One of the unfolding subplots in the Egypt story is the apparent conflict between the recent statement of Obama envoy to Egypt, Frank Wisner, and the position of the Obama administration.
While Wisner has said that Mubarak should stay, Obama appeared to hint that he should go but without quite using those words.
Now Secretary of State Clinton has herself said Mubarak should stay, because the Egyptian constitution would otherwise require quick elections, ignoring of course the possibility of redrafting the Constitution given the momentous change underway in the country’s political culture.
Now it turns out there is another twist: Wisner is a “foreign affairs” advisor to Patton Boggs, a heavy duty DC law firm which has in turn provided advice to the Mubarak regime and brags of its “important network of personal relationships at the highest levels of the region’s political and economic leadership, and a deep knowledge of the region’s culture and traditions.” Wisner’s younger brother Graham also works for the same law firm as “of counsel.” It’s a family affair apparently.
One somewhat tragic irony: Frank Wisner (the 3d) is the son of Frank Wisner, Jr., a key figure in the OSS and early CIA. Wisner Jr. was an idealist of sorts who was deeply saddened that the US did not do more for the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 which was crushed by Soviet tanks. There has been some speculation that the events led to Wisner’s eventual suicide. How sad that his son is playing a role in propping up a dictator whom only a stalinist could love.
I sent a link to this post to Sheryl Stolberg of the New York Times on Sunday and late Monday she has now blogged on the Patton Boggs connection including the presence of Frank Wisner’s brother Graham at the same law firm. Graham Wisner, Stolberg reports, also has links to Egypt including a stint a decade ago as head of the US-Egypt Chamber of Commerce. As I said, a family affair.
For the record, the law firm tried to minimize the amount of work it does for Egypt telling the Times that Mr. Wisner “has no involvement and has not had any involvement in Egyptian business while at the firm.’’ However, that would appear to contradict the reasoning for their hiring of Wisner who is said to play a significant role for the firm as well as the logic of the Obama Administration engaging him to deliver a message to Mubarak on their behalf. Here is what Foreign Policy, which has also picked up on the story, reported on this aspect:
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Monday that the administration knew about Wisner’s work for the lobbying firm Patton Boggs, which does business in Egypt, and that his long relationship with Mubarak was an asset, not a detraction.
“We’re aware of his employer… And we felt that he was uniquely positioned to have the kind of conversation that we felt needed to be done in Egypt,” Crowley said.
A spokesman for Patton Boggs told the New York Times that Patton Boggs was not doing significant work on behalf of the Egyptian government and that Wisner “has no involvement and has not had any involvement in Egyptian business while at the firm.”
Of course, the key to this story is what I said above: Wisner only let the cat out of the bag, US policy remains steadfast support for the repressive military dictatorship of Mubarak, even if Mubarak himself eventually is pushed out.