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THE SITUATION ROOM
Egyptian President Steps Down
Aired February 11, 2011 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Our Lisa Sylvester takes a look at the dramatic course of events which led to this historic day.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): January 25th --
WEDEMAN: There must be 10,000 people in downtown Cairo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people actually are under poverty level that live in Egypt right now. And this is a time for some kind of change to happen.
WEDEMAN: I looked up, and the bridge was completely full of people, thousands of people who apparently had come from Cairo University, pouring over the Nile, into the center of the city. This social networking whether it's Twitter, Facebook, or texting, has really helped mobilize and organize people in a way that most people never expected.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to see freedom here. This is just basic -- basic needs for any human being. You know, shelter to live in. You know, food, education, medicine.
SYLVESTER: January 27th, Internet and mobile phone disruptions.
WEDEMAN: Well, I can tell you, just a few minutes ago, the Internet went down in central Cairo.
SYLVESTER: January 29th, Mubarak dismisses his government. He appoints a vice president, Omar Suleiman, but still refuses to leave.
MUBARAK (through translator): I asked the government to resign today.
SYLVESTER: Protests continue. Opposition groups call for a "Million Man March."
February 1st, Mubarak says he will not run for re-election, but again refuses to leave.
MOHAMED ELBARADEI, OPPOSITION LEADER: This is clearly an act of deception. You know, it's a person who don't want to let go, a dictator who doesn't want to listen to the clear voice of the people. SYLVESTER: February 2nd, violent clashes between pro-democracy protesters and Mubarak supporters. This van plows into a crowd of demonstrators.
COOPER: We've been hit now, like, 10 times. The Egyptian soldiers are doing nothing.
OBAMA: We continue to be crystal clear that we oppose violence as a response to this crisis.
SYLVESTER: February 4th, protesters call for a "Day of Departure." Hundreds of thousands gather in Cairo.
February 7th, Google executive and political activist Wael Ghonim is released.
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Did you plan a revolution?
WAEL GHONIM, GOOGLE EXECUTIVE AND POLITICAL ACTIVIST: Yes, we did.
WATSON: What was the plan?
GHONIM: The plan was to get everyone in the street.
SYLVESTER: February 10th, the crowd swelled as media outlets report that Mubarak will step down. But instead, he announces he will transfer some of his power to his vice president, but remain in office.
Friday, February 11, Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman makes a televised announcement telling the world that Hosni Mubarak has stepped down as president of Egypt.
SYLVESTER: And all of this from start to finish happened in only 18 days. And that's truly stunning, when you consider that Mubarak was in power for three decades, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Stunning, indeed.
Lisa, thank you.
And it's 1:00 a.m. now in Cairo. Here are the latest developments.
Countless -- countless Egyptians are celebrating a victorious revolution with the former President Hosni Mubarak yielding to 18 days of protests. He stepped down. The Egyptian military is now in charge.
President Mubarak says this is the only beginning of Egypt's transition. What is next for the largest Arab country? Plus, the reluctant face of the revolution, the activist and former Google executive Wael Ghonim. He will tell us where he was when he heard the news and why he credits Facebook.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And the breaking news is intense indeed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMAR SULEIMAN, EGYPTIAN VICE PRESIDENT (through translator): President Muhammad Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Michael Holmes of CNN International is joining us this hour.
Michael, just a few words from the vice president, Omar Suleiman, that Hosni Mubarak is stepping down, and the thousands, the hundreds of thousands, the millions of people in Egypt began to celebrate.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's ironic, isn't it, Wolf, that yesterday there was so much buildup, so much anticipation and expectation about what Hosni Mubarak would say, and then that giant letdown when it became a very paternalistic, meandering in many ways speech, and he did not step down.
This one, well, it came up pretty quickly. It was over very quickly. And look what happened.
We're going to Nic Robertson now. He's been there on the ground in Alexandria and Cairo for days now. He's in the Egyptian capital, joins us now.
