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David Dreier Shows Passion on Democratization

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. David Dreier has had a strong interest in international affairs since he first entered Congress. He’s been active in promoting political freedom in Egypt and other fledgling democracies.

In the mid-’80s, Dreier made his “first trip there 25 years ago with [the late Rep.] Charlie Wilson (D-Texas) en route to Thanksgiving dinner in the Khyber Pass.” Dreier returned to Egypt in 2005 to give a speech at the American University in Cairo.

And it was on that trip that Dreier first encountered the Muslim Brotherhood.

“I felt scared. Because I gave this speech, and all of a sudden there were all these Muslim Brothers who got up and really started passionately and vigorously and enthusiastically screaming at me.”

“I remember just standing there. That was my first real encounter with the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, this was during the Iraq War, and this is what was really driving that,” Dreier said.

His experiences with Egypt and other developing nations during his career led Dreier to help found the House Democracy Partnership, which has worked with countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya to help foster democratic institutions and strong legislative bodies.

Despite significant setbacks in Egypt — including a court’s dissolving of parliament and the military’s scaling back of presidential authority right before the election of President Muhammad Morsi last month — Dreier argues the country and region are simply going through the growing pains of fledgling democracies.

“My answer to the dissolution of the parliament is to hold parliamentary elections … get to work on writing the constitution. It’s not a straight line. … Is it a major setback? Not as long as they continue to go down this path,” Dreier said.

“If you were to go back a year and a half ago and say, ‘Hosni Mubarak won’t be president and the people of Egypt for the first time in 7,000 years would be able to cast votes to elect members of parliament and a president,’ anyone would have said you’re crazy,” he added.

Dreier also downplays concerns among some in the U.S. over the election of Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, arguing that despite tensions, you will “see a Salafist [Muslim] arm-in-arm with a Coptic Christian.”

At 60, Dreier is preparing to exit Congress, and he said he hopes to continue his work not only in Egypt and the Middle East, but also with other emerging democracies around the world.

“I want to keep a role internationally. I don’t think it’s just Egypt … I’ve always done a lot of this international stuff,” Dreier said.

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