Palin or Panetta?
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
As President Mubarak flees Cairo and hands his power to the military in the third week of the Egyptian uprising, one of the questions is who has had the better intelligence, Sarah Palin or Leon Panetta? For the past day or so the former governor of Alaska has been mocked on some of the most famous blogs in the land for answering a question about Egypt with what the Little Green Footballs ridiculed as “an especially colorful word salad.” The question about Egypt had been asked of her by David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. “It’s a difficult situation,” she responded.
“This is that 3 a.m. White House phone call,” she added, “and it seems for many of us trying to get that information from our leader in the White House, it seems that that call went right to the answering machine. And nobody yet has explained to the American public what they know — and surely they know more than the rest of us know — who it is who will be taking the place of Mubarak.”
The Internet commentators were still laughing about Mrs. Palin’s circumlocutions when the reports started surfacing that the Central Intelligence Agency was declaring that Mr. Mubarak would resign before the end of the day. The director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, went so far as to make that prediction in testimony before the Congress. He had barely spoken than the Egyptian strongman turned around and announced that he was not resigning.
The Boston Globe promptly ran out a story saying that Mr. Panetta had “incorrectly predicted Thursday that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could step down by day’s end, even as he and other top U.S. intelligence officials defended their work interpreting swift-moving political upheaval in the Middle East.” And Los Angeles Times issued a dispatch saying that White House aides were acknowledging that “the differing views among Obama’s team of advisors has resulted in a mixed message on Egypt.”
So when word came out of Cairo today that President Mubarak was turning over his powers to the military — his title remains ambiguous — the politician here in America who has marked most clearly the dissatisfying nature of the Obama administration’s response is the one who is being ridiculed for her plain language. Or as the New York Times had put it a few hours earlier, Mr. Mubarak’s refusal to step down “confronts the Obama administration with a stark choice,” namely whether to “break decisively with Mr. Mubarak or stick to its call for an ‘orderly transition’ that may no longer be tenable.” It looks like Mr. Obama would have gained better intelligence all along if he listened less to Mr. Panetta and more to Mrs. Palin.
Note: Updated at mid-day.