Nic, I know you have been swamped by these protesters, now celebrators all night, all day. Tell us what's going on right now and then we will talk a little more.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michael, it's an absolute feeling of euphoria down here. It's relief. It is joyousness. It is celebration time. Everyone is happy. Everyone is coming up. They want to tell us something.
I'm joined here by Mohammed (ph).
Mohammed, what does it mean to you today that he's stepped down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, it mean for us that a stable body rules the government and (INAUDIBLE) for him (INAUDIBLE) for him. Now everybody is free. Everybody is happy here in Egypt, because it was the government very, very stress for us. But now everybody today celebrate because everybody is free, and become everybody today is a dream for us. ROBERTSON: And what about the army? Now the army is in charge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Army here in Egypt -- OK, army is the best things we have. Here in Egypt, the best -- we love the army. Here, the government -- here, the people, the army -- here today, everybody sees people for the army, greeting, because they're happy, because here without army, everybody killed us today.
ROBERTSON: Well, thank you. Mohammed, thank you very much.
I'm joined now by Ahmed (ph) and Wahil (ph).
Ahmed, how did you feel when you heard that President Mubarak had stepped down?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. First of all, we feel that we are finally achieve our goal. We have (INAUDIBLE) the head of the repressive regime and now we are on the right track to overthrow all this regime which ruled us over the last 30 years.
ROBERTSON: Are you concerned about stability going forward now and security for you? Are you concerned?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, as I said, I don't -- we are on the right track. This military council will guarantee the democratic transformation to the democratic civil state. To be in the fair elections, to reach this state, we will go on fair elections, parliamentary elections and the presidential elections. And military council will guarantee the stability and this peaceful transformation to this (INAUDIBLE).
ROBERTSON: Thank you very much.
ROBERTSON: I just would like to ask this young lady here, Miriam.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
ROBERTSON: You have come out to celebrate this evening with your father.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
ROBERTSON: Tell me what you think of today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's the best day ever. And the Egyptian generation was the one who make all this (INAUDIBLE) it is the reason for everything or every celebration we're having or...
ROBERTSON: Thank you very much.
And, Michael, as you can tell, utter euphoria. (CROSSTALK)
HOLMES: All right, Nic.
Very popular Nic Robertson. A lot of joy. A lot of emotion there on the streets of Cairo.
But this is very much the beginning. And there are no guarantees in this at all. Anything can happen from here on out. It all depends how this unfolds, what this transition is going to look like and also whether those protesters have a to-do list that remains, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's so nice just to see our reporters reporting from the streets of Cairo in the midst of all those people. They are no longer scared. They're no longer afraid that thugs are going to come kick them in the head, beat them up.
This is a whole new situation that's unfolding. Everyone can go out and do their job, report the news.
Earlier in the day, Michael, we heard actually some journalists on Egyptian state television apologizing to the people of Egypt for being forced to read and tell lies over the years. What a dramatic moment that was.
One of those reporters who is reporting from the scene is Ivan Watson. He's been there now for days.
Ivan, you spent most of the day outside the presidential palace in Cairo. Were you scared at all? Was there any fear, as there was last week?
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's -- Wolf, it's remarkable to think that, just a few hours ago, the demonstrators were still protecting their barricades at the entry points to Tahrir Square, that the streets of the capital beyond the downtown area were absolutely deserted, an eerie ghost town, people too frightened to step out on the streets.
And then when the news came that President Mubarak was stepping down, we were at the presidential palace with several thousand demonstrators. And those numbers were growing. It was like an explosion of joy hitting that crowd.
Take a look at the reaction that we filmed moments after that announcement came out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: Just moments ago, the news came out that Hosni Mubarak is stepping down.
And now they're chanting, we're here, we're here. The Egyptians are here. And it's all right next to the symbol of power, the presidential palace, right over there.
Look at these scenes of celebration, moments ago, the news that Hosni Mubarak was stepping down, and now the crowd in celebration, just a few yards away -- just a few yards away from the presidential palace. Up until moments ago, it was symbol of power of Hosni Mubarak, no longer after this revolution has succeeded.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: Now, Wolf and Michael, from this vantage point, from the square right nearby, we have seen fighting, we have seen bloodshed, we have seen death over the past two weeks. We have seen incredible courage, too.
