Guests: Chapman Bell, Rachel Maddow, Brian Williams, Irshad Manji, Barak Barfi, Marc Ginsberg, Robin Wright, Hisham Melhem, Steven Cook, Ernesto Londono
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Liberation? Not yet.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Too little, too late. This is the scene in Cairo, where the people are gaining power by the hour, but are furious that President Hosni Mubarak has refused to give up his office and leave. How far will this revolution go? How many steps will it take for the people to end the regime and banish a leader they‘ve had more than enough of?
This much is clear, power is moving to the people, but too slowly for this crowd. First, the people got Mubarak to say he‘s not running again in September. Then they got him to say his son‘s not running in September, a goal on which he had set his heart. And late today, just as people thought Mubarak was finally going to give up office, he instead he said all he would do is turn over some powers to his vice president. No one thinks that‘s enough. They believe Mubarak will still be pulling all the strings. And tonight, the revolution goes on in Tahrir Square, Liberation Square.
Let‘s go to Cairo right now and NBC News producer Chapman Bell, who‘s with the protesters in Tahrir Square. Chapman, thank you for joining us. What do you see? What can you see we can‘t see?
CHAPMAN BELL, NBC PRODUCER: Well, Chris, here in the square right now, the mood is still jubilant (INAUDIBLE) There is anger. They are upset. But they are continuing this process that they‘ve been working on for 17 days now. When Mubarak did make this address to the crowds, they were watching a broadcast here in the square. Some were listening to radios. They were very upset, but many were saying, Tomorrow, tomorrow. This is the day. We‘re going to come back and we‘re going to continue to be in this square until he leaves his office.
MATTHEWS: Did they think he was going to give up power today, and/or leave the country today? Did they think that was in the air?
BELL: Chris, yes, that was the—that was what widely, well, heard around the world and expected here in the square. Many people were coming here for what they thought would be a celebration. They thought that their protests over the last 17 days had finally paid off and that they would be here to celebrate this mission that they‘ve been on.
Unfortunately for them, they didn‘t get the news they wanted to receive. But they—and while there was anger, like I said, it did remain peaceful. They just want to regroup and keep this protest up, despite the government wanting them to get back to business as usual.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe the people would be satisfied you‘re with right now if Mubarak had said, I‘m not president anymore, I‘m going to Sharm el Sheikh, I‘ve turned over all authority, I‘m not president of Egypt anymore. Would that have been enough for euphoria to continue tonight?
BELL: Well, I think had he made that statement, the situation around me would probably be one big party this evening. I think—but I think life would have gotten back to normal at some point with that statement because that has been their overall mission this whole time, that they said that they would be here protesting on the streets, in Tahrir Square, until Mubarak leaves office.
So it‘s difficult to know, but I—I mean, I would assume from the people I‘ve spoken to, had he said, I‘m no longer president, there would have been celebrations here, and then people would have slowly gotten back to business as usual.
MATTHEWS: How long do you think the people around you can keep up this adrenaline rush, it looks like?
BELL: Chris, that‘s a good question, though I will say they‘ve done it so far and they seem as ever motivated to continue doing it here. In fact, tomorrow, like they‘ve said to me, they expect to continue massive protests here, and also at the palace, the presidential palace here in Cairo. They expect to pick up the protests there. And they seem to—the crowds around me seem to have no interest in slowing down their mission at this point.
MATTHEWS: Can they keep it non-violent?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No Mubarak! No!
BELL: I‘m sorry, Chris, I couldn‘t hear you.
MATTHEWS: Can they keep it non-violent?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mubarak, get out!
BELL: Well, that‘s an interesting question, actually. I mean, you‘ll notice surrounding the square are tanks and other military vehicles, but there‘s hardly a presence of any soldiers out here on the square. In fact, the tanks are more used for people to sleep around, covered under blankets here in this cold Cairo night.
They also—also, the organizers here in the square, volunteers, seem to actually be keeping the peace more than the authorities. They have human chains surrounding the square to search people, ask for IDs. They seem very organized and very committed to keeping the peace, and also keeping their protest peaceful so that it remains legitimate.
MATTHEWS: Do you have a sense in the streets there where people are pushing the army? Are they taunting it to keep the pressure on Mubarak? Are the people with the army or against the army?
BELL: Well, I believe that—I mean, the army has said that they are united with the people, and it has remained in the last few, well, several days, the nonviolent impact—you know, you see soldiers mingling amongst the crowd. You see people sitting on tanks. There doesn‘t seem to be any friction, any tension amongst the military and the people here. And I assume as long as they remain peaceful, that the military will respect that they‘re peacefully protesting what they want here in Egypt.
MATTHEWS: Great reporting, Chapman Bell with the people in Tahrir Square in Cairo, sir. Thank you for that great report.
