tv Face the Nation CBS February 6, 2011 8:30am-9:00am PST
>> schieffer: today on face the nation, the crisis in egypt, day 13. mubarak still refuses to step down. we'll get the latest from our correspondents on the scene, and we'll talk with jordan's prince assan about concerns the unrest will spread to other parts of the region. we'll also get analysis from experts in washington. it's all ahead on "face the nation." captioning sponsored by cbs "face the nation" with cbs news chief washington correspondent bob schieffer. and now, from washington, bob schieffer. >> schieffer: good morning again. the latest from cairo, and this could be one of the more significant turns in the crisis. egypt's vice president omar suleiman met with opposition groups just a while ago.
and reports from the media say he has endorsed a plan to allow freedom of the press, to release those who have been jailed since the protests began, and to lift the so-called "emergency laws" when security permits. these are the laws basically that give the government dictatorial powers. we're also told he agreed to set up committees to discuss new constitutional amendments to open up egypt's electoral process. we want to go to cairo to get the latest on all of this from our correspondents who have been covering this from the beginning: elizabeth palmer, mark strassmann and terry mccarthy. to elizabeth first. liz, what do you make of these reports that the vice president has now told these opposition groups that he met with this morning that they are making plans to restore freedom of the press, to release the demonstrators who have been arrested, and to repeal the so- called emergency laws which give
hosni mubarak dictatorial powers? >> reporter: well, these are clearly substantial talks. and the signs are good. the opposition has already said they were positive and that the government has promised to come up with a road map for going forward. but make no mistake-- the demonstrators, tens... hundreds of thousands of them are not going to go anywhere until they see the end of hosni mubarak. at this stage, that may be a symbolic victory but it will be necessary to get the people to go home. >> schieffer: what about the mood of these demonstrators that are coming in to the square this morning? because i understand a lot of people are coming back. >> reporter: it's extraordinary, this resolve. once negotiations got underway yesterday, i thought maybe the steam would go out of this thing because, in effect, this uprising has already won important concessions-- unthinkable concessions, even a week ago.
however, after the workday ended late afternoon, down they came again. they are not giving up. as i speak to you, the line-up is stretching all the way back over the bridge, and the party mood is back. it's fiesta time down there. >> schieffer: do you think, mark strassmann, that the army will try to clear out these protestors? what sense do you have of what the government is going to do now? >> reporter: bob, yesterday, that seemed like a possibility. they were tightening the ring around the square. the tanks, the security checkpoint became choke points, almost restricting the access of people to a large deck. today, though, i mean look at the crowd behind you, behind me here. i mean tens of thousands of people at least. and people just keep on coming. the army is letting them in. i think for now the army has decided to back off and let this happen. they, like all of us, recognize that it's one thing to have 10,000 die-hards day after day come to the square. but with two weeks in on a
workday you can get 100,000 people to crowd the square like this, this is a movement that has staying power and it's touched a nerve in this country. >> schieffer: terry mccarthy, i know you are just back. you've been across the river there talking to human rights people. what do they think the situation is now? do they see some of the brutality that we saw before? do they think we've seen the end of that, or are they still pretty worried about it? >> reporter: bob, i have to say that they're actually extremely worried. their concern is that what is happening now is the army is doing a cosmetic transition of power from mubarak to suleiman, but the security apparatus for which egypt is renowned throughout the middle east-- egypt's torturers and prisons are renown throughout the middle east. they're cruel and they're afraid that these very brutal methods of repression will stay in place. there's great concern that once the eyes of the media moves away from cairo that there will be another wave of mass arrests. we know they've been watching the activists very closely.
the human rights watchers are extremely concerned. a friend of mine was caught just outside where he was staying just two nights ago by in vigilantes and was pretty viciously beaten up. they were trying to throw him into a truck, and he screamed and shouted and finally one person called a policeman who managed to pry him away just in time. but it's important to remember that that atmosphere of fear is still very close to the surface here. bob? >> schieffer: and mark strassmann, the demonstrators or the leaders, whoever they are, seem to be calling for another million people. do you think they'll reach that goal? and what will those people do once they get there? >> it's hard to tell. but clearly, this is the representation of just how many folks out there want to respond. there's supposed to be two more of those million-strong marches this week. once they get there, you're going to see what you see behind me. at least, that's the plan as far as we know it. this is sort of a combination of a religious revival, political convention, and block party.