We have brought to you news about the huge protests in Tahrir Square. That ain't nothing compared to what we're seeing on the streets right now. We're going to pan down to the bridge. This is very close to the square where throngs of cars have just turned this into gridlock, into a street party on the overpass here, on the bridge that runs across the Nile River.
For the first time in the two weeks I have been here, I see the tour boat lit up with fluorescent lights that are starting to run back forth across the Nile again, as just a massive street party that has erupted, people too scared to come out over the course of the past few weeks now celebrating en masse the achievements of some very, very brave young men and women who have put their lives on the line in Tahrir Square and stood up to a dictator and overthrown him tonight -- Wolf and Michael.
BLITZER: All right. What a day it's been, Ivan Watson. Thanks for your excellent reporting.
To all the reporters and journalists in Cairo right now, thanks to all of you.
Michael, I tip my hat to our colleagues who have watched these remarkable 18 days unfold, the celebrations continuing. Now it's well past 1:00 a.m. in Cairo. It's Saturday morning already.
HOLMES: Yes. I don't know where people have been sleeping, Wolf, just an extraordinary effort team out there in Cairo and Alexandria, all around the place, too, and amazing scenes.
We're going to go to break now. We will be right back, as fireworks are going off in Tahrir Square.
BLITZER: Very few moments, the president of the United States said earlier today, where we will see history unfold. We're seeing it unfold.
Michael Holmes is here.
Let's bring in two special guests. Fouad Ajami is the director of Middle East studies at the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, and the Egyptian journalist and Arab affairs analyst Mona Eltahawy.
Guys, thanks very much.
Fouad, when you heard what happened in Egypt today, could you believe that it took only 18 days to see this unfold?
FOUAD AJAMI, PROFESSOR OF MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: It's the amazing velocity of history today, if you will, Wolf, a reign of three decades, and really make -- let's be precise. Perhaps it's a reign of six decades, because that includes the reigns of Abdel Nasser and Sadat, though they were very different.
But the idea that this reign of terror, this reign of tyranny, this security state that Mubarak had put together would be kicked into its grave by 18 days of protests, it's a remarkable tribute to the Egyptian people, and a remarkable tribute to these people, the young people who went out, conquered their fear, and dared dream that Egypt deserves a better life than the sordid life that Mubarak had given him.
BLITZER: All right, Mona, what is going to change now? Walk us through your best-case scenario.
MONA ELTAHAWY, JOURNALIST & COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, it's important to remember, Wolf, that Egyptians didn't just topple a dictator of 30 years today. They toppled so many things.
They toppled this idea of good relations between Muslims and Christians in Egypt, because we saw them praying together and protecting each other. We saw them topple gender disparities, because we saw women and men marching together in Egypt for freedom and dignity.
We saw them standing up to a dictator and saying we demand freedom and dignity. So all of this is important to appreciate as we do look ahead to the hard work that's there. We celebrate today, but the hard work is telling the armed forces today, who did the right thing by choosing Egypt over Mubarak -- yesterday, Mubarak said, I choose me over Egypt. Today, the armed forces said, we choose Egypt over you.
As we look ahead and towards the hard work, we're going to see all those things that the Egyptians have toppled, all those stereotypes of violent Arabs, of women who are dominated in silence by men, of Christians being treated terribly by the state who discriminates against them, we're going to fix all those things in Egypt by telling the armed forces, number one, we need you to step aside now, because we the people should rule Egypt, not the military.
And also as we move forward, get a new constitution so that we can guarantee free and fair elections.
HOLMES: Yes, as Mona was saying, this really is the first chapter. There's much that needs to be done. And there's much, too, that can gone wrong.
Fouad, the rank and file of the military are generally of the people and there's no doubting that. The senior officers, many of them, are of the regime, in many cases rewarded handsomely for it. What do they need to do to gain the trust of the people going forward? There needs to be a transition that is visible and it needs to be soon, a road map of sorts. Correct?
