Think Morsi's a moderate? You're not paying attention

2012-12-01T00:00:00Z Think Morsi's a moderate? You're not paying attentionJonah Goldberg Tribune Media Services Arizona Daily Star
December 01, 2012 12:00 am  • 

What do you call a leader of a theocratic and cultish movement with a deep and clear disdain for democracy who suddenly assumes dictatorial powers?

A "moderate," of course.

Ever since the Muslim Brotherhood broke its promise to stay out of Egypt's presidential election in the aftermath of the revolution, many Western observers have been in denial about what has been going on. In less than half a year, Mohammed Morsi has deftly built the foundation for despotism.

Much as the Nazis brilliantly cast themselves as reformers sweeping away the corruption of the Weimar Republic, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have been using the effort to clean up the detritus of Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship as an excuse to consolidate power.

In August, when Islamists attacked Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai in an apparent effort to force Egypt into a confrontation with Israel, Morsi used the incident as an excuse to replace Mohamed Hussein Tantawi - a Mubarak-era holdover who headed the military and guarded its independence - with officers more pliable to the Brotherhood.

"Are we looking at a president determined to dismantle the machine of tyranny," Alaa Al Aswany, a democratic activist, asked at the time, "or one who is retooling the machine of tyranny to serve his interests?" That question quickly became, at best, rhetorical.

Morsi proceeded to purge scores of newspaper editors and publishers, declare himself in charge of the drafting of the new constitution and all but wore a sandwich board with the words "I'm becoming a dictator!" on it.

As if to hammer it home, Morsi last week announced that his rule was immune to judicial oversight of any kind. He used the failure of the courts to adequately punish Mubarak-era holdovers as an excuse. It was just that - an excuse, not an explanation.

Morsi softened his language Monday, but aides insisted his edict stood. And the Brotherhood's position remains clear. "If democracy means that people decide who leads them, then (we) accept it; if it means that people can change the laws of Allah and follow what they wish to follow, then it is not acceptable," the Brotherhood explained on its website in 2005.

Morsi did have another excuse for seizing power: The timing was good. Because he helped broker a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, the White House lavished praise on him. Before the limelight dimmed, Morsi seized the moment to announce that his will is the supreme law of the land.

On the New Republic's website, Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy posted a condemnation of Morsi's apologists under the headline "Shame on Anyone Who Ever Thought Mohammed Morsi Was a Moderate." Trager's one error is he assumes that, after Morsi's latest power grab, no one could possibly still think Morsi's a moderate.

But that's exactly what many still believe. For instance, on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, Time magazine's Joe Klein spoke for many inside the Beltway when he celebrated Morsi's role in the truce as a "wonderful sign" because it showed he and the Muslim Brotherhood are "moderates."

Bear in mind that even as Morsi was pocketing praise from the West for yanking Hamas' collar, Mohammed Badie, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, made it clear that war to liberate Palestine remained its goal, once Muslim unity is achieved.

Apparently, "moderation" in the Middle East has been defined down to not wanting to wage war on Israel right now.

Morsi went to prison to defend the Muslim Brotherhood's Islamist ideology. He rose through its ranks not because he was a moderate, but because he was committed to the cause and knew how to play the game. The stakes have changed, but anyone who thinks he's not still committed to the cause is getting played.

Contact Jonah Goldberg at JonahsColumn@aol.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activate

Latest Fitz Report video

More

Fitz studio: How to draw the President

In this video tutorial, Star cartoonist and columnist David Fitzsimmons teaches you how to draw the Preside…

Latest Newsmakers video

More

Dr. Peter Rhee on mental health

Dr. Peter Rhee discusses mental health and other issues surrounding gun violence.

Deals, offers & events

View more...