The Ed Show | February 02, 2011
>> reporter: i could just pick up on something you asked about earlier. this is richard engel . how will mubarak react to what he's seeing right now, if he sees what is happening right now. or if he sees tahrir square when the sun comes up, and sees tahrir square that is damaged, where there have been fires. fires very close to the egyptian museum . if you ask the protesters, this breakdown of law and order , mobs running through the streets, fires in the center of the city, this is exactly what president mubarak wanted. it is exactly why he sent in goon squads to provoke what had been peaceful demonstrations earlier in the day. so that a martial law could be impolesed, so that there could be a greater breakdown. egyptian television , i've been watching it for years. no doubt will be broadcasting sad images of downtown cairo in chaos. with the hopes of trying to convince the broader egyptian population that stability through mubarak , what he had up until two weeks ago is better than what they have right now.
>> you know, richard , that's a very profound point, and a definite strategy by hosni mubarak . but the fact is, that these people are destitute. they don't have a job. they don't have money. 40% unemployment. resources are bad. brian said earlier tonight, and i believe you did, too, that the atms are out of money. they're down to nothing. this is a conflict that those who oppose hosni mubarak , they're going to have to make a decision whether they're going to back down. because it sounds like mubarak is not going to back down.
>> reporter: it sounds like it. and that kind of equation is the equation that president mubarak , according to the protesters, and according to many egyptians, wants the people of this country to make. they want to look at this whole situation, not necessarily understanding how it began, who exactly provoked it, how it's been playing out, but just to turn on their television sets in cities outside of this country, and look at tahrir square as it is right now. and think to themselves and decide, this is not acceptable. and therefore, label the protesters as instigators, label the people who have been asking for change as troublemakers. which is exactly what president mubarak was calling them last night in his speech.
>> are the basic needs of the people that desperate, richard ?
>> reporter: half of this country lives on or below the poverty line . the basic needs of this country are profound. people in egypt , they've watched prices go up. they're angry. a lot of the region -- there's two real reasons that people have come out onto the streets right now. it's gotten too expensive to live. and the government has been unresponsive to their needs. and adding insult to their injury that they feel every day when they go to the supermarket, the president made it very clear that after almost 30 years, he was going to hand over power to his son. when they heard that, it was effectively a breaking point. and that's why they don't trust when mubarak says i'll step down in september, that there will be real change . that mubarak will find if not just his son, some other favorable candidate to continue to protect him, won't prosecute him, and they don't want that. they want a real change . and they still feel they have the momentum on their side. they feel these images that you're seeing right now will paint them and the people who provoked this fight who were not the demonstrators with the same brush as those interested solely in chaos.
>> you said a very interesting word, trust. it appears from the coverage tonight that trust is something that's going to be hard to instill in the people who are protesting. they seem to be very determined. brian williams , also with us tonight in our coverage here on msnbc. brian williams , "nightly news" anchor, nbc , and also richard engel , chief foreign correspondent with nbc news. brian , can you speak to the resourcefulness of the country? is it a wealthy nation, where the money has been hoarded away by president mubarak ? could he provide for the people? or is it a nation that does not have the resource of the other arab countries in the middle east ?
>> reporter: it's not the oil dome that neighboring nations are. but they -- you know, the interesting topography, you know the population takes place up and down the nile. however, as richard would tell you as well, there is a system of corruption so deeply embedded in public life , where if you're living in cairo , in the simplest and largest transactions, police, up and down the line, your daily tasks, in ways that we can't get our arms around in the united states , that's part of the issue. so many multi-layered issues behind this smoke screen tonight, literally, over this city, this kind of acrid smoke from just a hint of tear gas , you can feel it in the back of your throat, but mostly burning cars, burning tires, a little kordite gunpowder. when this smoke clears, how much systemic change remains behind this. and richard , it's hard to describe, and hard to underestimate the extent of the corruption.
>> reporter: it is a place where many thought they couldn't survive anymore. they had the government boot on their neck. if you wanted to go to a hospital, if you wanted to go to the police station , you want to go to the post office , you have to pay bribes constantly. you have to pay police bribes. that, over time , when you can no longer afford to feed your family, and then the president tells you after 30 years he's going to nominate his son to take over, and then you saw your next-door neighbor, tunisia, almost next-door neighbor, rise up and quickly turn over there, very similar situation, their very similarly-minded president, you could see this coming.
>> brian williams , if i may ask you, we are also witnessing the obama administration dealing with its first real big foreign crisis. and the white house press organization has communicated to the white house that there is a level of frustration that the white house has not been forthcoming with as much information as the media would like, but also the access to the president has been extremely limited. is this just the way it's going to be? is it a snapshot of how the personality of this administration is going to handle this crisis? and is it such a hot tin roof right now for the united states , it's just best to have not very much information going out? your insights on that, brian ?