and they stand around, they hear the chants for change. they sing, they lock hands. it's all very peaceful. but it's also very passionate. and the passion is what is driving this thing. so when they put up the call for more people to come on down, the people are turning out. >> schieffer: liz palmer, what do you sense is going to happen now from here on in today? it seems to me that this, today, has marked some sort of a turning point. how long it lasts, i know none of us can say. what's your sense of where we are right now? >> well, in a period of serious engagement. everybody is wondering what is going on inside mubarak's office and his confidantes. it's a black box. we don't know. i spoke to somebody very influential recently. he said i think he gets the message now. he's furious because he says he doesn't want to bow to the "riffraff" in the square. but he is beginning to realize that there's only one way--
that's through the exit door. >> schieffer: what about the participation today of the muslim brotherhood? as far as i know, this is the first time anybody there has ever met with them in a serious way. what comes of that? >> well, it's extraordinary. i mean, they were a banned political party. they've been terribly repressed in this country since 1954. today, they were at the table. extraordinary. they also seem to be showing real political wisdom. they say they're not going to run a presidential candidate. apparently, they don't want to taint whatever new government is coming with charges of extremism. so that's a very auspicious sign. people showing political maturity. i don't think observers thought that was possible. >> schieffer: i want to thank all three of you for being with us this morning. stay safe and we'll be coming back to you. thanks so much. the situation in cairo has not gone unnoticed in the rest of
the region, of course. there have been demonstrations in jordan, for example, where king abdullah has already replaced his entire cabinet. earlier this morning, i talked to the king's uncle, prince assan, about the situation there. >> sporadic demonstrations. i think that there is a lot of sympathy and empathy with the youth movement that came into the streets on the 25th of january in egypt. it's all about youth, equity. that is to say unemployment and i think that this will not go away whatever new government takes over. >> schieffer: do you think it would help the situation across the region if president mubarak stepped down now? >> well, i think the question is not whether he'll step down. he said he will step down, but it's a question of what follows, and as i understand his vice president has had the agreement
of all the parties to discuss the constitution. i make a distinction that in jordan, we already have a constitution, which i don't think is a subject of major controversy. but in terms of the immediate future, i just want to say that this region is suffering from two elephants in the room. one is the instability of the price of oil, which has always been the case. and the other is the arab- israeli conflict. so, it's almost as if people outside this region are saying, you can't reform and you can't improve your civil rights record, because of the emergency powers that were implemented because of the scarcity of oil resources, high pricing and so forth that might affect other parts of the world. >> schieffer: are you concerned that the muslim brotherhood will step into this vacuum? >> they are not homogeneous.
they're not al qaeda. they're certainly aware of egypt's responsibilities towards that second elephant, the peace treaty. which i hope will cease to be a white elephant and be recognized through the transition of regimes because no man lives forever. president mubarak, with all due respect, is a man of a certain age. so i personally don't think that they're participating as they did in 1989 in jordan after elections was an end in itself. i mean, four years later many of them were voted out of office. so i think to test people on the democratic template is better than not to test them at all. >> schieffer: your highness, thank you so much for joining us this morning. >> thank you very much indeed. >> schieffer: when we come back, we'll add context from former undersecretary of state thomas pickering, former u.s. ambassador to israel martin indyk, and al jazeera washington bureau chief abderrahim foukara. ♪ crossing borders with ease ♪ ♪ clearing customs' a breeze ♪ ♪ that's logistics ♪
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pickering, who has been at the state department almost as long as i've been at cbs news. and undersecretary of state at one point. and ambassador to seven countries, i believe, including russia and several countries in the middle east. ambassador, let me just ask you, how significant are these reports that the mubarak government is now meeting with these opposition leaders, including the muslim brotherhood? and they've agreed now, according to reports-- it's not official yet-- that they will lift the restrictions on the press, and they're going to release these protestors that have been arrested, and that they're going to start working on reforms to open up the electoral process? >> against the caveat that you gave that they're not yet confirmed and we don't know yet what i would call the opposition in the street thinks about these, i think nevertheless, they are very significant. they're the first set of steps that we have seen that is now moving in the direction of change and putting it in a much more concrete form.