Rachel Maddow, of course, is host of “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” on MSNBC tonight. She‘ll be reporting for an hour at 9:00 o‘clock. Rachel, thank you for coming on early tonight.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW”: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Perhaps you can preview. But I was listening to your very, I have to say, well, wonderful description of the—I call it the music because I think behind every revolution, there‘s a feeling to it, a hope, a dream. There was certainly with the Mubarak—Mubarak—I keep getting my names wrong—the Barack Obama campaign in the United States, a sense of hope that went beyond the words. The people today found the words couldn‘t keep up with their dreams.
MADDOW: We are seeing something that moves us as Americans because I think Americans, left, right and center, believe in government of the people, by the people and for the people. And when we see people in any country around the world try to make that happen through peaceful means, we instinctively, instinctively side with them.
And to think that the American people—I think the latest polling I saw, something like 82 percent feel like we are in sympathy with the Egyptian protesters in the street. That is a remarkable number when you keep in mind that Hosni Mubarak has been this great American formal ally for so long. He has been America‘s man at the cornerstone of the Arab world as a leader for so long, without us having any regard for the way that he was treating his own people at all.
And to—it tells you something important about the way that Americans think about humankind, to see how we can completely disregard that, our relationship with Mubarak, and turn toward his people when his people start articulating their human needs. I think this is not a story that is about us. This is not a story about American politics, the divisions between Americans on politics or any of those things. But the way that we react to this and why it‘s so important to us to see these images, I think it does just remind you sort of where we‘re coming from as a people.
MATTHEWS: You know, I agree with you about the feeling. It‘s obviously manifest in your words and in the words of many others. But you know, when you look at the polling in the United States, you see a line down the middle between left and right. And you see people on the right—
I think the number was 8 percent of the people in the poll we just looked at that support what they see happening in Egypt, 8 percent of the right.
MADDOW: Yes. Well, you know, you also see Dick Cheney out there
calling Hosni Mubarak a good man in the midst of all of this. I mean,
there‘s certainly—there is another side to this. But I do think that—
you know, Fox News is running all day with these protests, too, and
Americans are paying attention to these protests, too. And I don‘t think
that when people look at Hosni Mubarak up there giving that taped
statement, saying—talking about himself in the third person and saying -
addressing his people as if they are children and he is their father—I don‘t think it is a mainstream American position to identify with Hosni Mubarak in that situation. I just don‘t think most people do.
I do think that, you know, the Cheney wing of the Republican Party will want that, and I just don‘t think it resonates. I do think that we are in a fragile position here in terms of figuring out what happens next. And the military is going to be key. And if this ends up being—I mean, when we saw Mubarak and Suleiman speak tonight, they are empty shells. We have no idea that they have any power to stay in office in the way they are describing that they‘re going to stay in office. They don‘t have the military with them, those guys are just giving speeches that‘ll go down in history as ironic, if best. These guys may have no power behind them if the military isn‘t with them.
And if this ends up being sort of a populist, popular-supported military coup, I mean, Americans are going to be in an obtuse relationship to this, right?
MATTHEWS: Right, but I think we can follow it. I‘m thinking it‘s not “Seven Days in May” because there‘s -- It‘s not like that because it‘s a popular uprising.
MADDOW: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: I want you to talk about something you‘re very good at, the conversation that‘s going on right now. And it is a conversation. The people in the street are speaking with one voice, trying to make a point. The military‘s listening. Barack is deaf. I mean—I mean, Mubarak is deaf. And so you see this interesting conversation. But there are people talking to each other. Those people in the street are talking to the military.
And the military has been—has been nudging this guy. First of all, he‘s not going to run for reelection. Then his son‘s not going to run. And then he‘s going to turn over powers—unclear what powers—to his VP that he‘s picked. It‘s all step by step.
But what‘s pushing—well, your thoughts on this. Is it the people we‘re looking at right now in the square pushing the military, which is really in power, and they‘re pushing the Mubarak administration, regime, if you will, to do these steps, these baby steps? Eventually, he‘s going to have to take the big step if this crowd keeps up.
MADDOW: Yes, I mean, it‘s not a mystery as to why everybody thought Mubarak was going to step down tonight. We woke today to news from Egypt that the military was speaking as a political actor without Mubarak and without Suleiman, right?
MADDOW: The military supreme council met without those guys, and said, Protesters, your demands will all be met. What‘s their main demand? Mubarak must go. That was the military speaking without Mubarak and without Suleiman, having consigned them to the sidelines. And then essentially, these statements that we got tonight from Mubarak and Suleiman, that was them speaking from the sidelines. We have received what they call communique number one from the military telling the protesters...
MATTHEWS: Well, what‘s communique number two going to be?
MATTHEWS: That‘s the big question.
MADDOW: That is what we‘re waiting on. And who knows when it comes. It may come in East Coast primetime U.S. time tonight. This is a 24-hour revolution. It may come tomorrow.
But communique number 2 from the military is when I think we will know who‘s actually in power in Egypt. Mubarak and Suleiman saying they are is almost as good as you and I saying we are. At this point, we don‘t think they have any power behind them.
