NPR Story
2:34 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Democrats And Republicans Push Obama To Get Tough With Egypt

Originally published on Mon August 19, 2013 4:52 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

After a weeklong vacation, President Obama is back at the White House, though not for long. He's getting ready for a bus tour later in the week to promote his policies on the economy and education. The president is also dealing with demands from both political parties that he get tougher with the Egyptian military, as violence rages in Egypt.

Joining as she does most Mondays to discuss this and other political news is Cokie Roberts. Cokie, welcome back.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, David. Thank you.

GREENE: So Senators from both parties were on the airwaves over the weekend saying that the United States not just get tougher on Egypt, but that the Obama administration should cut off aid to Egypt. I mean this is going to have an impact on administration policy?

ROBERTS: It could, particularly if Congress decides to pass some legislation about it. But it's complicated. Look, as you know, David, the reason for aid in the first place was - grew out of the Camp David accords and peace with Israel. And keeping the aid there is a way of saying that Egypt continues to abide by those accords.

Look, the Egyptian military has plenty of support from the Gulf states. America wants to be in there, but if it doesn't have any leverage to stop the military from killing people, then it raises other questions, which is what the senators were talking yesterday. It could create a situation where the situation in Egypt is dangerous not only for the Egyptian people but becomes a staging area for terrorism against Israel.

There's a strong sense that the U.S. should have a lot of leverage with the Egyptian military and is just not using it. That may or may not be true, but it makes President Obama look ineffective and it drowns out the messages that he wants to be sending right now, which are messages on the economy and immigration.

GREENE: But on those issues, and I mean especially immigration, the Republican Party seems just fine putting those issues out of...

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: ...of the spotlight. I mean the Republicans had this summer meeting, and they have had these disagreements on immigration, and those disagreements still seem to be there. They didn't come out with any new message.

ROBERTS: Because they're totally divided on the question. National leaders keep telling the party faithful that they have to do something on it, and the local people in their districts and states say don't you dare. People like Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, goes to the meeting and tells them they should be about winning elections, not about being a debating society.

But in fact, David, those meetings are debating societies. That's what they do. They debate resolutions. They passed them. So on immigration reform, they said they were for it but they omitted any citizenship language. And that's not going to get them where they need to be with Hispanic voters.

Yesterday the party chair said he's drastically changing the party. He's hired all these people to reach out to Hispanics and Asians and African-Americans. But that won't help if those voters see the policies as hostile ones.

GREENE: You say they had these resolutions. One of the resolutions passed that got a good bit of attention declared that the Republican Party is not going to participate in debates on CNN or NBC because those broadcasters are planning to air these shows about Hillary Clinton. That was a threat that the party had made. They carried it out with this resolution.

I mean how is this playing with voters, do you think?

ROBERTS: Oh, I think it's not likely to play much one way or the other. Some might think it's a little bit childish, but it works for the people at the meeting. First of all, it might limit the number of Republican primary debates, which would be a good thing for the party. There were so many last time around...

GREENE: A lot.

ROBERTS: ...that one cartoon said that there was a Republican debate channel.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBERTS: But it's also true that - look, it gets everybody at the meeting revved up - we'll show them. And they needed a little revving up. There's been all of this navel gazing, self-criticism in the Republican Party, autopsies written. And that's useful, but it's somewhat dispiriting. So to have a resolution that they could all get behind sent them home happy.

GREENE: Cokie Roberts, she's here most Mondays. Cokie, go to be with you.

ROBERTS: OK, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.