AJAMI: Well, there's a playwright, famous Egyptian playwright, Ali Salem. I'm sure Mona knows who he is and knows his work well.
He said the tragedy of Egypt today is we're still ruled by the Free Officers from their graves, from the -- by the Free Officers who pulled off the coup d'etat against King Farouk in 1952.
The army has a great choice to make. Does it want to be a ruling caste? Does it want to be a ruling caste? Or does it want to be the people's army, go back to its barracks, let the civilian political process play out, and accept a transitional role for the army?
And I think the army watched this rebellion. They know damn well and full well that they cannot return Egypt to its decades of submission and acquiescence.
HOLMES: Mona, do you agree with that? I'm curious whether you think that the military, with so much invested, so interwoven into Egyptian society, its economy indeed, is going to be willing to step back and let everything become a purely free, fair civilian government. They have got a lot to lose.
ELTAHAWY: You know, it might be hard. It might take time. But the armed forces, I have to remind you, have been on the streets in Egypt, especially Cairo, for the past, what is it, 14 days now since they were called out by Mubarak.
And they have seen the determination of Egyptian men and women. And they have seen the how those same pro-democracy demonstrators did not blink when Hosni Mubarak unleashed his thugs and unleashed all kinds of horrors to basically scare them into going back home.
So, the armed forces have been served notice, just as every -- any other potential government have been served notice, that we, the people, understand our power now. And we need to sit down and discuss how you -- we take back power, not you give it to us, we take back power, because Egypt deserves to have a civilian government now.
It's time to end -- what we want in Egypt, what people are saying we want is, we want a free Egypt, not an Egypt of the Free Officers.
BLITZER: Mona and Fouad, I want you to stand by. Michael is standing by as well. We have much more to discuss.
We're also going to be hearing from Wael Ghonim. He is the Google executive, a major protester, an Egyptian, who is speaking out very, very proudly today as a result of what happened.
Our coverage continues after this.
BLITZER: Earlier in the day, Hala Gorani, Anderson Cooper and I spoke with Wael Ghonim. He's the Google executive, the Egyptian activist whose online activities helped spark this uprising in Egypt.
He described the moment he heard the news today that Mubarak was stepping down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WAEL GHONIM, GOOGLE EXECUTIVE: I was actually in my mom's house with a lot of -- you know, we were meeting in my mom's house a lot to decide -- like, a lot of activists. And we were having -- it was sort of like the center of my plan, of my planning session.
So I was there. And all of a sudden, like, I heard my mom screaming. I went out and, you know, it was amazing.
She started hugging me and kissing me and hysterically crying. And it was -- you know, the rest of the family came. It was really good.
I just want to say to Hosni Mubarak and to Omar Suleiman and to all those people who thought that being in power means you can oppress people, you know, hard-luck guys, you know, at the end of the day, we have a choice and we've made our choice, by the way, very early enough and you should have respected that.
You are responsible of the killings of 300 innocent Egyptians. You guys paid the price, are still going to pay the price. It's enough, it's enough for you guys that in history books they're going to talk to you -- they'll say one word to describe you, the dictators.
BLITZER: The other question, Wael, I had is first Tunisia, now Egypt. What's next?
HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ask Facebook.
BLITZER: Ask what?
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Facebook.
BLITZER: Facebook. You're giving Facebook a lot of credit for this?
GHONIM: Yes, for sure. I want to meet Mark Zuckerberg one day and thank him, actually.
GHONIM: Those people are the real heroes. Those people are the real heroes. You know, like there are lots of people that we know that have died. And also, I wouldn't forget those who are arrested. There are about a thousand people that no knows where are they right now. We are looking for them. We want them back.
And, you know, the real heroes are the ones in the streets. The real heroes today are every single Egyptian. There is no one leading this. Anyone who is telling you he is one of the leaders is not saying the truth. The leaders, you know, on Tahrir Square was every single person there. The leader in Alexandria is every single person there.