MATTHEWS: Did you ever think you‘d be as thrilled by getting a letter from the military as we were today?
MATTHEWS: I tell you, it was a breath of fresh air to hear that there was a voice of authority over there that wasn‘t corrupt, apparently—not as corrupt. It wasn‘t desperate. It sounded morally firm. It said, We‘re with the people.
MADDOW: Yes. And to see the reaction of the people to say, You know what? We—the people in and the military are one. They have believed in the military. There‘s initial pictures of people in the streets handing flowers to soldiers standing around tanks.
MADDOW: I mean, they see the military in this case not as some sort of imposed power, but as somebody who speaks for them and who they trust. And so to see a statement of the military saying, We accept that trust and we will move forward with it, was a calming moment.
MATTHEWS: Well, stick around tonight for “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.” Things get better as the night goes on on MSNBC -- 9:00 o‘clock tonight, Rachel Maddow at 9:00 PM Eastern.
Coming up: It‘s not clear what this means for Egypt and it‘s certainly not clear what it means for us. We are Americans. We‘re following this from a long way away, trying to figure it out. But you know what? This is darn good coverage we‘re getting here. We‘re getting great pictures and great reporting from over there. And I think we‘re hearing from the people. And they want change. They want this guy gone, and he ain‘t leaving. That‘s the story tonight.
You‘re watching HARDBALL—close but no cigar, as we say in American politics—here only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Brian Williams is, of course, anchor of “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS.” Brian, thank you so much. You know, the old Gandhi expression was “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, and then you win.” You‘ve been catching the mood of the crowd over there. Where are we at?
BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”: Well, I‘ll tell you, there we were, minding our own business in the middle of the first feed of “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS” tonight. Richard Engel explained the day and said, you know, this news organization reporting he‘s going to go. White House believing he‘s going to go, billions of people around the planet. This is Mubarak‘s last day on the job. Richard quotes a sources next to Mubarak saying plans changed. Something changed during his day.
Then we talk on the telephone to Sameh Shoukry, Egypt‘s ambassador to the U.S., who says, Here‘s the deal. He transferred all the powers of presidency to his number two. So Suleiman is now the de facto president of Egypt, and Mubarak remains the de jure president...
WILLIAMS: ... of Egypt—to teach a little law school on live television.
MATTHEWS: I know. I know!
WILLIAMS: And that‘s what he is contending.
MATTHEWS: Well, the problem is, when you ask the question, Who‘s president, to the people in that crowd as we‘re watching now on tape here, they believe Mubarak‘s still president and they don‘t like it.
WILLIAMS: Yes. This was very simple to them, Chris. They wanted to see an old expression we call “wheels up.”
WILLIAMS: They wanted to see some sort of vehicle, boat, vehicular, or preferably aircraft carrying Hosni Mubarak out of Cairo, the typical grainy footage of a plane at the end of the tarmac getting ready for takeoff, perhaps to Sharm el Sheikh, UAE, all—Germany, all the places it‘s been rumored that would—would take him. And they wanted to see him go away.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about U.S. interests and our president. Sometimes passivity might the right policy. We‘re hearing from Chuck, Chuck Todd at the White House, that they‘re very nervous about any statement from the president that might be used by the Mubarak regime to say we‘re interfering. And so it‘s an unusual time. We don‘t want to show we have any influence. But if you don‘t show you have any influence, you look like you don‘t have any power, and that‘s our conundrum, isn‘t it.
WILLIAMS: Well, that‘s right. Two examples here. Number one—I don‘t mean to sound flip, but when Toto pulls away the curtain and you see who‘s pulling the levers and turning the dials, that was a bad moment for the wizard. And wizards and diplomacy don‘t like to be shown doing that.
Number two—I said this earlier today on MSNBC—if people read the WikiLeaks document, of all things, all of those documents, not looking for the prurient, not looking for the women leaders are hanging out with, but instead look at the mechanics of diplomacy, you‘ll see it runs at the speed of molasses. And there‘s still a machinery, Chris—you know this better than most—to diplomacy. It takes time. And certain things have to run a certain way. It gets more complicated around the world. And so I‘m not defending or supporting anyone, just explaining that for all people see above the surface of the water, there‘s a lot of paddling down below.
MATTHEWS: Where do you think this story goes in our journalism? Do you think it goes now in those bilateral relations between American generals, field-rank people, and their counterparts in Cairo? Is that where we‘re going to have to find any kind of American subtle diplomacy here?
WILLIAMS: Well, you‘re onto it. This was the part of the diplomacy that‘s been going on beneath the surface of the water that a lot of people haven‘t keyed in on. And that is general officer to general officer. In some cases, U.S. retired generals and their Egyptian counterparts because, Chris, as I‘ve said before, you can‘t go to West Point or to a major Army base in this country without seeing Egyptian uniforms, these two armed forces have worked so closely together. Those are where some of the real close relationships are, in addition to the diplomatic community. So that would be a ripe area to pursue.
