Obama's attempts to take his "Gadhafi must go" foot out of his mouth was partially successful in the speech he gave on Monday night attempting to justify America's involvement in Libya. But like any Obama speech he just couldn't help slipping in a few self-aggrandizing outright lies about what happened as well as his decision making based on the "moral" imperative behind it. Which actually would have been stirring and uplifting had any of it been true. But, this is Obama talking and, par for the course, none of it was true.
Obama in his speech, said that he had "taken the lead" in forming a coalition of countries to create a no fly zone in Libya and to use military power to do it. He said it was based on his moral imperative of protecting Libyan civilians from being slaughtered by Gadhafi. That was, of course, a noble a sentitment and also a flagrant lie. Obama waffled,dragged his feet and was not just silent but played Where's Waldo regarding the revolution in Libya when it began, not even making a public appearance. People were wondering aloud when and if he was even going to say anything about Libya and, then when he did he made his famous "Gadhafi must go" remark but was indecisive when it came to taking action. Obama did nothing to back up what he was saying until finally the French and British had enough of the foot dragging and acted on their own.
Before the UN resolution authorizing force had even been voted on, a resolution that according to background sources had little or no input from the United States, French fighters were bombing targets inside Libya. Days before the resolution, the Arab League had given their seal of approval to a no fly zone and still Obama did nothing. Now, in his self serving speech he was trying to rewrite recent history and take credit for something he didn't do and had no part of.
In fact Jill Doughrety, a CNN correspondent in Paris attending Hillary Clinton's press conference announcing the enforcement of the no fly zone and that French fighters were already in the air over Libya and how America would support it, described Clinton before the press conference as "stunned" by how quickly the French acted unilaterally with the promise of support by the UK and the Canadians.
Clinton, in her press conference joked that to say that things were moving quickly was an understatement. Background reporting at the time said that because of Obama's foot dragging the US wasn't even consulted by French president Sarkozy and David Cameron of the UK about sending fighters into Libya and only knew about it after the fact.
Obama's statement that " at my direction America led an effort in the UN..." is preposterous, petty and even embarrassing in his attempt to claim credit. It is completely untrue.
Then according to Obama, it was his moral outrage at the killing of civilians that compelled him to decide to use military force in Libya to protect civilians. He said, " I refused to let a massacre happen and so ordered military action". A noble sentiment. And also a fairy tale.
A massacre would have happened if the French, British and others hadn't decided to take action first. People were already being killed. In fact it was the killing and bombing of civilian targets by Gadhafi that had been going on for days and his promise of a bloodbath to come and still no action or leadership role by Obama that led the French and UK to act on their own.
The sentiments Obama expressed in his speech were all the right ones. The reasons for military intervention were all the rights reasons. Only none of them were his. Obama was dragged into military action by the French and British. They were the ones who took the lead while Obama has tried to take the credit. And if anything goes wrong, you can bet Obama will point out that we are only there to help, that we have no leadership role and that its a NATO operation.
As for Obama's moral imperative, let's not forget that this revolution for democracy in the Arab world began, not in Tunisia or Egypt a few months ago, but more than a year ago in Iran when hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets to protest the rigged election that kept Ahmadinejad in power. The government attacked Iranian civilians in the street.Thousands were assaulted. Many killed. The most famous being Neda, the 24 year old student shot in the face and killed on the street by government thugs, all captured on a cell phone video. At the time, Obama did nothing. No American led UN resolution, no effort to bring pressure to bear on the Iranian goverment, no US led coalition, no concerns about civilians being killed by their government. Obama's response was that he "didnt want to meddle". Maybe his moral outrage was at the dry cleaners. Or maybe he just didnt have the guts to stand up to Ahmadinejad. So how far the U.S. will go in Libya will depend not on moral outrage but on how hard Obama is pushed in getting rid of Gadhafi. And hopefully the Libyan rebels wont be taken to the cleaners.
