By Ray Fleming

IN what will be a very brief interval between the departure of Hosni Mubarak and the first detailed indications of how the Egyptian Army intends to handle the transition to a new constitution and free elections, there is a moment to consider what went wrong in America's reactions to the street revolution. Like everyone else, the White House, even with its presumably superior intelligence resources, was frequently caught by unexpected events that exposed an apparent rift between the President and Secretary of State Clinton. Broadly speaking, it seems that Mr Obama took a consistent line in calling for Mubarak's speedy resignation and for urgent subsequent reforms while Mrs Clinton emphasised the need for stability and a slower rate of change. On a matter of such fundamental importance such differences, if they exist, should not be allowed to show, The nadir, of course, was the widely publicised view of the former US Ambassador to Egypt, Frank Wisner, after visiting Cairo that Mubarak should remain in office to “write his legacy”.

One interesting aspect of the past fortnight has been the way in which the President has used his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, to reflect the strength of his views, even occasionally going beyond what the President himself has said. By prior arrangement, Mr Gibbs has now moved on to other interests after a distinguished two years in one of the most exposed jobs in the world.