With Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak announcing that he would not seek another term in office, President Obama stepped in front of the microphones on Tuesday to declare: "[An] orderly transition must be meaningful. It must be peaceful and it must begin now."
While allowing that "it is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt's leaders," Obama nonetheless praised the country's military for its restraint in dealing with throngs of protesters and said that Mubarak had noted to him in a phone call tonight that the status quo "is not sustainable."
The president's remarks from the White House came as Egyptians flooded the streets of Cairo for the largest protests since the crisis began and similar demonstrations in Amman forced the firing of the Jordanian cabinet.
Administration officials, most notably Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who deemed the Egyptian government "stable" on Jan. 25 are now having to struggle to keep up with breaking events as a wave of anger that began with the ouster of Tunisia's government last month seems to be spreading east and threatening the region's autocratic regimes and longtime American allies. Mubarak's announcement that he would not seek reelection in September has done nothing to quell the crowds in Cairo. Whether the Egyptian strongman can make it to the end of his term is another question.
As for Obama, he met with Clinton at the White House on Tuesday along with the rest of his national security team and used his remarks to repeat his administration's commitment to nonviolence and universal values.
The White House is also eager to let the public know that the Egyptian crisis has not stymied its work in other areas. The White House made it a point today to release a photo of the president speaking on the phone with appointees about the federal response to the snow storm sweeping across the country
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