Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was walloped by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) this week and then by his Senate colleagues who defeated his bid to cut off aid entirely to Egypt. My colleague Dana Milbank notes, “The result reinforced the proud tradition of internationalism in the body, and in the GOP. For all the talk of a Republican civil war over foreign policy, Wednesday’s vote showed that the internationalists still dominate. [Sen. John] McCain portrayed Paul as the heir to the America Firsters.”
As I have argued, the responsible and lawful move is for the president to acknowledge there was a coup in Egypt and agree aid under current law must be discontinued, but then to obtain legislation conditioning aid based on the military government’s conduct. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) made a pitch for this sort of approach included in legislation he proposed in March (when Mohamed Morsi was in power). He again called for us to condition aid to Egypt on political and economic reform, adherence to the peace treaty with Israel, assistance in anti-terrorism and respect for religious minorities and also to restructure the aid we do give (“they probably don’t need any [more] F-16’s“).
Sam Tadros, an Egypt scholar with the Hudson Institute, tells me, “As to the U.S., one easy solution is to train the Egyptian military. These guys don’ t need F-16[s]. The Egyptian military is likely to continue playing a political as well as a security role in the future given in the latter case the collapse of the police force. And they are not trained for this.” He points out, “We have seen this in Maspero massacre of Copts as well as in recent shootings. Train them on basic policing. Change the nature of the aid from F-16 to counter terrorism and basic policing.” In short, we should not support the coup, but we cannot walk away from Egypt.
Rand Paul’s argument was peculiar, even for him. (And I don’t refer only to his outburst against AIPAC, which opposed his notion; since the avalanche of criticism from Jewish groups over his defense of the pro-secessionist “Southern Avenger” he seems to have given up on his scheme to woo the pro-Israel community.) The fellow who prides himself on small government and libertarian philosophy evidently wants a domestic spending spree. He proclaimed: “Take the $1 billion we spend in Egypt and spend it in America. So when you see the pictures on the news and what’s going on in Detroit, if you live in Detroit and you’re suffering through the bankruptcy of your city, if you see around you the chaos and poverty of Detroit, you look and call The President.” Does he think federal spending cures poverty? Does he really want to spend federal dollars in bailing out Detroit?
Paul also seems to think there is a shortage of funds for infrastructure spending? (“So the President’s grand bargain to increase infrastructure spending, I’ve got it. It’s here on the floor. Mr. President, call the leadership of the Senate. Tell them it’s on the floor and you support this, that you want infrastructure spending. I have a bill that would do precisely that.”)
In his push for American retrenchment Paul sounds awfully like the liberal president who talks about nation building at home. Paul seems to forget he is supposed to be against throwing away taxpayers’ money. Christie might be more right than we thought. Perhaps Paul is the pork barrel spender in conservative clothing.