Happy Egyptian citizens celebrate after Mubarack's decision earlier today (Getty photo via CNN)
I have to admit I missed the distinct tone of resentment in the press coverage of now former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarack's "I'm staying." speech last night. I was too overcome by the images, first of a sleepy eyed Mubarack on Egyptian TV delivering his defiant decision, then of thousands of people holding up their shoes in reaction to realize that the media had out smarted itself. News people, instead of just reporting what was happening, started trying to predict what would happen. Putting their ears to the rumor mill and trying to be first with the news of the resignation of the Egyptian president instead of reporting in a timely and accurate way what was happening ended up biting the new media in the butt.
I was not surprised that Mubarack ended up resigning and leaving Egypt today. The announcement, made by Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman around 6 p.m. local time (about 10 a.m. CST) caused rejoicing among the people of Egypt. The tone had been very negative after the Mubarack speech last night. The Egyptian military was not in Mr. Mubarack's corner and it was only a matter of time.
Now we will watch to see what happens. This is a tough situation for the United States. We are all for, or at least we have been, for the idea that people should be able to choose those who lead them. Yet many are fearful that the Egyptian people--and government--may turn to radical Islam. It is hard to tell how it will go. The people of Egypt do not seem to lead a particularly religiously oriented life, yet may express their new freedom in expanded expressions of religiosity. Egypt played an important role under Mubarack as a U.S. ally in the Middle East. There is no doubt that that role will be very different now.
The mood is celebratory now, but it is not finished. Our press corps as well as our government need to remember that as Egypt continues down this path of history.