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Mr. Obama “made his No. 1 foreign policy priority improving relations with the Muslim world, and he believed that he had a special insight into how that might be accomplished, and part of that was to stop pressing them to democratize,” Mr. Muravchik said. “That certainly puts some pressure on him.”

He added: “It also seems that the people in the Middle East are facing very profound problems that really don’t have a heck of a lot to do with whether America is deferential toward them or not.”

While struggling to keep abreast of the crisis in Cairo, the White House insists that recent events have not interfered with Mr. Obama’s domestic agenda, including his emphasis on economic innovation and the need to build up the job market.

But the events in the Middle East have been an unwanted distraction as Mr. Obama tries to build on the momentum of last week’s State of the Union address and a bump in the polls as his re-election effort gears up for 2012.