MATTHEWS: Or on the roof of the Washington Hotel...
WILLIAMS: Yes, that‘s right.
MATTHEWS: ... overlooking the Mall...
MATTHEWS: ... some late evening during the summer. Thank you very much, Brian Williams, for that great report.
Let‘s bring in Irshad Manji, who‘s a professor of leadership at NYU, the great University of New York, and a senior fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy. Irshad, thank you. It‘s late in the evening for me, at least. We‘ve been on all afternoon. We‘ve gone through some mood changes. We have seen euphoria. We have seen disillusionment. Now we see a kind of, I think, defiance in the street. I don‘t think it‘s nasty yet. It‘s like, OK, this is going to take longer.
IRSHAD MANJI, EUROPEAN FOUNDATION FOR DEMOCRACY: Yes. Well, and it always does, Chris. And you know, between the last time you and I spoke and now, I heard from some of my friends who had been in Tahrir Square, and almost to a person, they use phrases like, I‘m deadly serious. This guy is not serious. He does not know how serious we are.
So they‘re actually hunkering down for the long haul. And it‘s not a resignation. It‘s not even a bitter defiance that I‘m picking up on. It is now a “grit your teeth, and let‘s go for broke.” But always in the case of my friends, a commitment, at least they articulate it, whether or not they‘ll deliver it is another issue—a commitment to non-violence.
MATTHEWS: You know, I get romantic about politics. I get in trouble for it. But you know, it must feel great to be one of those young people there because for the first time in their lives—they may be 25 years old, 35 years old—for the first time in their lives, they matter. They have a say. And even just the tenor of their voice, the wave of their fists matters. And it never did before in their whole lives.
MANJI: It‘s such a beautiful, eloquent, yet simple observation that you‘ve made. And I‘ll encapsulate exactly what you said by telling you a quick story. A few years ago, when I was in Cairo after a major anti-government protest, I hung out with a bunch of democracy activists at a cafe. And one of the young women approached me to say, Irshad, I need to confide something to you. She said that she‘s dating a Jew and thinks that she‘s in love with him, and she doesn‘t know how to tell her parents.
And the point is that she had already busted, you know, the family‘s boundaries. She was already part of the future. Now she needed to figure out a way to show her elders that they can be brought into the future, as well. So in some ways, I think that the cycle of fear politically that we keep hearing has just been broken may very well trickle up or down, depending on how you look at it, to personal relationships, too.
MATTHEWS: Well, go tell her the Jewish guys make great husbands, it‘s been my experiences, from our family and friends.
MATTHEWS: But seriously...
MANJI: I wouldn‘t know.
MATTHEWS: No, it‘s true. Let me ask you about the future here for us, as a journalist and looking at this thing. How does the president deal with the fact that he‘s not supposed to be seen doing anything, yet everybody will hold him to account if it goes wrong over there.
MATTHEWS: And maybe he wants to get the credit if it goes right. In other words, he has to be the hidden hand of all hidden hands. Apparently, they‘re on the plane still now trying to figure out in real time what to say. They don‘t—I‘ve never heard the White House have such a problem writing a simple statement.
MANJI: Well, because it‘s not simple at all, is it. I mean, we just heard Brian Williams point out that for all of the diplomacy going on aboveboard, there‘s a whole lot of paddling underneath. And look, the Middle East is complex. There‘s no question about that.
But I think that, you know, President Obama is in a position yet again in a position of having to figure out for himself, what are core values as president—not as an individual, but as president of the United States, he is mandated to represent. And then, Chris, when he figures that out for the umpteenth time, he has to be very clear and articulate in delivering that statement.
And I think that‘s what so many people are confused about right now, is that it‘s one thing if he was a private citizen, quite another that he still holds office as president. And yet for some reason, despite the complexity of the Middle East, he is not able to state clearly whose side America is on. This is very disturbing.
MATTHEWS: But you know what side he‘s on. But you know, Irshad, what sides he‘s on.
MANJI: Oh, I...
MATTHEWS: He‘s on the side of what we‘re watching.
MANJI: Oh, I agree.
MATTHEWS: So what‘s stopping him from saying it?
MANJI: Well, it‘s interests, right? It‘s that age-old sort of...
MATTHEWS: Oil? Oil? Israel...
MANJI: ... confrontation between interests and values.
MATTHEWS: The usual set of concerns we have in that part of the world.
MANJI: The usual set of concerns. And yet, as many people have said and long before this uprising, at a certain point, you have to have let the people of the Middle East figure out where they‘re going to go from there. And Chris, given that we live in an interdependent world, we in this part of the world are just going to have to adjust. And you know what? This may be the swift kick in the pants we need in order...
MANJI: ... to wean ourselves off of some bad habits, like (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Do you know the name of the song -- (SINGING) Easier, easier said than done?
MATTHEWS: Easier said than done.
MANJI: Chris, nobody said it was easy...