and doing it in a way that i think reflects what people have been preoccupied about and indeed worried about for a very long period of time. will egypt change? can they deal with the civil rights and the democracy aspect of change? can the army manage that kind of pivot, and indeed can that be done in a way that doesn't bring violence and huge disruptions to many things that are very important for egypt? its economy, the peace arrangements with israel, among other things being very significant there. i think you're right. but i think that sort of at the moment one swallow doesn't make a summer. we're going to have to wait and see and look very carefully. >> schieffer: you just heard the prince from jordan, who talked about this and the impact it's having on his country. i thought it was significant that he appeared on television. what else did you draw from what he said? >> i think he wanted to make clear that he thought things in jordan were different, that they had the chance for more
stability, that it was important, i think, in his view to have stability in the region. but i've known him for a long period of time. and i know he also sees the need for economic development and change as being very significant. this is a major factor which has led egyptians into the streets over the years. it's not just the abuses of the government. it has been the instability to move income and indeed prosperity from the top segment across the spectrum, even with the growth of middle class. and the question of the people in the streets and those in the fields will be, if there are free elections-- and we certainly hope there will be free elections in egypt-- will be a very determining factor as to how this will come out if it gets that far down the road. one hopes very much it will, because i think that's the direction that we should be supporting. i think it is the direction that we are in fact backing. >> schieffer: ambassador indyk, of course you were the u.s. ambassador to israel.
did you find it significant that prince hassan conceded that there have to be some changes in his country, as well as in egypt. >> certainly. hassan himself has been a bit of a reformer as has king abdullah in jordan. but when it came to political reforms, he was resisted by the east bank establishment, a phenomenon that you have around the arab world. it's not just the regimes that are resistant to change, but those who have benefited from the regimes. the business community and so on. you see it in egypt, as well. now, the question will be whether king abdullah of jordan will go to the east bank establishment and say, "gentlemen, it's sink or swim. we have to move now." if so, i think that jordan can resist the contagion, as it were, of instability. >> schieffer: let me ask you also about this. is the united states sending mixed diplomatic signals? you had president obama calling on mubarak last tuesday to begin
a transition, in his words, now. but then, yesterday, i guess it was, we had frank wizner who was sent to the region to talk to president mubarak of egypt coming out and saying this. listen to what he had to say. >> the president must stay in office in order to steer those changes through. i therefore believe that president mubarak's continued leadership is critical. it's his opportunity to write his own legacy. >> schieffer: and the administration was quick to say he wasn't speaking for the administration in that. but what did you take from that? why did he say that? >> i think that frank, who is a very experienced diplomat, probably has had as many years in the state department as tom has, understands that removing mubarak is going to be critical here. he's trying to i think create some space for him to move. but that the administration,
particularly the president has a different challenge. he's kind of like a high wire artist in which he's got to walk a fine line between wanting mubarak to go but not go in a way that creates chaos. wanting to signal to the street that he's with them in their demands for democracy and universal rights. and so, the message sometimes gets a little blurred because you've got this kind of echo chamber that the administration finds itself in. it's a very complicated position, but i would give president obama credit here that while he hasn't always got the messaging right, he's got the basic policy right, which is to get on the side of change and to try to use what influence we have to shape it in a peaceful and orderly way. but to make clear that democracy needs to come to egypt. >> schieffer: from your point-- these are americans, former
diplomats. how does this look to you right now, as the bureau chief for al jazeera here? >> well, if i may just, let me point out a quick nuance. when we talk about opposition parties. i think the feeling in egypt, especially in tahrir square is that the opposition parties, many of them, are masquerading as opposition partys. they're not of any significant political weight. the fact that the muslim brotherhood which has political weight has joined the political game, so to speak, is raising questions because up until two days ago they were saying no talks with the current regime. it's illegitimate until mubarak steps down. now they seem to be singing a different tune. that has reverberations. i was following the coverage just before i came here. what the people are saying is we don't actually care what these opposition parties are saying. we did not officially delegate them. these are not a trade union.
