Between 'concrete steps' and a hard place
US president Barack Obama took questions from the press for the first time since the crisis in Egypt began 11 days ago.
Of the two pre-selected journalists, only one asked Obama about Egypt. In his response, the president didn't go much beyond his comments from earlier in the week.
Obama reiterated his administration's position that the future of Egypt should be determined by Egyptians. And he once again tried to balance America's interests with its ideals.
He said, "What we can do, though, is affirm the core principles that are going to be involved in that transition."
The cause for the micro-mini-press conference was the visit of Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.
Earlier, press secretary Robert Gibbs took more questions on Egypt. Gibbs's phrase of the day was "concrete steps" towards transition. Asked what those concrete steps were, Gibbs said the US won't provide the blueprint but they include dialogue and negotiations with many groups in Egyptian society.
Gibbs also stated the obvious, "I think there is the likelihood of greater instability and uncertainty without the government taking those concrete steps toward real change."
The tightrope walk continues for members of the Obama administration – they're criticised for not calling for Mubarak to resign, even though it's clearly what they're after. They have to remain vague because of the US's longstanding support for Mubarak and the precedent it would set with other undemocratic allies.
The White House is full of lawyers who carefully examine the meaning and consequences of every word spoken by the president or members of his administration.
So when Gibbs said that the US supports the democratic aspirations of the protesters, it's not the same thing as supporting the protesters.
But Obama did plug the opposition, "Negotiations should include a broad representation of the Egyptian opposition, and this transition must address the legitimate grievances of those who seek a better future."
A few hours before the US president spoke, Al Jazeera English broadcast live images of a man standing on a post in Cairo's Liberation Square above the crowd waving an Egyptian flag.
One wonders if that protester is as optimistic about Mubarak's departure as Obama is, who said in his press conference "my hope is that [Mubarak] will end up making the right decision."