>> reporter: well, i'd only look back to the fact that jack kennedy smiled and waved at photographers all during the cuban missile crisis , and the last thing richard nixon was going to do was speak of his plans to open the door to china. this is certainly not analogous, that we can blow holes in the argument. but i think in this case, they need to get it right diplomacy-wise. they need to get the hard work right. they don't feel the need to show their homework. they realize how many different constituencies are hanging on every different word. they realize that we're down to hourly news cycles. if that. not defending them here, just kind of framing the argument. there are better than foreign policy experts than i am will argue over it when it's in the rear-view mirror. and hopefully one day when egypt is on its way to the future and put back together again. but it's always interesting covering these institutions. the benefit is, you do get to see the machinations, the people who work in the various white houses become human. you get to see a little bit of what their jobs are like. and then you jump back over the fence to your day job and cover them like a journalist.
>> richard engel , is there a need for humanitarian aid in egypt at this hour, in your opinion, from what you can see?
>> reporter: no. this is not a situation where there are refugees yet. people are not starving. this is not a kind of scenario where you need international intervention, international food programs and things like that. what we saw today, and i keep going back to it, because i think there is a strategy under way here, that if that was pre-organized, according to many analysts i've spoken to, is that there was a group of demonstrators in the square. they were provoked. they started to fight. the fight got ugly. and now president mubarak , who does consider himself like the father of the nation , wants to come in and punish both of the children for fighting. and not ask how exactly it began. and to convince this country that it is important for him as a paternal leader to come in and put this down. and i think it shouldn't be lost, when you are looking at images of chaos and confusion, and they are images of chaos and confusion, that it also might be a strategy. the same thing i saw happen in iran. there were demonstrators calling for ahmadinejad to accept that he had lost the elections. people in iran -- and i was there at the time -- thought they won the election. goon squads were called in. the iranians went out on television and said that the demonstrators who were framing their legitimate victory in the election were troublemakers. in that case, the iranian regime won. and put all of those people who won the election on trials. it is a tactic. rachel maddow was talking about it earlier on in her show. when you look at these scenes, it's important to at least consider that lens. because that is the lens all of the protesters are -- or all of the protesters i've spoken to, including all of their leaders, are seeing these events through that lens.
>> so the question at this hour, as the sun is going to be coming up shortly in cairo , what will be the determination of the protesters, a million strong, this has been the most violent day, yesterday, in cairo , egypt , and we can only speculate what it's going to be like tomorrow. based on what we have seen throughout the night, it could be another tough day for the country of egypt . and whether that brings president mubarak to a decision that may have been different from his speech recently, only remains to be seen. will the military engage? will they continue to stand back and just try to disperse the crowds? or will they take sides? and how much will hosni mubarak put up with this day after day , protests which obviously is physically ripping apart the country? whereas hundreds of thousands of protesters seem to be so determined, that there is a willingness to fight to the death. and --
>> reporter: there are enemies now, as you mentioned, ed. exactly. the protesters said they will fight to the death. what has happened now is that these are not just two opposing camps. they want to kill each other. and we've been watching them through this very blurry camera. we're doing the best we can to give you a clear shot. we've been watching them chase each other down. the motions are in anger. and a desire for vengeance is here, that was not here before. this is becoming a conflict, not just a series of demonstrations demanding change.
>> and as our news cycle hour by hour continues, my colleague, rachel maddow , will continue our coverage at the top of the hour, in just a few moments here on msnbc. but to recap, the state department is now telling all remaining u.s. citizens who wish to depart egypt on a u.s. government flight, to report to the airport immediately. and that further delay is not advised. there was a later statement within the last hour from the state department saying that after thursday, u.s. government flights out of egypt , unlikely. but they will assess the needs of the people as time goes on. but they want it in the minds of americans who are behind in egypt , to think about tomorrow as being the day, if they plan on getting out of the country. you are looking live at 58 minutes after the hour, an exclusive picture, live picture from nbc news here on msnbc. coming to us from cairo , egypt . reporting, brian williams , and richard engel . gentlemen, it has been an amaze amazing hour to sit here and witness what has unfolded. i think you have captured it as best as anyone can. and tomorrow, who knows what holds for the country of egypt . what will be the involvement of the united states diplomatically, if any. it has to be intense, to say the least. secretary of state hillary clinton has played a vital role in all of this for the united states . and has drawn accolades from many in our country on both sides of the aisle for the handling of this situation. and the president, of course, will be under the spotlight 24/7, as this situation affects not only the middle east , but the world. and there are so many issues that can spring off of what unfolds, and what could be of an outcome in cairo , egypt . brian williams , " nbc nightly news" anchor, and