This was a revolution. As I told you guys on my interview this is a revolution 2.0. Just like Wikipedia how everyone is contributing to -- thanks to you and you folks on Tahrir Square.
You guys have played a great role in saving the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of people. This regime did not care about the people, and they would have killed a lot of people if there was no international media.
CNN did a great job. You guys deserve a great recognition from all the Egyptian people. We're not going to forget your role.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Nice words from Wael Ghonim, praising us.
We were showing the whole world, not just us, a lot of us television networks were showing the whole world, Michael, what was happening on the streets of Cairo. And in the end, the Egyptian military decided to side with the people, not with the regime of Hosni Mubarak. They never opened fire on the protesters. And the results is, after 18 days, Mubarak is gone.
HOLMES: Yes, it's interesting, isn't it, Wolf, that he stepped down really at a crucial time, because, let's face it, the military had not had to confront the protesters up until today, really, when there were people were moving down to the palace, moving down to the television station, state TV.
And so it was crucial timing, the stepping down, too, of Hosni Mubarak, a very delicate situation.
Wolf Blitzer and I are going to stick around. We will be back after the break. Do stay with us as we continue our coverage of this historic day for Egypt.
BLITZER: To our viewers in the United States and around the world, You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It's going on 1:30 a.m. Saturday in Cairo. There's no letup in the celebration at all, as Egyptians, hundreds of thousands of them in the capital and beyond, cheer the arrival of a new era. Hosni Mubarak has stepped down after 30 years of rule. He ceded power to the Egyptian military.
President Obama is pledging continued U.S. friendship and partnership with Egypt. But he's also sending a strong message to Egypt's interim leaders, namely the military, demanding a credible transition to democracy.
It's a dramatic moment, Michael Holmes. The whole world, I dare say, is watching.
HOLMES: Indeed, and a very exciting moment for Egypt.
Of course, many people will be urging caution as well. This is merely the first act. How is this going to go down? There are no guarantees at the moment, early days in what has been a revolution. But it really is just beginning.
Arwa Damon down there among the people.
I know it is noisy down there, Arwa. I hope you can hear me. I'm curious whether those you're talking to are content with what has happened so far, or is there, let's call it a to-do list? Is there more they want?
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michael, I think I only caught part of that question.
But, as you can tell, the crowds here are still fairly sizable. The celebration is going on, as are a number of fairly heated debates, a lot of them centering around what I think you asked about, and that is what should be happening next.
So, I'm going to turn to the crowd, ask them, translate from Arabic when I need to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING ARABIC)
DAMON: So, he was just saying that Egyptians are a respectable people and that the aim right now is to try to clean up their city, move forward, move towards being a better country.
And we have been hearing that from quite a few people.
DAMON: (SPEAKING ARABIC)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING ARABIC)
DAMON: And he also wants to clarify that historically he's saying the Egyptian people and the military have always had a fairly good relationship. That, he says, continues. That is why they're willing to accept this military rule. And he says he believes Egypt will be moving into a better direction.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DAMON: Thank you. He was saying that he's very happy right now, but he is only going to be fully happy when all of their requests have been achieved.
And also, sir, please come -- sir, please come. We have a gentleman here who's brought his child.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
DAMON: Why did you bring your child out tonight? How important is this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's important for this, to support revolution and the protests, that we succeed finally to reach our goal and reach our achievement today. And we are so happy, so should my family celebrate with me.
DAMON: Excellent. Thank you.
And there you have it, Michael. A variety of opinions, and the celebrations here still continuing.
HOLMES: We'll check in with you again, Arwa. Great work. Wolf, I never failed to be impressed when Arwa does that and the sort of simultaneous translation going on there.
BLITZER: She and Ben Wedeman, we've go some good Arabic speakers on the staff right now. And I'm always impressed when I see her smile. She is so happy right now, Arwa. She remembers what it was like only a few days ago, what it's like right now. She's got a big, big smile on her face.