MANJI: ... but please don‘t suggest it‘s impossible.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. Thank you for that. Irshad Manji, thanks for joining us tonight. When we return, we‘re going to go back to Cairo, where the protesters aren‘t giving up. In fact, I think they‘re enthusiastic more than ever tonight, and not bitter yet. That‘s amazing. We‘ll see how long that lasts, that enthusiastic desire to count—to count. Tahrir Square—we‘re going to get back to there when you‘re watching HARDBALL in a couple of minutes, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s 2:30 in the morning over there in Egypt. I guess things are settling down after an exhausting, emotional day over there. And we‘re looking at Tahrir Square. It‘s still filled with people camping out overnight and trying to stay awake, obviously. A huge day coming tomorrow.
Let‘s bring Barak Barfi. He‘s a research fellow with the New America Foundation. He‘s there with the protesters. Barak, thank you for staying up. I don‘t know how you stay up, but I want to ask you about the adrenaline level of these people and what they see coming tomorrow. Let‘s do some previewing of where this goes after the disillusionment of today‘s announcement by Barack Obama—why do I keep—Hosni Mubarak, that he‘s staying in office.
BARAK BARFI, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION (via telephone): Well, yes, definitely, the people have rolled out their mats and pitched their tents, trying to get a few hours of sleep before the big day tomorrow. Remember, Friday is the big protest day. It‘s the weekend. They come out after the prayers. They‘re expecting another large amount of people. They‘re talking about a million or more, like they had on Tuesday.
BARFI: And they‘re again going to demand that President Hosni Mubarak resign and resign immediately, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about what they think happen. Do they believe he‘s pretending to leave power? Or they don‘t even like the functional thing of turning power over to the other guy, to Suleiman? What is it they don‘t like? They want to see him on a boat, on a plane?
You know, Brian Williams was saying they want to see some physically -
they want to see some physicality to this event.
BARFI: Well, Chris, last week, last Wednesday, Mubarak threw a hardball when he brought those thugs in the street, and today, he threw them a curveball. There weren‘t expecting that he was not going to resign. There were rumors that he was going to resign all day and people were ecstatic and elated.
BARFI: And now that he hasn‘t, people are frustrated. And they don‘t want to leave the square until he does. I think (INAUDIBLE) people are digging in, they‘re clinging their position.
That‘s what exactly what I‘ve heard in the square. They said they won‘t leave. They‘re here, they‘re adamant and they will not move until Mubarak leaves.
MATTHEWS: What possible advantage does the army get in keeping Mubarak nominally in the presidency and yet having him publicly yield his powers?
BARFI: Well, Chris, that‘s a very good question. The military—we have to remember, the military here is a very strong player. It‘s ruled the country since the 1952 revolution that brought Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser to power. All of three presidents have been part of the military.
So, there could be behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the military here, by military generals, by midlevel officials, trying to jockey for power. And remember what Brian said, that every—that every American base is full of Egyptian officers training.
The United States conducts the Bright Star Operation with the Egyptian military, considered one of the largest exercises in the world. We have a lot of contacts with these military officials, and now we‘re going to see the diplomats step back and more people from the (INAUDIBLE) step forward and try to negotiate with these people they‘ve developed long relationships with, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you to speculate at this point. We‘ve been through this story all afternoon with its ups and its downs.
Could it be the military is giving Hosni Mubarak one last chance? He comes out and says, I‘m going to yield my powers but not my office. They say, you‘ve got 24 hours with that scam. If the people see through that and they‘re still demonstrating tomorrow night, Friday night, you‘re gone?
BARFI: Well, it‘s unclear what the military is going to do. We heard about decision number one, that Mubarak is going to transfer all of his powers and he‘s going to be a president in name only, as interior (ph) figure. But he threw that option out the window today when he threw society a curveball.
So, we don‘t know what the military is going to do next. But we do know there‘s a large frustration on the part of the military, that soldiers are deployed, and as we‘ve seen the pictures of the people celebrating on the tanks, the junior officers here, they are deployed, are with the protesters and not with the regime and Mubarak, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Who do you think they could turn over the authority to in the next couple of days that would make the people feel they had won this revolution? Is there any figure they could give this to that would give them a sense, a real knowledge that they won the revolution? They can go home?
BARFI: Well, in the West, people talk about Mohamed ElBaradei. But here, people say that he‘s not Egyptian, he‘s been abroad too long. But one name comes up repeatedly, Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League. He was a former foreign minister during the 1990s. He was a vocal critic of America‘s policies and Israel during the peace process in the 1990s.
MATTHEWS: I see.
BARFI: He won a lot of respect. When the Intifada broke out in 2000, a song came out, “I hate Israel and I love Amr Moussa.” He came to the square last Friday to meet with the protester and I‘ve spoken to a lot of them and they have deep respects for Amr Moussa—Chris.
