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Barack Obama; democracy; Egypt; ethics; Foreign Policy; Frank Wisner; Hillary Rodham Clinton; Hosni Mubarak; human rights; International Politics; International Relations; Omar Suleiman; Political Accountability; Realpolitik; Torture; United States


This short article (3800 words, including 14 footnotes) was written and published on February 8, 2011, by, and may be republished with attribution for non-commercial purposes following the Creative Commons guidelines.’s summary blurb reads: “Reading the Washington runes. What happened with Mr. Wisner, Egypt lobbyist and Obama's special envoy to Mubarak? Is this an ugly farce, an ethical travesty or a cronyistic scandal?” The purpose of the article is to explore two hypotheses surrounding the sending by President Obama of former US Ambassador to Egypt, Frank Wisner, as Obama’s envoy to President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt during the period of post-January 25, 2011, revolutionary activity in Egypt. One hypothesis explores the possibility that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s role amounted to an outflanking of President Obama’s preferred messaging on Egypt, inter alia, through the recommendation of Wisner as messenger. The second hypothesis is that Clinton and Obama have been in lockstep in arriving at what I refer to as the Suleiman Transition (referencing Omar Suleiman as Mubarak’s newly appointed Vice-President). It is recognized that neither hypothesis can be shown to be true on current information at the time of writing, and accordingly argued that Clinton, Obama and Wisner need to answer a series of specified questions about how Clinton and Obama interacted since the start of the January 25, 2011, Egyptian revolution, specifically in relation to the Wisner role.