this is a revolution. the other thing they've been saying is know we don't care what president obama says, what the state department says, what wizner says. what we do care about is that we want mubarak to step down. we have the will, the determination and the creativity to actually keep on demonstrating until we get our demands." whether their demand ultimately that mubarak not only steps down but also leaves the country will actually be met is a different issue. >> schieffer: let me ask you about the muslim brotherhood. mubarak has said, from the beginning, "look, you have to keep me here because if i go, you're going to have the muslim brotherhood." is that a scary prospect? >> i think a lot of people are feeling very jittery about the muslim brotherhood inside of egypt, but also in the wider arab world, and also here in the united states. i think egyptians, certainly those demonstrating in the square yesterday, had a pretty bad day.
it was, first of all, the reported attack on the gas pipeline to jordan and israel. and then there was that report that vice president omar suleiman had been the subject of an assassination attempt. and the specter of the muslim brotherhood was raised on a wide scale in the u.s. media. and certainly, that has impacted the dynamics. but i think, if i may on a personal note speak here, i think what the obama administration should take from all this is that, for a country like the united states, which has the energy and the enterprising spirit, what we are seeing in the square-- for example, today the copts holding a mass in the square. we saw.... >> schieffer: the christians. >> the christians of egypt. there was a wonderful scene of a young egyptian couple getting married in tahrir square right in the eye of the revolution. that's what the obama
administration needs to get plugged in because ultimately that's the future. that's the gate to the future of influence in the region. >> schieffer: let me ask our two former ambassadors, what concerns you now and what do you think needs to happen next? >> several things concern me. is there a linkage between the people in the square and the so- called opposition parties? who will be the leadership of the opposition, as it goes ahead? can the military manage this pivot? will mubarak's departure become an absolute requirement of people in the square? can that be managed, or does it have to be a clean and absolute break? that is, will retirement be sufficient? will omar suleiman, who has now assumed a tremendously important role, will he in fact be able to make this work? and will somebody like mohammed el bear day or someone else we haven't seen come forward as the new leader of egypt? all of those remain open. >> schieffer: 30 seconds. >> i think this is complicated. the key player is the vice
president, omar suleiman and the military. so far, so good, in terms of them not firing on the crowd, stepping back and trying to oversee this process. so even though it's very complicated, i actually am hopeful that this could actually turn out quite well in the end. as we've seen in other cases, like in indonesia. >> schieffer: thanks to all of you so much. back in a minute. so the jury has rendered its verdict -- guilty. [ cheers and applause ] i'm here with the defendant. sir, the plaintiff claims she changed her travel plans, paid the difference in airfare, but you added a 150-dollar change fee. oh, boo hoo. who can afford a 150-dollar change fee? me. well, she says she's going to fly southwest next time because they don't do that. they love customers, i love cash. [ male announcer ] don't pay a change fee on top of a fare difference.
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>> schieffer: finally today, the title of former defense secretary's don rumsfeld new book "knowns and unknowns," refers to something he once said about iraq. and i am paraphrasing here. there are things we know we know and things we don't know, but there are also things we don't know that we don't know. he was talking about iraq, but he might very well have been discussing the current situation in egypt. we are a democracy. and we say democracy and freedom are the right of all people. but on this one, we are also forced to ask, do we really mean it? hosni mubarak is a dictator who has denied freedom to his people, but he turned egypt from the main threat to israel to its best arab ally. for three decades, he's been our partner in maintaining israel's security and a certain level of stability in the region.
some might put it more crudely-- that we bought him off. but at the least, he stayed bought. and israel is still there. and that is why it is so difficult to chart a u.s. policy in all of this. clearly, mubarak has to go. and if we are true to our own core values, we must stand with those in the streets who demand freedom. but what happens if he does go? we can never be against democracy for any people. but we must balance that with patience, common sense and restraint. the last thing needed here is harsh rhetoric from those trying to score political points. on this one, rumsfeld's words are apt. we are not even close to knowing what we don't know. back in a minute. e.
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