NEW YORK - The Obama administration is struggling to determine if a democratic revolution can succeed while Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak remains, even if he is sidelined, according to The NY Times. The latest challenge came Saturday afternoon, twelve days into the uprising in Egypt that threatens to upend American strategy in the ME, the newspaper said Sunday, citing the statement made by Frank Wisner, the diplomat sent last weekend by Obama to persuade the 82-year-old leader to step out of the way. Wisner told a group of diplomats and security experts that Mubaraks continued leadership is critical - its his opportunity to write his own legacy. But just before his remarks, Hillary Clinton gave a strategy overview that stood at odds with that assessment. At a minimum, she said, Mubarak must move out of the way so that his vice president, Omar Suleiman, can engage in talks with protest leaders over everything from constitutional changes to free and fair elections. It is hardly the first time the Obama administration has seemed uncertain on its feet during the Egyptian crisis, as it struggles to stay on the right side of history and to avoid accelerating a revolution that could spin out of control, the Times wrote. The mixed messages have been confusing and at times embarrassing - a reflection of a policy that, by necessity, has been made up on the fly, it said. This is what happens when you get caught by surprise, an unnamed American official was quoted as saying. Weve had endless strategy sessions for the past two years on Mideast peace, on containing Iran. And how many of them factored in the possibility that Egypt, and presumably whatever dominoes follow it, moves from stability to turmoil? None. Just hours before offering her correctives of Wisner, Mrs. Clinton made the case at a gathering in Munich that the entire process would take time, and must be carefully managed. Revolutions have overthrown dictators in the name of democracy, she reminded her audience, only to see the process hijacked by new autocrats who use violence, deception and rigged elections to stay in power. CHENEY Meanwhile, former Vice President Dick Cheney, a Republican, has sought to create more complications for the administration. He praised President Mubarak as a good ally to the United States and urged the Obama administration to proceed cautiously in its handling of the turmoil in the region. Cheney, speaking at a tribute to Ronald Reagan, suggested that putting too much pressure on Mubarak to reign could backfire and send Egypt into further crisis. There is a reason why a lot of diplomacy is conducted in secret. There are good reasons for there to be confidentiality in some of those communications. And I think President Mubarak needs to be treated as he deserved over the years, because he has been a good friend, Cheney said. But Administration officials insist their responses have been more reaction to fast-moving events than any fundamental change in objective. Over the last few days, with Mubarak making it clear he does not intend to resign anytime soon, they have described their latest strategy as one of encouraging Egyptian elites to isolate him to the point where he is essentially a spectator to the end of his own rule. They say they want Mubarak to be able to leave with honour, so once again on Friday, Obama stopped short of telling him to go for fear, as one senior official put it, that the more he digs in, the harder it will be at the right moment to get him to let go. Transmitting the right message to constituencies who hear them differently is a problem the administration has confronted from the start of the crisis almost two weeks ago, the Times pointed out. When the first protesters appeared in Tahrir Square, Mrs. Clinton, working off the traditional American script that portrays Mubarak as a reliable ally in need of quiet, sustained pressure on human rights and political reform, said, Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people. One week later, that script was cast aside for the first time in three decades. On Tuesday night, Mr. Obama and his top national security aides watched Mubaraks defiant speech, in which he refused to resign but insisted he had never intended to run for re-election in September. It confirmed the conclusion they had gradually reached as the protest mounted: Instability would reign until the Mubarak got out of the way. He needed a push, one official who was in the Situation Room with the president, was quoted as saying. When Mubaraks speech was over, Mr. Obama called him, for what turned into a tense 30-minute conversation, the dispatch said. Shortly afterward, Obama appeared in the foyer of the White House to declare that orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now. He did not press Mubarak directly to resign, but Mubaraks loyalists clearly interpreted it that way. The next day, government supporters were bused into the square and changed what had been a largely peaceful process in a day of rage, stone-throwing, clubbing and arrests, the most violent so far. By Friday, the Times said, it was clear that Mubarak would not go gently, which led to the third iteration of the White House policy. In private, the administration worked to peel away Mubaraks key supporters in the Egyptian elite. His defence minister, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, went into Tahrir Square, ostensibly to inspect the troops there, but largely to associate himself with the protesters. His appearance, along with a visit to the square by Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League and a former Egyptian foreign minister under Mubarak, created the impression of the Egyptian leaders increasing isolation. Obama also tried talking about Mubarak differently, almost in the past tense. He described him as a man who had made that psychological break and urged him to ask himself, How do I leave a legacy behind in which Egypt is able to get through this transformative period? Administration officials say that in phone calls and e-mails from the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon, they have urged a council of elders in Egypt to begin drafting revisions to the Constitution that could be sped through Parliament, while encouraging Suleiman to jump-start conversations with an array of opposition leaders, including the Muslim Brotherhood, from which some of Al Qaedas leadership emerged. We are not trying to be prescriptive, a senior Obama adviser said on Saturday. The Egyptian leadership knows what it needs to do, and they dont need us to lay it out in detail.