President Obama is calling Egypt's revolution the beginning, the beginning of the country's transition, not the end. He praised the Egyptian military and said it will have -- to ensure a credible transition, including a clear path to free elections. He also noted the extraordinary nature of these events.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place. This is one of those moments. This is one of those times.
The people of Egypt have spoken. Their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same. By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people's hunger for change.
But this is not the end of Egypt's transition; it's a beginning. I'm sure there will be difficult days ahead. And many questions remain unanswered. But I am confident that the people of Egypt can find the answers and do so peacefully, constructively, and in the spirit of unity that has defined these last few weeks. For Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.
Egypt has played a pivotal role in human history for over 6,000 years. But over the last few weeks, the wheel of history turned at a blinding pace as the Egyptian people demanded their universal rights.
We saw mothers and fathers carrying their children on their shoulders to show them what true freedom might look like. We saw a young Egyptian say, "For the first time in my life I really count. My voice is heard, even though I'm only one person. This is the way real democracy works." For in Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence, not terrorism, not mindless killing, but nonviolence, moral force, that bent the ark of history towards justice once more.
And while the sights and sounds that we heard were entirely Egyptian, we can't help but hear the echoes of history. Echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down the path of justice.
As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana, while trying to perfect his own, "There's something in the soul that cries out for freedom." Those were the cries that came from Tahrir Square. And the entire world has taken note.
Today belongs to the people of Egypt. And the American people are moved by the scenes in Cairo and across Egypt because of who we are as a people and the kind of world that we want our children to grow up in.
The word "Tahrir" means liberation. It is a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom, and forever more it will remind us of the Egyptian people: of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country and, in doing so, changed the world.
BLITZER: We're going to take a look ahead and see where everyone goes from here as a result of these historic moments in Cairo today. Candy Crowley, Gloria Borger, Fouad Ajami, Mona Eltahawy, all are standing by, all of our reporters. Michael Holmes is not going anywhere. Much more coverage. The breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.
BLITZER: Gloria Borger and Candy Crowley are here. Mona and Fouad are standing by. But Gloria, the president, I think he's getting pretty good reviews for his comments today. And I think, except for a few Republicans, he's getting pretty good marks for the way he's handled this crisis.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, this wasn't easy. You know, this is -- 30 years of history, close history with Mubarak in this country. And the administration, you know, started out by saying that Mubarak was stable and then kept moving and changing. It was such a fluid and dramatic situation. Of course, we tend to judge these things by outcomes. And the truth of the matter is this is a fabulous outcome, but we don't know what comes next. And that's what they're doing in the White House.
BLITZER: In the short term, Candy, from the U.S. perspective, very positive development.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: This was as good as it was going to get, really.
BLITZER: Some people were fearing, you know, that there would be the Muslim Brotherhood taking over.
CROWLEY: Or that there would be riots in the streets; there'd be, you know, a lot of bloodletting, that Mubarak would stay on forever. And they really got the best situation.
Now how much did they have to do with that and how much was -- simply was the power of those few people sitting in the square? I think they'll argue forever. But nonetheless, they got exactly -- they got the best they could ask for.
BLITZER: Let me ask Fouad Ajami at Johns Hopkins University. Fouad, I know you've been critical of this administration, earlier administrations, but you see it -- you call it as you see it. What do you think?
FOUAD AJAMI, PROFESSOR, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Look, I think this has always been from the beginning an Egyptian drama. Our government caught up with a storm, in fact. It really wasn't about Barack Obama. It wasn't about even George W. Bush's freedom agenda. This was the Egyptian people bringing their pharaoh, bringing their autocrat to account.
In the end, President Obama did what he needed to do. And I think the moral example, the example we had and the power we had had to do with reigning in the military, making sure there is no Tiananmen Square in Cairo, in Tahrir Square. And that's considerable moral influence and political influence.
BLITZER: When you heard the president speak today, the president of the United States, Mona, I think you were moved, weren't you?
MONA ELTAHAWY: I was, because it's exactly what I hoped he would say. I mean, we spoke earlier, and you asked me what I would like him to say. And he focused exactly on this beautiful nonviolent pure revolution.
