Gary Ackerman: your newest celebrity congressman!
OK, maybe that’s a stretch. But Ackerman has once again made the cable news rounds. On Fox Business, Ackerman spoke to Neil Cavuto about supporting the Egyptian people’s right to freedom, a message he’s been driving home for weeks. And on February 10, when Hosni Mubarak was about to deliver an announcement to the Egyptian people and the world, Ackerman was in the studio with live with Dylan Ratigan for some expert analysis. The assumption was that Mubarak would be stepping down from his presidency. Of course, it didn’t work out that way, and Ackerman characterized Mubarak’s misdirection as “sadistic.”
“Wow,” he said on the show. “We were ready for one historic announcement and instead we got a different one.”
In a statement released last week, after Mubarak’s official resignation, Ackerman congratulated the Egyptian people.
“The Egyptian revolution was accomplished by Egyptians, for Egyptians,” Ackerman said in the statement. “The victory is theirs and the whole world stands in awe of their achievement.”
As I mentioned last week, Ackerman has taken on the Egyptian revolution as his own personal cause, challenging the president and the conventional wisdom of many pro-Israel politicians. “If I was advising the U.S. president it would be to very, very assertively claim that he is on the side of the people,” Ackerman said in the Ratigan interview. Given his background as the former chairman and current ranking member of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, he’s been a “go-to” politician on Egypt in the press, even more so than current Chairman Steve Chabot.
But while his stance may be admirable, it might not jive with the rest of his years in congress. In statements made after a 2008 meeting with Mubarak, Ackerman called the former president “gracious” and “forthright.” At the time, the Bush Administration looked at Mubarak as a key ally in their War on Terror, and Ackerman commented on “Egypt’s leadership that it has traditionally exhibited within the region.” Additionally, in his time as subcommittee chairman, Ackerman didn’t sponsor any legislation targeted toward Egypt or Egyptian foreign policy, nor was he particularly vocal about Hosni Mubarak before the revolution began.
Of course, this is true of most — if not all — American politicians. Mubarak was considered an important ally of the United States, and at a time when we seem to have few in the Muslim world, this was seen as an overall good thing. But seeing as Ackerman has been most vocal about his role against Mubarak’s regime, it’s interesting that his background doesn’t seem to reflect his current rhetoric.