Interview With David Gregory of NBC's Meet The Press
Secretary of State
QUESTION: Here with me now for the very latest on the crisis, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Madam Secretary, welcome back to Meet the Press.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, David.
QUESTION: I know our time with you is limited. Let me get right to it. On Monday, you said that the Egyptian Government was stable and was looking for ways to respond to the wishes of the people. Have you changed your view?
SECRETARY CLINTON: David, this is a very volatile situation, and I think that as we monitor it closely we continue to urge the Egyptian Government, as the United States has for 30 years, to respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people and begin to take concrete steps to implement democratic and economic reform. At the same time, we recognize that we have to deal with the situation as it is, and we are heartened by what we hear from our contacts that, at least thus far, the army has been trying to bring a sense of order without violence. And we have to make a distinction, as they are attempting to do, between peaceful protestors whose aspirations need to be addressed, and then those who take advantage of such a situation for looting or other criminal activity.
And we have a very clear message: Long-term stability rests on responding to the legitimate needs of the Egyptian people, and that is what we want to see happen.
QUESTION: Are you calling the regime of Hosni Mubarak stable this morning?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not going to get into either/or choices. What we’re saying is that any efforts by this government to respond to the needs of their people, to take steps that will result in a peaceful, orderly transition to a democratic regime, is what is in the best interests of everyone, including the current government.
QUESTION: You’ve talked about the steps that are necessary for the regime to take in order to really respond to the wishes of the people, your spokesman, P.J. Crowley, put on Twitter yesterday that, “The Egyptian Government can’t reshuffle the deck and then stand pat. President Mubarak’s words pledging reform must be followed by action.”
Are you calling upon Egypt to call for free and fair elections, and will you ask Mubarak to say unequivocally that he will not run?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We have been urging free and fair election for many years. I mean, I do think it’s important to recognize that through Republican and Democratic administrations alike, America’s message has been consistent. We want to see free and fair elections, and we expect that that will be one of the outcomes of what is going on in Egypt right now. So we have been sending that message over and over again, publicly and privately, and we continue to do so.
QUESTION: But is the only way that Mubarak stays in power for now is if he calls immediately for free and fair elections and pledges that he will not run?
SECRETARY CLINTON: David, these issues are up to the Egyptian people, and they have to make these decisions. But our position is very clear. We have urged for 30 years that there be a vice president, and finally a vice president was announced just a day or two ago. So we have tried to, in our partnership with Egypt, to make the point over and over again about what will create a better pathway for the Egyptian people in terms of greater participation with political reforms and greater economic opportunity.
I spoke about this very clearly in Doha, it seems like a long time ago but just about two weeks ago, where I outlined that whatever was possible in the 20th century is no longer possible for regimes in the 21st century. The world is moving too fast. There is too much information. People’s aspirations and certainly the rise of middle classes throughout the world demand responsive, participatory government. And that is what we expect to see happen.
QUESTION: Well, I just want to pin you down on this, Secretary Clinton. Do you think that the Mubarak regime has taken the necessary steps to retain power?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I think that there are many, many steps that have to be taken. And it’s not a question of who retains power. That should not be the issue. It’s how are we going to respond to the legitimate needs and grievances expressed by the Egyptian people and chart a new path. Clearly, the path that has been followed has not been one that has created that democratic future, that economic opportunity that people in the peaceful protests are seeking.
So it’s our very strong advice, which we have delivered. President Obama spoke with President Mubarak, I’ve spoken with my counterpart, Secretary Gates has spoken with his. This is an ongoing conversation that American officials have had for 30 years. Now is the time to move toward a national dialogue, to take concrete steps, to create the political space for peaceful protest and for the creation of peaceful oppositions that want to help work toward a better future. That is what we want to see.
QUESTION: Should Mubarak lose power? Will the United States offer him sanctuary?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I believe strongly that we are only at the beginning of what is unfolding in Egypt. I’m not going to go into hypotheticals and speculation, other than to say that President Mubarak and his government have been an important partner to the United States. I mean, let’s not just focus on today. This is a government that made and kept a peace with Israel that was incredibly important, avoiding violence, turmoil, death in the region. But so much more has to be done, and that is what we are urging.
QUESTION: But you’d like to see him stay in power?
SECRETARY CLINTON: David, you cannot keep trying to put words in my mouth. I’ve never said that. I don’t intend to say that. I want the Egyptian people to have the chance to chart a new future. It needs to be an orderly, peaceful transition to real democracy, not faux democracy like the elections we saw in Iran two years ago, where you have one election 30 years ago and then the people just keep staying in power and become less and less responsive to their people. We want to see a real democracy that reflects the vibrancy of Egyptian society. And we believe that President Mubarak, his government, civil society, political activists, need to be part of a national dialogue to bring that about.
QUESTION: Before you go, are Americans in danger in Egypt?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We’re working closely with the Egyptian Government to ensure the safety of American citizens. We have authorized a voluntary departure. We’re reaching out to American citizens. As I’m speaking to you at this point, thankfully we do not have any reports of any American citizens killed or injured. We want to keep it that way. So we are just working triple-time here at the State Department to ensure the safety of our Americans.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.