Sen. Lindsey Graham alluded to the first shots of the Civil War when speaking to reporters Tuesday in Egypt.
Appearing in Cairo, Graham and fellow Republican Sen. John McCain pushed for a non-violent solution to the current governing crisis in Egypt.
“When I say we’re not perfect messengers, we’re imperfect in America, we have the record to prove it. It was not into the 1920s until women could vote in our country. I’m 58 years old. The first time I went to school with an African-American child, I was in the sixth grade,” Graham said. “We had our own Civil War, it started in my state. Learn from our mistakes.”
Graham represents South Carolina, home of Fort Sumter.
“We’re imperfect messengers of democracy. America has more problems than I can take your time to describe. We’re not doing very well right now at home, but there’s always hope of it getting better. There’s always the hope of the next election,” Graham said at a news conference in Cairo.
According to the Egyptian government, the two senators were on a two-day trip to the country, where they were meeting with a number of top Egyptian officials, including Vice President for International Relations Mohamed ElBaradei and First Deputy Premier and Defense Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the head of the military.
Graham said that he and McCain made the August recess trip to Egypt at the request of President Barack Obama, as Graham had explained to reporters at the Capitol before departing.
“Please understand that Sen. McCain was defeated by Barack Obama in an election, but when President Obama asked Sen. McCain to come to Egypt and help, Sen. McCain said, ‘I’ll be glad to, Mr. President,'” Graham said. “I think Sen. McCain understands better than most: what happens in Egypt is going to determine the future of this region.
“In a democracy, you have to sit down and talk with each other, even though you may not like the person on the other side of the table. It is impossible to talk with somebody who’s in jail,” Graham continued. “That is not a sustainable model that will allow transition to occur.”
McCain was asked to define the term “coup” to explain why he is using it in reference to the past month in Egypt that led to the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.
Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected in 2012, but subsequently faced widespread opposition before being removed from office by the powerful Egyptian military.
“I’m not here to go through the dictionary,” the Arizona Republican said. “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”
The use of the term has a particular significance for the United States, because the law bars aid in the event a “duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup.”
McCain and some other Congressional leaders have said the intent of the law is clear and that it should apply in the case of Egypt.
“We have to abide by American law,” McCain said, before adding that he and Graham worked against an effort to cut off foreign aid to Egypt led by Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. “We thought it would be exactly the wrong signal and the wrong thing to do at the wrong time.”
“I think that all parties should be part of a national dialogue. A national dialogue and conciliation is the only way to bring about peace in this country, but also in order to take part in that national dialogue, those parties should renounce the use of violence,” McCain said.
“We’re hoping and begging and pleading with the people of Egypt that they will look forward, not backward. That means releasing people from jail so they can negotiate. It means having a new constitution that people can ratify and new elections,” Graham said. “It is my hope and desire that we can get this problem resolved.”