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Posted in Quick Hits on February 2nd, 2011 by Ed

This is somewhat brief, but tomorrow is going to be the shizzle. Promise.

Mubarak has now given two speeches since the civil unrest in Egypt began in earnest – one in which he asked the resignation of the government (which appeased no one) and another today in which he promised to surrender power after September elections (ditto). During both speeches I could not get this out of my head:

To me, this is the moment that defines the end of the Cold War. Most people think of Germans dancing on the Berlin Wall but the video of Nicolae Ceaucescu's final speech (1989) does more to stand out. The speech is famous as a symbol of the End of Communism (and who in America ever wants to stop reliving the glorious moment when we made the whole world safe for Taco Bell franchise distribution?) due to the way the aged Ceaucescu looks on in bewilderment as the agitated crowd begins to hiss with disapproval. It fit the western stereotype of the Communist leader to a tee – ancient, out of touch, and incapable of change.

I am reminded of this footage when Mubarak speaks because the two leaders share much in common – their tenure in power, their age, and their all-encompassing delusions. To hear them speak it seems as though everyone on the planet except them realizes that they are finished. Mubarak talking about how he is going to stay in power for 9 more months is like watching the scene in Goodfellas in which Tommy (Joe Pesci) gets "made." As he prepares for his big honor he is apparently the only person in the film (or audience) who does not understand that he is about to be taken to an empty building and shot in the head. Which is, coincidentally enough, exactly what happened to Ceaucescu and his wife Elena.

Mubarak will likely be fortunate enough to avoid that fate; no doubt he will live out his remaining years Idi Amin style as a guest of the Saudi royal family. Until that inevitability occurs to him we can continue to enjoy the fact that, unless he happens to be the world's greatest actor, he really does not understand that he's done. Nobody within or outside of Egypt is going to prop him up any longer and the domestic situation has gone far beyond the tipping point. Going quietly into his lavish retirement seems like an obvious choice at this point, but apparently 30 years of absolute power make it difficult to recognize when the jig is up.