On defense again, Obama claims 'important progress' in Libya war
In his taped weekly remarks, embargoed until one minute ago, the president claimed that Moammar Kadafi's troops have been pushed back from Benghazi and thousands of people have not been slaughtered as feared, thanks to the no-fly zone imposed over much of Libya by U.S. and allied planes for the past week. The full remarks and the Republicans' weekly response are available here.
Showing some sensitivity to considerable criticism that he has left many Americans confused by the ill-defined mission there and by abundant fears that the Democrat had appointed himself international marshal against brutal dictators worldwide, Obama waited only four sentences to note: "The United States should not — and cannot — intervene every time there’s a crisis somewhere in the world."
These remarks, the president's first in public on Libya since his long South American trip, could contradict what he said earlier this week when....
Where a brutal dictator is threatening his people, and saying he will show no mercy and go door-to-door and hunt people down and we have the capacity under international sanction to do something about that, I think it’s in America’s national interest to do something about that.
Additionally, the White House announced the Democrat would give a speech on the Libyan situation Monday evening, more than nine days after hostilities were commenced and missiles launched. (As usual, The Ticket will publish the complete transcript.)
He will not, however, give an Oval Office address as President Clinton did immediately upon launching cruise missiles in 1998 in retaliation for the bombing of U.S. embassies in East Africa.
Obama has shown a distaste for making formal remarks from an empty presidential desk with no audience, as he finally did following the gulf oil spill last year.
Obama has chosen as his friendly Monday audience the National Defense University in Washington.
A news conference, given the bipartisan uproar over Obama's lack of pre-war congressional consultation, would have provided no control over a plethora of awkward questions about the timing, costs, manpower, goals, conflicting administration lines, shifting command structures and precedents being set by this as yet clearly defined Obama doctrine.
Obama noted this morning that command for the operation had been turned over to NATO, which of course is also commanded by an American.
The cosmetic benefit to Obama of this distinction without much difference is that NATO's members include one Muslim nation (Turkey), and an allied command could dilute some of the usual criticism of American interference in another country's affairs after two years of the president's efforts to ameliorate such concerns.
There is no give-and-take in each week's political remarks, which The Ticket publishes here every Saturday at 3 a.m. Pacific. These remarks by both party's representatives are taped in advance, sometimes making them untimely. The president's weekly address two weeks ago celebrated Women's History Month just hours after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
A receptive audience of respectful military members Monday will also preclude questions about why the Libyan situation requires U.S. military intervention but numerous other examples of massive dictatorial brutality do not, and how Obama's oft-repeated opposition to military intervention and regime change in Iraq squares with his eagerness to commit U.S. forces this time.
Yesterday an administration spokesman ominously warned Syria against violence against peaceful protestors there.
-- Andrew Malcolm
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Photos: Ishara Skodikara / AFP / Getty Images (Anti-war protestors in Sri Lanka); Jerome Delay / Associated Press (Libyan warehouse which the government says was destroyed by allied cruise missiles).