And you know, I mentioned earlier the toppling of all these stereotypes of Arabs. Here's another thing that Egyptian sisters and brothers, my people I'm so proud of, have toppled. They have toppled this fear that Hosni Mubarak has been using all along to silence western allies about "It's either me or these crazy radicals."
But they're also toppling, and this, I think, is what President Obama addressed today. They're also toppling a foreign policy that always chose the dictator versus the people. And I think what the message behind President Obama's speech today was U.S. foreign policy, as it now wakes up to what's happening, Hosni Mubarak is the Berlin Wall today that fell.
U.S. foreign policy now is looking ahead and thinking. It serves us best to side with the people, because that is the best way to find stability. Because a stable country is not a country suffocated by a dictator. A stable country is a democratic, free country with people who are happy and free. I think this is what we're seeing come -- this is what we will see from -- as a result of the speech today, thanks to the revolution in Egypt.
BORGER: Well, I'm not so sure about that. I mean, I think that there's always going to be realpolitik in our foreign policy. And I don't think that the United States is looking to change its good relationship, its good relationship, for example, with Jordan right now.
But they are looking to see how can they make the Saudis be less upset? We're very upset about this. What's going to happen in Iran? What's going to happen in Syria? I mean, obviously, the whole chess table is very different right now.
CROWLEY: I talked to a couple of experts today about this. What next? What will we see fall? Look at the -- across the Arab world. There's dictators. There's autocrats. And they really looked said these are all so different that I don't see anything imminent here. Oh, it went from Tunisia to Egypt, and now it goes, you know, to X, Y or Z.
They just -- you know, we sort of went through a number of the countries. And they said, "I just don't see it" because of the very different circumstances in so many of these places.
BLITZER: All right, guys. We're going to continue, obviously, our analysis and our coverage. The breaking news out of Cairo right now, out of all of Egypt, in fact. Mubarak is gone. There's a new day in Egypt.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: All right. The excitement continuing in Egypt right now. As they fully expected, this excitement would last not only tonight; it's going to go well into tomorrow.
Michael Holmes, folks there, I think they're all smiling. I haven't seen anybody critical of what has happened.
HOLMES: Yes. Well, no. Absolutely not. There's a lot of people in the neighborhood perhaps a little bit nervous for varying reasons. Ben Wedeman, our longtime Cairo bureau chief, is joining us now.
Ben, you know, one of the things that's left over from all of this has been those -- those thugs, really, who were out on the street battling these protesters: the state police, the secret police. What happens to them?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's a very good question. Certainly many people, even President Mubarak suggested in his last speech that those who were behind the violence should be persecuted, and many Egyptians would like to see a complete change in the way the country is policed.
I mean, one of the things that really became obvious on the 28th when the police were pulled out of Cairo was how much Egyptians hate the police force. Police stations around the country were torched on the night of the 28th of January. And the police have only gradually come back on the street.
And what's interesting is they've been much better behaved than before. One Egyptian told me that he went to a police station and had to get some paperwork done. He handed the policeman the usual 10 pounds, about $2 to facilitate the paperwork. And the policeman said, "No, we're starting -- we're going to become clean here. We're not dealing in bribery anymore." So the police in Egypt have been put on notice.
And it's worth noting that, of course, the abuses of the police in Egypt are typical of the abuses of police across the Middle East. So all of them must be looking at this situation and thinking, "Hmm."
HOLMES: Yes, a little bit nervous. After any celebration, some celebrations certainly, there's a hangover. It's very easy to get swept up in all this at the moment, the euphoria. This is just the beginning, isn't it? There's a long way to go. There's no guarantees.
WEDEMAN: There is a long way to go. And let's not -- apart from Egypt's chronic problems of high unemployment, under development and a skewed distribution of wealth, you have the results of the last two and a half weeks of upheaval here.