MATTHEWS: You may have something there. We‘re going to be looking for the new leaders as the days go on because it‘s not going to be Mubarak. Thank you—Barak Barfi, on the streets of Cairo.
Coming up right now: who is in charge tonight as we speak? Mubarak says he‘s transferred power to Suleiman, his handpicked V.P. But is he still pulling the strings? Is he a Putin figure, making Medvedev look like the leader when he‘s really calling the shots, the prime minister? It doesn‘t look like a real transfer of power (ph) today and people are very unhappy it. Look at them, look at them. They want change.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
One question still lingering tonight in Cairo is who‘s actually in charge with Mubarak not stepping down? What power will he have and what does his V.P. actually have?
And how about the military? Who‘s the boss? Who‘s in charge?
I‘m joined right now by Robin Wright of the Woodrow Wilson International Center and Marc Ginsberg, who served as a U.S. ambassador to morocco.
So, I want to ask you both, Robin and the ambassador, who‘s in charge. I mean, for Americans, we always like to know who‘s the boss. Is the boss Suleiman, Mubarak secretly, or the military high command?
ROBIN WRIGHT, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER: Mubarak thinks he‘s still in power. I think in his circle probably has the reins on power. The military is the most powerful institution in the country, but the momentum is on the side of the people. And you‘ve seen a real shift over the past week. Mubarak has twice tried to get out there, giving speech, mobilizing public sentiment.
The first time, it helped a little bit. This time, I think he has blown it.
MATTHEWS: I think he looked weak tonight. Your thoughts?
MARC GINSBERG, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MOROCCO: I‘m absolutely convinced that Omar Suleiman together with the chief of staff of the military are the two most important people in Egypt right now. His name is Sami Annan. He‘s the chief of staff of the military. He controls the actual military apparatus in that country. The defense minister, Tantawi, is going to be brushed aside, in my judgment, although he went down to the demonstrators to basically show his face.
But Omar Suleiman has been—
MATTHEWS: OK. You make an argument, but it‘s an argument until I see Mubarak toppled. Why is he still the head of that country? Why is he still Mr. President?
GINSBERG: Well, I‘m convinced he almost has little to do, believe it or not, with what‘s taking place inside Egypt as much as his presence has to do with the other Arab allies of Egypt who fear that he was the firewall between them and the demonstrators.
MATTHEWS: What does good does it do them to keep the title but not the power?
GINSBERG: Because it doesn‘t create the impression to the other potential demonstrators in their own countries that they can send their own leaders packing on a plane to either Saudi Arabia or elsewhere.
MATTHEWS: Oh. So, they‘re afraid that exile looks too inviting for people of their countries?
GINSBERG: That‘s right. Yes.
MATTHEWS: What is it in Middle Eastern culture—and you‘ve been an ambassador, you‘ve been a reporter over there, in our country, if you don‘t like, say, Richard Nixon, you send him on a plane to California. He goes lives in San Clemente. Not a bad place to go actually. Or Jimmy Carter, if you beat him for re-election, he goes downs to Plains, Georgia.
There‘s something in the Islamic culture, he‘s got to get out of the country. What is this about exile? Is this an old banishment thing from the caravan, if you‘re bad, we send you away? Why do they want him to leave?
He‘s got $80 billion, why would he want to leave? I don‘t know.
WRIGHT: Well, this—I mean, he feels Egyptian, and not only that he feels he‘s Egypt.
MATTHEWS: Well, why do they want him to leave the country? Why is this a big part of the protest?
WRIGHT: No one has talked about him leaving the country. They talked about him leaving office.
MATTHEWS: We hear it all the time.
WRIGHT: Well, some—look, that‘s—
MATTHEWS: Watch television, Robin. It‘s all day long.
WRIGHT: He‘s been in Sharm el-Sheikh for so long, and I think if he -
at this point, actually went to his vacation home where he spent most of the time in Sharm el-Sheikh.
MATTHEWS: You agree with this?
GINSBERG: You know, the bottom line is that people in Arab countries believe that there are sinister forces at work that manipulated, that he‘s a wizard of oz. As long as he stays in the country—
MATTHEWS: OK. So, it‘s radical (ph)?
GINSBERG: It actually comes down to cutting the umbilical cord.
MATTHEWS: I see.
WRIGHT: But remember, this is not something that‘s unique.
MATTHEWS: They didn‘t want the shah back as you recall. They didn‘t want him on the road. They wanted him back to try him and execute him.
WRIGHT: Well, but look, I mean, whether it‘s the Duvaliers, you find all over the world that dictators are—people want them out, they‘ve ruled for so long --
MATTHEWS: But they escaped. Let me tell you this, Mengistu from Ethiopia is in Zimbabwe. Edi Amin went to Saudi Arabia. You know, Baby Doc went over to France.
Most dictators want to get out of the country.
WRIGHT: Well, they don‘t have many options in the end because they‘ve led to such turmoil.
MATTHEWS: I‘m going to hold my question, but I still have—why do they always say out of the country?
