John McCain and Rand Paul Say It's a Coup in Egypt, But Only One of Them Wants to Cut…

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 8 2013 4:33 PM

John McCain and Rand Paul Say It's a Coup in Egypt, But Only One of Them Wants to Cut Foreign Aid. Guess Who!

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Sen. John McCain wants to use the magic word "coup" without casting a spell.

Photo by Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

If it's Sunday, it's John McCain. If it's a crisis in the Middle East, McCain is asking why more American leadership wasn't mustered to stop it. On Face the Nation, McCain added his voice to the chorus of Democrats and Republicans saying that the Egyptian military's overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government meant that a coup had taken place, something that is supposed to cut off foreign aid.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

But wait—McCain didn't go that far. The relevant bit:

MAJOR GARRETT: Bluntly, simply, was that a coup that we saw last week?
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: It was a coup and it was the second time in two and a half years that we have seen the military step in. It's a strong indicator of the lack of American leadership and influence since we urged the military not to do that and reluctantly I believe that we have to suspend aid until such time as there is a new constitution and a free and fair election. We can't-- Morsi was a terrible president. Their economy is-- is in terrible shape, thanks to their policies, but the fact is the United States should not be supporting this coup and it's a tough call.
MAJOR GARRETT: Let me ask you specifically about this aid question, Senator. It's already gone out for this fiscal year. Are you talking about trying to pull that back or are you talking about when the new fiscal year starts if nothing has happened on free and fair elections not providing any in the future?
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I don't think you can pull it back. It's already in the pipeline.
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McCain wants to call it a coup without actually cutting off aid. The White House is in the more ludicrous position of refusing to say "coup," as if it's a magic word that will turn the spigot off. Both parties here are pitted against the likes of Sen. Rand Paul, who have been trying to cut off aid to Egypt for ages and now see a legal reasoning. On July 4, in a column that was filed before the coup, Paul bemoaned how "despite the fact that Mohamed Morsi recently convicted 16 Americans of political crimes in a show trial, the Obama administration still sent them over $2 billion this year." The coup only changed the messaging.

Republican hawks can't go in on that, so they have to thread the needle, criticizing the Obama policy without saying its failure needs to have a consequence.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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