A painful aspect of President Mursi’s speech is the feeling of helplessness it leaves in its wake. It is decidedly important  that a civilian Egyptian President actually finishes his term and hands power to the next fellow ( and let us face it, it will be a fellow for quite a while). But Dr. Mursi shatters any such dream. Can Egypt really suffer four more years of upheaval and failure? Yet it is wrong to demand that an elected man is ejected out of office merely because he is lousy at his job. And, in any case, at this moment Egypt has no functioning constitution, or even a parliament,  that would allow a legal process of impeachment.

There is little to recommend Dr. Mursi, other than perhaps the private and wholly unverifiable virtues of being a good husband and father.  He is famously stubborn, even for an Egyptian male. His public utterances are flowery, meandering, and overstuffed with words lacking in meaning. Whatever precision of thought he might possess is reserved for the few or the Americans. He has charted no course but seems to jerk the wheel in any conceivable direction. He is clearly not the man to lead Egypt through a difficult time. His opposite numbers do not exactly shine, and we will never know what they could have done under the present circumstances. To complicate things further, Dr. Mursi has never shaken his membership in a secretive cult-like organization.

So Egypt is stuck, a hostage to the man it elected to serve her. The country made a serious mistake in allowing Mubarak to stay a dozen years too long and in forcing him to leave a few months too early. A lame duck Mubarak may have made for a differently difficult transition, but at least the delicate and critical fiction of a legal hand-over of power would have been sustained. But honesty recognizes that Mubarak is to blame for creating a generation with many activists and few politicians.

If there is any hope in a bleak week it consists of faith in an Egyptian good nature that will prevent descent into chaos or sectarianism, keep the country adrift but not capsized, while a whole new generation masters the skills of negotiation and political navigation.

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