Former Vice President Dick Cheney says Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak is a "good man" who has been "a good friend and ally of the United States."
"We need to remember that," Cheney said in remarks during an event in Santa Barbara, California Saturday to commemorate the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan.
Cheney, who until now has not commented publicly on the Egyptian unrest, said he first worked with Mubarak during the Gulf Crisis of 1990. Mubarak offered important assistance in the effort to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, Cheney recalled, giving American warplanes permission to fly over Egypt, ensuring U.S. access to the Suez Canal, and sending Egyptian Army soldiers to take part in the anti-Saddam coalition.
"So he's been a good man," Cheney said. "He's been a good friend and ally to the United States, and we need to remember that."
Cheney, who played a key role in the Bush administration's efforts to promote democracy around the world, also said the issue of democracy should not be the only consideration in the American approach to Egypt's troubles. "If you look at it purely in terms of U.S. interests, we have clearly believed in and most administrations have endorsed the notion of democracy and freedom," Cheney said. "We think it's the best system devised by man. But there are also other issues that are important at the same time."
Even as he spoke favorably of Mubarak, Cheney would not say that the Egyptian president should remain in office. "I don't want to make a prediction, because I don't know," Cheney said. "But I also think that there comes a time for everybody when its time to hang it up and move on. That's true if you're running a company or you’re a vice president or you’re a president. You get to a point where the years add up and the burdens become tougher to deal with. But that's a decision that only the Egyptians can make, and I think they will handle it in an appropriate fashion."
In the end, Cheney said, "It's important for us all to remember that this issue is going to be resolved by the Egyptians. There are a lot of people with opinions -- in other governments, commentators on cable news shows -- but the bottom line is, in the end, whatever comes next in Egypt is going to be determined by the people of Egypt."