Cairo, January 31: In marked contrast to President Obama’s carefully calibrated response to the protests wracking Egypt, several Republican presidential hopefuls are calling for the United States to stand with embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and are sounding alarm about the role of radical Islam in a future Egyptian government.
“Let’s be clear what the stakes are for the United States. We have an authoritarian regime in power that has been our ally. We don’t know at this point what the real alternatives are,” former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who is considering a White House run, told Fox News as ongoing protests in Cairo and across Egypt threatened to upend both Mubarak’s decades-long rule and geopolitics throughout the Middle East.
“I think they’re certainly involved,” Bolton said of the radical Muslim Brotherhood. “After the prayers on Friday the Muslim Brotherhood mullahs called their followers into the street .. and there is evidence from Suha cities and other cities that the Brotherhood has been involved in violence. So I think they’re playing a very cagey game. I think they’re trying to take advantage of the instability that the demonstration has caused they’re trying to get in with it without necessarily showing their hand or indicating that they’re leading it.”
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a likely 2012 contender, compared the situation to the 1979 revolution in Iran.
“We abandoned [the shah] and what we got in exchange was form the people if you will, notionally, was a radical Islamist regime. That happening in Egypt would have a profound effect on the Middle East,” he said in a Friday interview on Fox Business Channel.
Obama’s comments on Friday were far less strident. He said the U.S. has a “close partnership with Egypt” but that the government must implement reforms.
“We are committed to working with the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people — all quarters,” Obama said from the White House’s state dining room after he spoke on the phone with Mubarak. “Around the world governments have an obligation to respond to their citizens.”
Mike Hucabee warned that the unrest in Egypt “threatens the very existence our children and our future.”
“If in fact the Muslim Brotherhood is underneath much of the unrest every person who breathes ought to be concerned,” Huckabee said on Fox News on Saturday.
“Already we’ve seen across the world the influence of radical Islam. Sometimes we just don’t understand that this is not an enemy like we’ve ever faced before. Jihadism is more than an enemy that has a flag and a country and geographical borders. It’s an enemy that has a fanataical intent to kill every last person who does not completely adhere to their radical view of islam.”
In the hours after Obama’s remarks—and five days after the protests began—most of the influential Republicans looking at a 2012 presidential run have stayed silent.
Mitt Romney, who just returned from a week-long trip to the region and is the closest thing the GOP presidential field has to a frontrunner, is mum despite repeated requests for comment.
Also on the sidelines are Tim Pawlenty, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. POLITICO has requested comment from all three.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune, another possible White House candidate, had a relatively muted response that was notable for its silence on support for Mubarak but call for reform.
Thune’s spokesman said the senator “is closely monitoring the events in Egypt and hopes for a peaceful resolution to the protests and for the Egyptian government to be serious about reform.”
Driving debate in the Republican camp so far: fears about the role of radical Islam, a theme missing from Obama’s comments.