GINSBERG: Saddam didn‘t leave, remember what happened to him?
MATTHEWS: Well, he should have.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about his future. You say the military in combination with Suleiman are running the country.
MATTHEWS: How long will they put up with what we‘re watching? What‘s the next shoe to drop? We‘re watching those shoes, what‘s the next one to drop?
GINSBERG: My biggest fear here, Chris, is that, in some respects, the military may have calculated that there is an important need to have a showdown, another violent showdown with the demonstrators in order to show the vast majority of the rest of the Egyptian people that these people will not accept—will not accept—a reasonable transition of power. They may want to believe that they can isolate these demonstrators and I think they‘re absolutely miscalculating.
MATTHEWS: I think they are, too. I think these demonstrators are not making any bigger demand than they made the first day they started.
WRIGHT: I think this moved gradually, that they‘re asking for a little bit more.
MATTHEWS: What more do they want than they started with?
WRIGHT: Well, they were first talking about reforms and—
MATTHEWS: No, they said get rid of Mubarak.
WRIGHT: And very quickly, it has evolved. And it‘s also now they don‘t want Suleiman. And tonight, they said they didn‘t want the military either. I think that they‘re talking about a lot more.
But I think the thing that‘s so interesting is that they have tried to remain loyal to civil disobedience and I think it is true that the regime is now trying to bait them to see if they can get them to engage in a way that then puts the onus on them.
MATTHEWS: By the way, they‘re not Tea Partiers. They don‘t come armed. That‘s probably a good thing.
WRIGHT: Only with shoes. They started throwing their shoes tonight.
MATTHEWS: They don‘t believe—they don‘t have a Second Amendment over there.
Thank you, Robin Wright. And thank you, Marc Ginsberg.
Coming up: much more reaction on what we heard today from Hosni Mubarak and where things go from here. We‘re always trying to figure out tomorrow. Tomorrow looked clearer—today, the afternoon looked clearer. Now, it‘s not.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Joining me right now is Hisham Melhem who‘s Al Arabiya‘s Washington bureau chief, and also, Steven Cook, who‘s a senior fellow of Middle East studies at the Council of Foreign Relations.
Gentlemen—Hisham, I haven‘t talked to you in a couple hours, but this day keeps changing. Every couple of hours is a new day. We started with this euphoric bit of information both reporting of NBC and the statement from the military command over there that there was going to be every indication of a major change, the leaving of Mubarak.
He‘s hung in there for the title of president it seems, saying he‘s given over some of his powers. It‘s not satisfying anyone.
Your thoughts about where this leads to over the weekend.
HISHAM MELHEM, AL ARABIYA: Chris, it may be heresy to quote Lenin in Washington, but he used to say in the past that sometimes, decades pass and nothing happens. And then, in weeks, decades happen. And that‘s what we are seeing in Egypt today.
MATTHEWS: Wow. I like that.
MELHEM: I think—that‘s what you do when you spent many years of your life studying philosophy at Georgetown.
I lost my train of thought now. Look, tomorrow is going to be a crucial day. Today when they heard the speech, they were chanting in Arabic, (SPEAKING ARABIC), which is it‘s beautiful in Arabic because it rhymes and it means “tomorrow afternoon, we‘re going to the palace.”
And tomorrow, if you see blood letting in the streets of Cairo, whether at the hands of the police, not necessarily the military now, this could lead Omar Suleiman to take some of the tough measures that you were hinting at today when he was cautioning against chaos in Egypt. And I still believe that the army doesn‘t want to shoot at people, because I do believe that there‘s a clear warning from Washington to this army that depends heavily on your tax money and my tax money, this is not Iran in 2009. There‘s a lot of influence that the United States can wield in Egypt.
So, I think the army is still reluctant to use brute force, the kind of brute force that you would expect in Damascus or in Cairo, or in Baghdad during Saddam. So, the army is trying to maintain its influence in the country.
The senior officer corps is as corrupt as they come. They have their own benefits. They have their own villas and their own bank accounts and perks. They don‘t want to lose that.
The junior army, the officer corps is different somewhat. And so, at one time, they may reach the point, why are we fighting to keep a man who‘s 83 years old in power and it probably get through to them, and bring a different arrangement, a different order that would maintain the special privileges in the Egyptian hierarchy.
MATTHEWS: That brings the very question I‘ve been asking for the last hour or two, which is why should the military fight for Hosni Mubarak to maintain the pretense of the presidency when he‘s already agreed to give up the presidency? Unless he‘s lying.
STEVEN COOK, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, I think there is indication that he is not entirely telling the truth. When he transfers his power to Omar Suleiman, that is a temporary situation. If he was actually giving up the presidency, it would turn to the speaker of the People‘s Assembly, a gentleman named Fathi Sorour. So, there is an element of sleight of hand here.
