By Bridget Johnson and Michael O'Brien - 01/30/11 02:29 PM EST
The Obama administration struggled to maintain a careful balance on its response to the crisis in Egypt on Sunday, which continued to spiral out of control as armed gangs broke hundreds of militants out of Egyptian jails and the U.S. Embassy warned citizens to consider leaving the country as soon as possible.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the rounds on all five Sunday shows, advocating that the people's voice be heard while taking care not to call for a departure of President Hosni Mubarak.
"I don't think anyone is satisfied, least of all the Egyptian people," Clinton said.
But when asked on CNN's "State of the Union" whether the U.S. was taking the side of government or the protesters, Clinton stressed that the U.S. had been "on the side of the people" as it had been for more than 30 years of cooperation with Cairo while advocating greater democratic and civil rights.
"We're not advocating any specific outcome," she said.
She said that the U.S. is trying to "keep on the message we've been on, convey it publicly and privately, and stand ready to help."
"We do not want to send any message about backing forward or backing back," Clinton said.
Clinton said that the U.S. wanted to see the people be able to express their voices in "peaceful protest ... and then a process of national dialogue that will lead to the changes the Egyptian people seek and deserve."
She cautioned that such changes will take time, but urged Mubarak to take concrete steps and for his new government officials to "put real life into what President Mubarak said" in his address to the nation Friday evening.
requested the resignation of his government on Friday, and announced
the appointment of a new vice president, a former intelligence chief who's regarded as a Mubarak
On Fox, Clinton said that was a first step. "But there's a
long way to go."
"We have been very clear that we want to see a transition to democracy, and we want to see the kind of steps taken that will bring that about. But we also want to see an orderly transition," she said. "There are many, many steps along the journey that has been started by the Egyptian people themselves."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), making his first comments on
the Egyptian situation, said he was largely satisfied by the Obama
administration's response to the crisis.
"I think our administration so far has handled this tense situation pretty well," Boehner said on "Fox News Sunday."
He echoed the administration's language, speaking of the "legitimate grievances" of the Egyptian people, but worrying about the possibility of Islamic extremists taking control of the government in that country.
Egyptian authorities have shut down the offices of news network Al Jazeera, blocking broadcasts into the country. Renowned Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas tweeted Saturday morning that hundreds of judges had joined the protests in Tahrir Square.
However, a calmer protest presence has been reported since the military, a respected entity in Egypt, took over security operations from the police.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) noted on CNN's "State of the Union" that "there are some good signs here; it's not all terrible."
"It is not an anti-U.S. message primarily, nor is it a radical Islamist message," he said of the protesters' economic and political grievances.
"The hope is there will be a transition to something else," Schumer said. "A democratic government is the way to go and hopefully it can be channeled in that direction with the government as a guiding hand."
2008 GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the White House needs to do more to get "ahead" of the crisis in Egypt.
“I think the president should get a little bit more out ahead” of the situation, McCain said on CNN. “In other words, lay out a scenario of what we think the Egyptian people should have every right to expect."
The ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee told host Candy Crowley that “we’ve got to be on the right side of history” in the Egyptian crisis.
McCain said that “there’s real chance for democracy” at this juncture. “There is a real awakening going on,” he said.
“We have a real opportunity for a democratic transition … this is a very critical time, what happens in Egypt” has a direct effect on what happens in other countries in the region also on the verge of political unrest, including Jordan, Yemen and Libya, McCain said.
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) backed the White House's handling of the crisis.
“I don’t have any criticism of President Obama or Secretary Clinton at this point, they know full well that they can’t give the Egyptians advice about who their leadership is — that’s beyond the reach of the United States,” McConnell told NBC’s David Gregory.
McConnell, who appeared on "Meet the Press," said “Egypt has been an extraordinary ally of ours … we hope that at the end of the day … we’ll still have an important ally.”
McConnell refused to say whether the U.S. should hold out the annual $1.3 billion in military aid sent to Cairo as a means of influencing the outcome of the crisis.
“It’s up to the Egyptians to determine what their leadership is and we’ll take a look at it after that,” McConnell said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his first public comments on the crisis Sunday. The country is in a precarious position because a new government such as the Muslim Brotherhood would likely dismiss the treaty between Egypt and Israel that has kept a terse peace for many years.
"Our efforts are designed to continue and maintain stability and security in our region," the prime minister, who said he was "anxiously monitoring" the protests, said during the weekly Cabinet meeting.
According to The Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu spoke with President Obama on Saturday as well as with Clinton.
remind you that the peace between Israel and Egypt has endured for over
three decades and our goal is to ensure that these relations continue," Netanyahu said.
"Of course, at this time, we must show maximum responsibility, restraint and sagacity and, to this end, I have instructed my fellow ministers to refrain from commenting on this issue. Naturally, we are also holding consultations in the appropriate government forums," he said.
"I know that everybody wants a yes-or-no answer to what are very
complicated issues," Clinton said on ABC's "This Week." "Obviously, this is a volatile situation. Egypt has
been a partner of the United States for over three decades, has been a
partner in achieving historic peace with Israel, a partner in, you know,
trying to stabilize a region that is subject to a lot of challenges."
—Molly K. Hooper contributed to this report
This story was updated at 12 p.m.