White House adviser David Axelrod vowed that the U.S. government will push Egypt “very hard” to make democratic reforms in response to demonstrations by thousands of people challenging President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.
“The answer is not tanks in the street,” Axelrod said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “The answer is reform.”
Axelrod said President Barack Obama is monitoring the situation “on a minute-to-minute basis” and in recent conversations with Mubarak has stressed the need for democratic reforms in Egypt. Obama hasn’t spoken with Mubarak today but did speak with the Egyptian leader “recently,” Axelrod said.
Later in the day, Mubarak said in a televised address that he had asked the country’s government to resign. The new government would fight poverty, speed economic and social changes, and promote civil liberties and democracy, he said.
The U.S. president’s adviser said congressional debate about raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, which is likely to be reached within months, should be separated from the debate over where to cut federal spending.
“I expect people to act responsibly and understand that we’re not going to play politics with the full faith and credit of the United States of America,” he said.
Following congressional elections last year that narrowed the Democratic majority in the Senate and gave Republicans control of the House of Representatives, Axelrod said Americans are looking for both parties to cooperate.
He said Obama will announce a budget proposal next month that will include “painful” cuts and that will start a discussion with Republicans on how to tackle government spending and the budget deficit, which is forecast to grow to $1.5 trillion this year.
Republicans will need to introduce some specific proposals, Axelrod said.
“The American people are looking for us to cooperate,” Axelrod said. “They understand we’ve got big challenges, and we’re only going to solve them by working together.”
Republicans have insisted that budget cuts be made before voting on any increase in the debt ceiling.
Axelrod said the president’s new chief of staff, William Daley, is fitting in well with the White House team.
“There is a sense of comfort with him already,” Axelrod said of Daley, a former commerce secretary under President Bill Clinton who also was an executive at JPMorgan Chase & Co. “He’s providing good, strong direction, but he’s doing it in a very collegial way.”
On Egypt, Axelrod said the U.S. is working to ensure that the rights of Egyptians are recognized by the government.
“We are going to push very hard to do what we can to make sure that the rights of the Egyptian people are recognized,” he said.
He also connected the protests in that country and those in Tunisia that brought down the government of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
“I don’t think you can put the genie back in the bottle,” Axelrod said.
On domestic politics, Axelrod said there is a “good” chance that Obama will play golf with House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, to encourage trust and cooperation between the two parties.
“He’s willing to do that, even to the point that he’d play golf with a guy who has a much lower handicap than he does,” he said.
--Editors: Laurie Asseo, Mark Silva.
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