TODAY   |  January 31, 2011

Crisis in Egypt tests relations with Mubarak

How will President Obama support Egypt’s President Mubarak,  a longtime ally of the U.S., without turning his back on democracy in the Middle East? NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.

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>> democracy without losing a solid u.s. ally. chuck todd has more. good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, ann. if the protests continue in egypt the u.s. government is struggling to stay ahead of events and prepare for any outcome. as the world watches the turmoil in egypt , the administration sends secretary of state hillary clinton to the air waves to say the u.s. wants change now.

>> we have a clear message . long-term stability rests on responding to the legitimate needs of the egyptian people . that's what we want to happen.

>> reporter: president obama consulted with israel, turkey and saudi arabia .

>> ultimately the future of egypt will be determined by the egyptian people .

>> reporter: but the president and his national security team have a challenge -- how to say void abandoning long-time ally mubarak while trying to push him harder. it's what the president tried to do in a friday evening phone conversation.

>> he pledged a better democracy and greater economic opportunity. i told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise.

>> reporter: it was just two years ago the president used cairo as a setting to gently push the muslim world toward democracy.

>> suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power. you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion.

>> reporter: at the same time, secretary of state clinton was telling the al arabia network she considered president mubarak and his wife personal friends. now there may be a message mubarak doesn't want to hear.

>> it needs to be a peaceful transition to real democracy, not faux democracy like the elections in iran two years ago.

>> reporter: now, there is no back seat diplomacy going on on the republican side . speaker boehner and mitch mcconnell on the shows yesterday, both stood by the message from president obama and secretary clinton.

>> chuck todd at the white