There was a huge breakthrough in Egypt on Sunday when the new Vice President, Omar Suleimant met with a wide representation of major opposition groups for the first time, and agreed to allow freedom of the press, to release those detained since anti-government protests began nearly two weeks and ago and to lift the country's hated emergency laws when security permits
Meanwhile, over the course of nearly two weeks now, CNN has been the absolute critical cable television network to follow the events in Egypt (unless you're streaming Al Jazeera English). As the ratings indicate, if there's not a breaking news event, most people would rather watch MSNBC or Fox and view their predictable dose of partisan wrangling can be highly entertaining if you're into that sort of thing. However, American are still hard wired to want to find CNN on their television remotes when something like a U.S. Congresswoman is almost killed, or, in the case of the past few weeks, when a whole mass of people who have been held down forever dynamically and spontaneously cry out for freedom. Though it no longer deserves the reputation that it was once had years ago, the bottom line is that in this country, when something comes across the transom, most Americans will still turn on CNN than any other news outlet.
But for Sunday morning talk, when for many people it's the only time of the week that they can sit back and try to get some perspective on the American political scene, it's been CNN alumnus Christiane Amanpour for the second week in a row bringing the best weekly round-up of this electrifying and unpredictable story, all bottled into an hour long show.
(It was also instructive to see how the other network shows tried to compete. Fox News, airing the country's biggest television/social event of the year, the Super Bowl, didn't even bother, with host Chris Wallace interviewing Terry Bradshaw and other ex-jocks along with Commissioner Roger Goodell. With the investment that network has in the game [and the huge interest in it], it's not surprising that Fox went heavy with pro football, but still, it couldn't find one Republican or conservative think tank analyst to answer some with perfunctory responses to Chris Wallace's entreaties?
But back to Amanpour, who began This Week with a solid ten minute news wrap on the events of the week, including some scary footage of a car that she was traveling in having their windshield broken by angry pro-Hosni Mubarak supporters.
She then held an interesting interview with the new Vice President of Egypt, Omar Suleiman, who says that he doesn't believe that the protests that have already forced Mubarak to announce he won't run again (at the age of 82 and 30 years of power, how big of a sacrifice is this really?) are motivated by the Egyptian masses.
AMANPOUR: When you see what's happening on the streets of Egypt, of Tunisia, and now of Jordan and Yemen and Syria, what do you think? These are young people who want a different world.
SULEIMAN: This is — this is the (inaudible) current (ph) who push these people.
AMANPOUR: You think that?
AMANPOUR: You don't think it's young people who want their rights, their freedom?
SULEIMAN: I don't think that's only from the young people; others are pushing them to do that.
AMANPOUR: In many parts of the Arab world, there's been no democracy. Do you not think the young people in today's world, connected to the Internet, seeing everything that they see, do you not think that it comes from their hearts?
SULEIMAN: It's (inaudible) talk altogether, but it's not their idea. It comes from abroad.
AMANPOUR: Do you believe in democracy?
SULEIMAN: For sure, everybody believes in democracy.
AMANPOUR: So do you not...
SULEIMAN: But when you will do that, when you would — when the people here will have the culture of democracy.
AMANPOUR: We know what the opposition wants. What do you want from the opposition?
SULEIMAN: I want from the opposition to understand that, in this limited time, we can do what President Mubarak have — have said, and we cannot do more, and when new president will come, you will have more time to make any changes you want.
AMANPOUR: What message do you have for the young people who are still standing and still in that Liberation, Tahrir Square?
SULEIMAN: We can say only go home; we cannot do more than that. We cannot push them by force. Everybody has to go home. We want to have normal life.
However, the best part of her show was her round table from Cairo, which included the New York Times Anthony Shahid, the BBC's John Simpson, and Egyptian journalists Lamia Radi, and Nadia abou el-Magd, You can watch by clicking here.
None of the other Sunday morning programs could stand up to this quality. In fact, no disrespect to NBC's David Gregory, but it's interesting to see some Washington based news anchors quiz their guests as if they're challenging them if they're going to enter into a political contest, as you can read here, when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry checks down Gregory when the Meet The Press queries him on why Hosni Mubarak should go.
MR. GREGORY: Mubarak could be a figurehead? He could still be president in name only?
SEN. KERRY: Well, first of all, let's be crystal clear. It's not up to us. It's up to the Egyptian people to decide what is going to happen here. That negotiation is taking place right now. We ought to be elated that they are, in fact, sitting down, that the army has restrained itself, that some semblance of order, even as there are protests, is being restored to the streets. I think that can be enhanced significantly if President Mubarak were to state even more clearly what the process of transition will be to this sort of, you could call it a consensus government, as Amr Moussa did earlier. You could call it a caretaker. What is important is that the Egyptian people understand that their demands are being met, that there will be an election, that it will be open, fair, free and accountable, and that they will have an opportunity to go to the polls and choose their future. That's the important thing.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
SEN. KERRY: And one final thing, David. We've learned from Gaza and we've learned from Lebanon and we've learned from other experiences that just doing something, "having an election" doesn't bring you democracy. You have to have an orderly process in place that guarantees the rights and the security of the people and that moves forward in a competent way. We want to do this right.