Here are some of the words the White House has used to describe the situation in Egypt, as rounded up by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post: incredibly complex, uncertain, polarized, challenging, transitional, and fluid. And here's the one word the administration keeps avoiding: coup. Because if it's a coup—specifically, if the military overthrows an elected leader—then the US by law has to cut off its $1.5 billion in aid to the country, and it doesn't want to do that. The White House insists the situation is so complicated that it will take some time to sort this out. Mohamed Morsi wasn't exactly a paragon of democratic virtue, but one problem with this "lexicographic trick" is that it "makes US policy seem weak," writes Milbank.
"Obama’s cute evasion of foreign-aid requirements, following his administration’s decision to postpone implementation of a key part of health-care reform, gives the impression that he views the law like a buffet from which he can pick and choose." Can the White House keep the linguistic limbo in place until new elections are held in six months? Possibly, writes Milbank, "but that would be quite a coup." Click for his full column. (The New York Times, meanwhile, reports that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pledged a whopping $8 billion to Egypt to shore up their influence and help keep the Muslim Brotherhood in check.)