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Egypt, Obama, Clinton, AIPAC and Twitter

Eslam Beker, 21

From Facebook memorial: Shot in the back by police in Jan. 28 Tahrir Square ‘Friday of Anger’ protest.

Saif-Allah Mustafa Musa, 16

Shot at Abbas Al Aqad Street on January 28 and died 2 days after; Not part of demonstrations but forces thought he was.

Ahmed Bassiouni, 31

Artist and musician, teacher assistant in faculty of Art Education, Painting and Drawing department, Helwan University. Father of 2.

During the primaries, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were competing to see who could kiss the hem of AIPAC’s gown with the most enthusiasm. Now, however, the White House is outsourcing the pro-AIPAC rhetoric to Clinton, Mullen and others, while Robert Gibbs and Obama himself issue cautious support for “democracy.”

What’s up with that? Well, you’ll never go far wrong interpreting the White House tea leaves these days if you trace it back to the only thing they care about right now: the 2012 Presidential election.

The DNC pursued a risky GOTV strategy in 2010: instead of turning out likely midterm voters, they focused on 2008 surge voters. That meant young people in urban areas who had not voted before, who nonetheless turned out to elect Obama in 2008. Predictably, they weren’t very interested in a non-Presidential election and did not turn out in numbers sufficient to forestall a Democratic drubbing. Democrats who hailed from non-urban districts were left to fend for themselves when it came to GOTV efforts.

But that just underscores how important young voters are to Obama right now. The DNC was willing to throw Democratic congressional seats on a risky strategy that failed as a 2010 GOTV effort, but successfully began the outreach for Obama 2012. It’s no coincidence Obama favored college campuses when he personally hit the campaign trail.

Obama is always conscious of the fact that he needs young voters and works hard to maintain a strong, positive image with students. We successfully pushed for the Student Lending bill to be included in the Heath Care reconciliation bill last year when we launched the Students vs Banks campaign, despite the fact that the White House was worried about losing health care votes in the process. Ultimately they took that risk because his political team didn’t want young voters on college campuses angry at Obama over the tuition hikes, program cuts and scarce grants.

And now that Prop 19 failed and it doesn’t matter any more, it’s telling that the President is suddenly expressing support for a “serious debate” of marijuana legalization.

So, with the 2012 election looming, the last thing Obama needs is to be seen coming down on the side of a repressive dictator straight out of Central Casting, crushing a student uprising driven by Twitter and Facebook.

AIPAC could have counted on George Bush to be enthusiastically supporting their dictator of choice in the name of “stability in the region.” In fact, name a President they couldn’t count on. Or a member of Congress. AIPAC has spent their defense-industry infused war chest well, ensuring lucrative US-financed weapons sales to the Middle East for decades (for more on that see William Hartung’s fine book on Lockheed Martin, Prophets of War).

But Bush never needed an enthusiastic phalanx of Facebook-connected young people to secure his reelection. And right about now, the defense industrial complex are ready to put their collective heads through a wall every time Obama pays lipservice to “democracy.” Sure, Clinton and Mullen are out there doing the wink-wink nudge-nudge, and tapping Frank Wisner was supposed to send a strong signal. But when Wisner expressed support for Mubarak, Robert Gibbs ran out there at lightening speed to distance the White House from his remarks.

Ironically, social media has had an impact on US politics almost as radical as it has had on Egypt’s. AIPAC’s grip on Washington has never been so tenuous.

The story got out there before the Powers that Be could control and shape it. The young people fueling the uprising in Egypt pushed out their own message, showing their own faces and telling the world about their determination, before they could be painted as dangerous radicals by the powers they threaten.

And now those same young Egyptians know that if Obama and Clinton succeed in installing Omar Suleiman as the head of Egypt, the man who has been “America’s personal abducter, detainer and torturer” will fix his gaze on them. They will be next in line for abduction, detention, torture and murder.

Holding out against Suleiman has literally become a matter of life and death for them.

But despite the best efforts of every power player in the game, Obama continues to give hope to the Egyptians camped out in the square. Just as his continued support for the “public option” fueled enthusiasm long after he had negotiated it away, likewise his vocal support for democracy in Egypt continues to embolden the demonstrators.

Recently released Wikileaks cables confirm that Israel wants Suleiman, and that used to be enough to make the entire DC establishment fall in line. No more. AIPAC’s iron grip on American diplomacy experiencing its most serious challenge in decades.

Because when the 2012 election rolls around, Obama is going to have to explain what happened in Egypt to American young people. And he does not want to be answering questions about why Egyptian students are blaming him on Facebook and Twitter for the torture and deaths of their compatriots at the hands of a dictator he installed.

In the end, if Obama truly wants to install Suleiman, he probably can. He’ll engineer one of those “make me do it” moments, where he just has to accept that the thing his administration has been working tirelessly to achieve is the best thing for Egypt. But the minute that happens, and the stories start leaking out about young demonstrators being “disappeared” by Suleiman’s thugs, he’ll have to explain to the social media generation how it was all worth it for “stability in the region.”

And this time, he won’t be able to blame it on the need for “60 votes.”

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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