Tourism -- tourism is dead. There are no tourists left in Egypt. The stock market has been closed now for over a week. When it reopens on Sunday for only three hours, the worry is that investors who are still in the market are just going to run away. So lots of problems that simply need to be cleaned up from the last 18 days.
HOLMES: Yes, indeed. Ben, thanks for your contributions. We're not sending you to bed yet.
We're going to take a short break here in our coverage. Wolf Blitzer and Michael Holmes. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Conservative Republicans meeting here in Washington are reacting to the revolution in Egypt, including some possible Republican presidential candidates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The Obama administration is wrong on terrorism, wrong on Iran, wrong on the Muslim Brotherhood, wrong on Hezbollah, and being wrong on that many national security items is an enormously dangerous thing.
MITT ROMNEY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: An uncertain world has been made more dangerous by the lack of clear direction from a weak president. The president who had counted his personal experience as giving him special insight into foreign affairs was caught unprepared when Iranian citizens rose up against oppression.
His proposed policy of engagement with Iran and North Korea won him the Nobel Peace Prize. How did that work out, by the way?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Jessica Yellin is covering this conference here in Washington. How are the events in Egypt being played out over there at that Republican conservative meeting?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, hardly at all. If you spend a day here in this ballroom as I had with this audience, you would barely know that there are historic events playing out across Egypt. Except for those oblique remarks you heard from those two speakers, very few people even acknowledged or used the word "Egypt."
The big exception was Ron Paul, who made his now familiar call for the U.S. to withdraw and stop spending, giving foreign policy aid to Egypt and other allies.
And Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, allowed me to catch up with him, ask him a pointed question about the Obama administration. He said their response so far has been confused and disoriented in his view.
But other than that, almost none of the major candidates here has dug in on Egypt or spoken, really, about the president or the administration's position there, or even acknowledged the historic moment that we've all seen play out today, Wolf.
BLITZER: Interesting. Jessica, thanks very, very much.
They're not only celebrating in Cairo. They're celebrating outside the Egyptian embassy here in Washington. Look at this. Demonstrators very, very happy about what's happening in Egypt. We'll be right back.
HOLMES: Early morning in Cairo in Tahrir Square, and nobody is going to bed. They're still celebrating the events of a few hours ago when the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, stepped down. A little bit quieter there at the moment, Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: Not much, though. They're going to be celebrating for hours. It truly, Michael, has been a landmark day in Egypt's history. What started out with shear and utter outrage quickly turned to amazing triumph and joy.
WEDEMAN: I think here you see very much people voting with their feet in reaction to the speech by President Mubarak last night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you decide to come here today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had to go. No other option.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people do not accept this, and the military knows this. Mubarak knows this.
OMAR SULEIMAN, EGYPTIAN VICE PRESIDENT (through translator): President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down. President Hosni Mubarak has -- President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down as president of Egypt, and he has decided that the higher council of the armed forces will lead the nation.
JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR: Hosni Mubarak for almost 30 years, the one man who ruled Egypt, has now officially stepped down.
WEDEMAN: One man was on his phone. He shouted out, "The president has resigned," and the crowd went wild.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When you're down there in the crowd, it feels absolutely electric. Everyone is coming in here.
BLITZER: If you're a dictator in Tunisia, you're out. If you're a dictator in Egypt, you're out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a revolution of military but a revolution of the people.
WAEL GHONIM, EGYPTIAN ACTIVIST: We are dreamers, and you made this happen. And it's time now to celebrate for a couple of days. And then -- and then go back and start thinking about how can we develop the country and what's the best way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I asked her, "Are you scared about what's going to come next?"
And she said, "No, because the military is taking over, and I feel safe with them, and with their help one day soon I'll be able to vote in presidential elections."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't describe. I'm very happy. I'm very happy. I can't tell you about -- about my feelings. I'm very happy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Egypt! Egypt!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight it's a party. Look at the scene.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take care, guys. Have a good night.
BLITZER: Historic day in Egypt; indeed, in the region. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll be back live tomorrow, 6 p.m. Eastern, in THE SITUATION ROOM for more coverage of these historic events.