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Top Obama aide William Daley says U.S. not trying to steer Egypt

Chief of Staff William Daley says in his first interview that the White House is hoping the Egyptian people will find a solution to the standoff.

January 30, 2011|By Peter Nicholas | Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- President Obama's top aide, William Daley, signaled in an interview Sunday that the U.S. did not want to steer events in Egypt but, rather, hoped the Egyptian people would come up with a solution to the standoff between President Hosni Mubarak and protesters who want him ousted.

Daley, in his first interview since he was named White House chief of staff on Jan. 6, told CBS' "Face the Nation'' that the White House supported "basic human rights of the people of Egypt.''

Obama has urged his Egyptian counterpart that the government needs to show "restraint'' toward protesters massed on city streets demanding Mubarak's ouster, Daley said. Striking an even-handed posture, Obama also has cautioned that the protesters need to show restraint too, Daley noted.

"The determination of Egypt will be done by the people of Egypt,'' Daley said.

Egypt's escalating tensions amount to the first real foreign crisis for the Obama administration that it did not inherit. The crisis serves as a test of Obama's revamped White House operation. Daley, a former Commerce secretary in the Clinton administration, is now running a staff that is briefing Obama regularly on Egypt.

Daley's appearance on the Sunday TV talk-show circuit demonstrates that he will play a major role both in shaping and communicating the White House message.

The White House is choosy about who it sends out on the Sunday talk shows. Even after two years in office, certain Cabinet members have been largely invisible to the American public, making rare appearances on TV. That Daley was deployed so quickly after arriving in the West Wing suggests he'll be a major presidential surrogate heading into the 2012 reelection campaign.

In his debut, Daley spoke in measured tones and hewed to the White House talking points. He repeated that conditions in Egypt were "fluid'' and that Obama was "monitoring'' events closely.

"We hope that it works itself out for the people of Egypt,'' the new chief of staff said.

pnicholas@tribune.com

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