Bush Admin Talked With Muslim Brotherhood, But Rove Says Obama’s Outreach Makes ‘America Look Weak’

Former Bush administration political chief Karl Rove appeared on Fox News last night to discuss the announcement that the Obama administration welcomed “limited contacts” with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Rove told Fox viewers that the willingness to talk reflected President Obama’s desire to weaken America and help the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that renounced violence decades ago and formed a political party this spring:

ROVE: We shouldn’t have been surprised in one sense because [Obama] made such a big deal about meeting with our enemies in the 2008 campaign. But you would have thought having been in office now for two-and-a-half years, he would have been sobered by events and made another decision. This is frankly inexplicable. Why does the administration go out of its way months before the fall elections to in essence give legitimacy and credibility to the Muslim brotherhood by announcing formal contacts? What is to be gained by doing that except to advance the Muslim brotherhood and make America look weak?

Watch the video:

But Obama isn’t the first U.S. president willing to talk to Islamist groups or even specifically the Muslim Brotherhood. Most notably, the George W. Bush administration — where Rove was a top adviser to the president — talked to Brotherhood politicians during the short-lived “Freedom Agenda.” In the New Republic this winter, reporter Eli Lake, detailing the history of U.S. engagement with Islamist groups, spoke with neoconservative ideologue and top Bush administration Middle East adviser Elliott Abrams:

Some in the Bush administration agreed that the United States needed more contact with these groups. After the 2005 Egyptian elections, in which Brotherhood-affiliated candidates won 88 seats in the national assembly, the U.S. Embassy began to reach out to the new parliamentarians. “The Muslim Brotherhood was illegal in Egypt, but certain parliamentarians who were connected to the Muslim Brotherhood were, we felt, worth talking to,” says Elliott Abrams, who was a deputy national security adviser.

The Bush administration cut those ties only because now-deposed Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak demanded that the U.S. stop speaking to opposition groups — marking the point at which Bush’s “Freedom Agenda” collapsed.


Nonetheless, one wonders if Rove’s statement about meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood means he thinks Bush and Abrams — and, by extension, himself — were also weakening America and helping the Muslim Brotherhood.