As protesters swarmed outside the Supreme Court in the wake of last month’s health care ruling, House Rules Chairman David Dreier reflected on the historic elections that had just wrapped up in Egypt, arguing their turbulent history mirrors America’s own.
“I [felt] like I’m in the summer of 1787 when our country was just going through this process of putting together the Constitution. And we’re still going through that, obviously,” the California Republican said June 28, gesturing toward the television in the corner of the room broadcasting live footage of the chaotic scene outside the Supreme Court.
“To watch them improve the process along the way … it’s so inspiring. If you could go back 225 years to our summer of 1787 and these [same] questions they were dealing with,” said Dreier, who made numerous trips to Egypt over the past year to act as an election observer.
“It was really exciting to see the whole emergence of the Arab Spring. It began in Tunisia with that little merchant lighting himself on fire, and to see this rejection of authoritarian dictatorship, it’s just such a positive thing,” Dreier said, calling the movement a “real boost for the notion of self-determination. And to me, that’s exciting. It’s one of the things that first led me to run for Congress three and a half decades ago.”
Dreier’s involvement in Egypt — and, more broadly, in efforts to promote democratic governments across the globe — runs deep.
As a freshman Member of Congress in the early 1980s, Dreier seized on a state visit by President Hosni Mubarak to meet the newly installed leader.
“My first term in Congress … I’m a young starry-eyed guy interested in all kinds of things, and I heard Hosni Mubarak was here,” Dreier recalls.
“I just wanted to talk to him about the Middle East … and he walked out of whatever room he was in, this was in the Rayburn Building, and I just said, ‘Oh, Mr. President, I’m David Dreier and I’m a Member of Congress and I just wanted to meet you.’
“And he took me, he took me, I felt like a bear cub [because] he was a big guy … and he took me and he just wrapped his arm around me, all around my chest and he pulled into his breast … and quite literally dragged me down the hall.”
The encounter helped spark a three-decade-long relationship with the Egyptian government and its people.
“I love the Egyptian people. They’re so warm and so kind,” he said.