This morning on Fox News, anchor Martha MacCallum hosted a panel of three experts that was very hostile towards the idea of backing the protesters in Egypt. MacCallum pointed out that people in Tahrir Square “want democracy, they’re tired of being repressed, they want something better,” but her point was immediately challenged by former CIA agent (and frequent Fox guest) Michael Scheuer, who said that only “ill-educated Americans” think that Muslims would reach for an “alien ideology” like democracy. Terry Holt, a former national spokesman for the 2004 Bush-Cheney presidential campaign, immediately agreed, saying “unfortunately, this is the Middle East” before suggesting he supported the Mubarak dictatorship:
MACCALLUM: What about the argument that these people — you know, you hear them, you listen to what they’re saying in that square, they want democracy, they’re tired of being repressed, they want something better.
SCHEUER: Well Martha, you know, it is only in the minds of ill-educated Americans and especially their leaders to expect 32 million Muslims to reach for — in a time of violence and uncertainty and tumult, to reach for an alien ideology like secular democracy instead of reaching towards a thousand years of faith and trust in Islam. It is absolutely counter-intuitive to believe that people will reach for the strange, rather than for the familiar and trusted. And I really think that —
HOLT: I would like to say — can I say — I appreciate people’s sympathy and interest in democracy, that’s an American instinct. But unfortunately in this case, this is the Middle East. And the traditions there do not support their embracing — if they were allowed to vote in an open election, they would put themselves vulnerable, and make us vulnerable, to dangerous terrorism. Egypt has been our friend as an intelligence gathering operation and we need to realize the reality of the situation.
These opinions ignore and disrespect the serious democratic urges held by many of the Egyptian protesters. “If you turn on your TV, you will see that the protests in Tahrir Square have not ended. We want a civilian, democratic government,” wrote one prominent Egyptian blogger yesterday.
But it’s also the height of irony for a former Bush-Cheney spokesman to ridicule the idea of democracy in the Middle East, in favor of a repressive dictator. President Bush, of course, centered his foreign policy around “our efforts to help the Iraqi people build a lasting democracy in the heart of the Middle East,” and often touted its ouster of the “brutal dictator” Saddam Hussein. Holt himself has championed this principle in defense of Bush’s foreign policy, telling CNN’s Candy Crowley in 2005 that Bush couldn’t set timetables for withdrawal in Iraq because “the first sign of weakness you give to the terrorists, you know, I think that you have to stay on track to democracy. Democracy is the cure in Iraq.”