Belmont Club

The Riddlers

President Obama, without mentioning Hosni Mubarak by name, expressed his impatience at the failure of the Egyptian government to act in an “immediate, meaningful or sufficient” way. It was the opening salvo in the bizarre code war between “they” versus “them” on behalf of the “all”.

Without naming Mubarak, Obama issued a written statement that criticized the leader for not offering clarity to his people or a concrete path to democracy. He called on Egyptian government leaders to do so, declaring: “They have not yet seized that opportunity.”

A former Bush official joined the battle of the anonymous pronouns by declaring that “he’s daring them”, probably implying that “the leader” in Egypt is daring “them” in the White House to do something about their refusal to leave.

Joel Rubin, a former State Department official under President George W. Bush, said Mubarak was directly referring to the United States on Thursday when he said he would not be pushed out by foreign powers. “He’s daring them,” said Rubin, deputy director at the Washington-based National Security Network. “The White House will have a harder time messaging now because he’s called their bluff.”

The battle of the mysteries continued as a senior State Department official expressed America’s resolve to help “‘all who take part in Egypt’s political future” to move forward.  Just who “all” might be appeared to vex Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who earlier claimed it might include the Muslim Brotherhood, an assertion the administration later walked back. Mr. Clapper subsequently appeared to be less certain about whether the Muslim Brotherhood was “secular” or “nonviolent”. “All” isn’t what it used to be.  In the meantime Gary Ackerman, one of the ranking minority members of the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs,  was a certain that someone had “just lit the final fuse” after watching Mubarak give his latest speech.

“Wow. We were ready for one historic announcement and then we got a different one.” …  And it seems to me like he might have just lit the final fuse. This thing has been on a slow burn for quite awhile. And now I think the situation is going to border on the explosive over the next 24 to 48 hours.”

The old switcheroo. There you are, all set for historic peace and instead you get a fuse lit in your face. What a bummer. Yes, CNN appeared to agree that tomorrow “could be a pivotal day in [the] Egyptian drama”. It  reported that “after morning prayers later Friday, more protesters are expected to arrive for what could be the largest demonstration yet, and what will happen then is anyone’s guess. Some protesters say they fear “a bloodbath,” and Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei tweeted after Mubarak’s speech that Egypt would ‘explode.'”

If something does explode, it’s likely that the anonymous pronouns will emerge again. ‘Them’ guys in the White House are going to be disappointed that “all who take part in Egypt’s political future” have failed to seize ‘that’ opportunity, owing to the shortcomings of ‘they’ who have lit a fuse.

Whatever happens in the next few days, only one thing is certain. Politics has sounded the death knell of plain meanings. Nothing means what you’d think it does any more. As events abroad continue to simmer, the Federal and State governments are engaged in a domestic legal wrangle over the meaning of “invasion”. Now you would think an invasion would be recognizable at sight. But nothing could be further than the truth.  Arizona is suing the Federal government for failing to protect that state from an “invasion” by losing contol of the border.  Count 2 of Arizona’s lawsuit alleges that:

The United States Constitution, Article 4, Section 4, requires the United States to protect Arizona against invasion and domestic violence. The word “invasion” does not necessarily mean invasion of one country by another, but can mean large numbers of illegal immigrants from various countries. The constitutional obligation to protect Arizona from this type of invasion is further clarified in the congressional requirement that the federal government acquire operational control over the border, and the statutory requirement that the Secretary “shall have the power and duty to control and guard the boundaries and borders of the United States against the illegal entry of aliens. 8 U.S.C. §1103(A)(5). Arizona is unable to bear the staggering cost of protecting itself, and even if it could, the federal government has argued that Arizona is preempted from taking action to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law.

But invasions aren’t the clear-cut events you might think they are. A Department of Homeland Security spokesman said “the lawsuit would be thrown out, as have previous such efforts to sue the federal government.”

“A meritless court claim such as this does nothing to secure the border,” he said in a statement. “Smart strategies, dedicated law enforcement personnel and strategic partnerships with state, local and tribal governments and agencies do. Not only do actions like this ignore all of the statistical evidence, they also belittle the significant progress that our men and women in uniform have made to protect this border and the people who live alongside it.”

Real germane, right? What things have got to do with anything has long been life’s central problem. Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe once said “I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.” The world needs a miracle in Egypt, but what it’s got is Barack Obama. That’s just how it is.

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