S. depending on other parties in the region, your snatching visit to Sharm el Sheikh last January, the partial cutting of the U.S. aid. How would you comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT: I would comment this, that from my perspective, the Egyptian-U.S. relationship is a very important part of our Middle Eastern foreign policy, for these reasons: one, Egypt has got a proud history and a great tradition, and a lot of people look to Egypt for help.

Now, the United States can't solve a lot of problems on our own; has to have allies be a part of it. And so on the Palestinian issue, for example, Egypt can be very constructive, and has been constructive and helpful. Egypt has got a society that honors diversity and gives people a chance to realize their talents, like you. You're a very smart, capable, professional woman who has showed the rest of the Middle East what's possible in the Middle East. And Egypt has been on the forefront of modernization. Egypt is strategically located.

And so our relationship is strong and good. We've had our differences, on elections, for example. But nevertheless, to answer your question, I would say the relationship is very solid and very important.

Q Then how would you perceive the state of democracy in Egypt?

THE PRESIDENT: I would say fits and starts; good news and bad news. In other words, there's been some moments where it looked like Egypt was going to continue to lead the Middle East on the democracy movement, and there's been some setbacks. But I guess that just reflects the nature of the administration and their -- on the one hand, their desire for democracy, on the other hand, their concerns about different movements. My view is, is that democracy is a powerful engine for reform and change, and leads to peace.


[From Interview of the President by Mona Shazli, Dream TV, Egypt]

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.