On this question of the military, I think the senior officer corps is united in wanting to protect a regime, not necessarily President Mubarak, but a regime from which they are privileged above all else. And I think it‘s incredible important. The problem is, should there be chaos in the streets, then you might see the military move in a different direction.
MATTHEWS: Well, Hisham, I guess the question is, I‘ve been watching a relatively nonviolent revolution here. In fact, it is nonviolent. I was comparing it to people sitting outside and waiting for their Duke basketball tickets for day after day in whatever weather it is. It‘s almost nonviolent.
And I‘m just wondering, is there an escalation potential here? What would be the next step for the people in the square?
MELHEM: I think those who are leading this movement, uprising, revolution—call it whatever you will—are extremely conscious of the fact that they want to maintain it as civil disobedience. They don‘t want to resort to arms.
But if the army or police or the regime in the end crushes this uprising, then everybody will go underground. The Islamists will go underground. And then you‘re going to see a different bitterness, a different approach. And you will probably see more anti-Americanism because those people will feel that they were betrayed by the president of the United States who went to Cairo a year and a half and spoke about the virtues of democracy that everybody deserves democracy.
And these people today are saying the president of the United States should be faithful to his own words in that landmark speech he gave. If this movement is crushed, then we will reap the ugly consequences later on.
MATTHEWS: So, you‘re with these people who are watching, 100 percent, no problem?
MELHEM: Look, so far they have been extremely smart, trying to neutralize the army, trying not to do anything that is really provocative. They did not engage in looting, in destruction of property. And they have been speaking in a language that everybody can relate to. There‘s no—there‘s no talk about Islamism.
MELHEM: There‘s no talk about nationalism. There‘s no talk about anti-Americanism.
MATTHEWS: I noticed that. I noticed, sir—Hisham, what I‘ve noticed here is, it‘s Egypt. It‘s nationalistic. It‘s people who want a better country.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t catch a theocracy in the making here.
MATTHEWS: I sense they‘re very much like what we‘ve been like at our best. They want a meritocracy. They don‘t want the old kleptocracy that we‘ve had exposed here.
Thank you very much, Hisham Melhem, for joining us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Steven Cook, more time next time.
Up next: tomorrow will be a big day in Cairo, we think. Well, it could be a couple of million people. We don‘t know how to estimate these crowds right now. But, clearly, Friday was going to be a big day. Now that Mubarak‘s refused to step down after the big tease today, you got to expect a huge crowd tomorrow.
We‘re going to go back to Tahrir Square tonight for the last couple minutes of HARDBALL, to get a live report.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, you can tell how tricky a political statement is by how long it takes to put it together. The White House, after four hours, has just released a statement from President Obama.
It reads in part, this is in response to what President Mubarak didn‘t say today, I believe, quote, “The Egyptian people have made it clear that there is no going back to the way things were. Egypt has changed, and its future is in the hands of the people. We have seen young and old, rich and poor, Muslim and Christian, join together and earn the respect of the world through their nonviolent calls for change.”
Joining us right now by phone from Cairo is Ernesto Londono, who‘s foreign correspondent for “The Washington post.” there live.
Ernesto, thank you very much. This statement from our president tonight basically sides with the purposes of this revolution that you‘re covering in the streets. What influence do you think that will have on the events you‘re covering?
ERNESTO LONDONO, THE WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): The protesters have been adamant that they want the White House on their side. They‘ve been adamant that the White House and the Obama administration and his predecessors have been supporting a regime that they call authoritarian and brutal for way too long and they say it‘s time for America to speak in very clear terms and to join their cause. So, I think—I think the protesters are going to be very happy when they see that the White House is taking a pretty a pretty bold stand behind them.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Let me give you another—Ernesto, let me—it‘s even tougher, this line. “The Egyptian government must put forward a credible, concrete, and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity.”
So here you have the president of the United States saying that the titular head of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, hasn‘t done what we want him to do. It‘s a pretty strong statement.
LONDONO: I‘m sorry. What protesters have been yelling—this might be—this might be too little too late. They‘ve been—they‘ve been clamoring to since day one for the White House to join their cause, to demand that Mubarak step aside, and to show that there‘s a plan for an orderly transition.
They‘ve been getting mixed messages from the White House when this—when these protests began, the United States said that they believed Egypt was a stable country. And in the days that followed, the protesters have been seeing mixed messages. I think we‘ve reached a point where there is so much anger on the street that what America is saying might not be altogether relevant.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Thank you very much, Ernesto Londono, over there in Cairo, covering for “The Washington Post.” And I just want to say that the longer you let this pressure build, the more you have to do to release it. And the longer we fail to take sides, the longer that president over there, Mubarak, stays in office, the more the demand‘s going to be for swifter and nastier punishment of him.
If I were him, I‘d get out there now. But, clearly, he‘s not going to do it. We‘ve got a long test of wills coming in the next weeks, perhaps month. We‘re watching democracy growing in Egypt.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.> PASTE THE TRANSCRIPT HERE
Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
PASTE THE TRANSCRIPT HERE