NOTE: In blowing his own horn less than 24 hours ago, Obama said in his speech, " as president I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action". As the headline and thrust of this article predicted, less than 24 hours later, reports of slaughter are coming from the city of Misrata which is under heavy attack from pro Gadhafi forces. Witnesses from the city have said " the carnage and destruction and human suffering from Gadhafi's forces terrorizing the city is beyond imagination" . Reports are of wholesale slaughter, Gadhafi troops evicting people from their homes and looting them, and gang rape of anti-Gadhafi women. Reports are that rebel forces are pleading with the coalition to use their air power to strike Gadhafi's tanks and artillery which are shelling the city. They are not and Obama has done nothing, seemingly to say that in this case he has no problem with images and reports of slaughter after all and proving once again that what Obama says are always just empty words. And unfortunately it seems, at least in Misrata, the rebels are being taken to the cleaners.
Obama is going to address the nation on Libya where he will try and talk his way out of all the problems and confusion he has caused by once again doing the only thing he seems to knows how to do -- talk -- without considering the consequences of his words.
When the Libyan protests turned violent, people wanted to know what action the U.S. was going to take. Obama didnt really know, so he did what he has always thought was adequate in situations where action was called for. He talked. Obama said that Gadhafi had to go but in typical Obama fashion, he never said what he was going to do to make that a reality. Now people are pressing him for what action he is going to take to get rid of Gadhfi since neither the UN resolution, the Arab League declaration nor the NATO defined mission has anything to do with getting rid of Gadhafi. Obama is finding out that this isn't the presidential campaign where he was able to say anything, not mean a word of it and not get challenged. He is getting criticism from all sides for his handling of the American role in Libya and now people are asking what exactly did he mean by "Gadhafi has to go" and what he intends to do about it. His problem is he never intended to do anything about it when he said it. It was just talk.
This isn't the first time Obama has put his foot in his mouth over foreign policy especially in the middle east.
While running for president in 2008 he told an audience of 7000 American Jews in Miami that he "supported a unified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel".
He received the politically desired standing ovation but when the Palestinians heard about his position they went predictably ballistic. The day after, Obama immediately reversed his position and claimed he was misunderstood, that he never meant that all of Jerusalem, east and west, should be the Israeli capital. He said that what he meant by a unified Jerusalem was a Jerusalem without barbed wire. The problem with that explanation was there hadn't been barbed wire in Jerusalem since 1967. His reversal to pacify the Palestinians predictably angered the Israelis and ecer since Obama has had no leverage in middle east peace talks since neither side trusts him.Which is one reason why they've gone nowhere.
On Monday night Obama will make a totally unnecessary oval office speech to the nation, something that could be done in a press conference instead of commanding national television time, to try and explain what he meant by "Gadhafi has to go" and what the U.S. role in Libya will be. He has already made his usual inconsistent and contradictory statement in his Saturday address, mumbling something about how the United States needed to intervene in Libya because of a repressive government killing its own people. Obviously Mr. Conviction and Principle however didn't think that Ahmadinejad killing his own people during the Iranian election protests fell into that category. In fact while Iranians were being shot in the street, Obama famously said, he " didn't want to meddle" in Iranian affairs. There was no "Ahmadinejad has to go".
Now Obama is going to do what he's always tried to do to get himself out of hot water after putting his foot in his mouth. He is going to open it again and try and talk his way out of it.We'll see if he succeeds.
Even before the U.N. passed its resolution authorizing any means necessary to prevent Gadaffi from killing his own people in response to the rebel uprising, French president Sarkozy had ordered French fighter jets into Libya.
Soon after the resolution was announced Canada announced that it was sending 12 fighter jets to Italy which it would use as a base to launch sorties into Libya.
Obama, who had waffled for weeks over Libya went to Brazil on a trade mission as the bombing started and announced that he supported the no fly resolution and signed off on American cruise missiles being used to take out air defense targets inside Libya.
But Sarkozy's actions underscored an American president who at his core is indecisive about everything largely because there are no convictions or guiding principles on which he acts.
There have been whispers that the United States was largely left out of the debate over what to do about Libya and wasn't even consulted by either Sarkozy or David Cameron of the UK and that the decision to intervene in Libya and to use military force was made by Sarkozy and Cameron without consultation with Obama or Hillary Clinton.
As French jets were hitting targets inside Libya, Hillary Clinton made a hurried appearance before the press in Paris and said that "the situation in Libya is fluid and fast moving and that to say the least is an understatement", causing one CNN correspondent to note that "even Hillary Clinton seemed stunned by how fast the French acted" giving every indication that France, the UK and other nations were not going to wait for the rest of Obama's hair to turn gray before making a decision and decided to act on their own.
And that impatience with Obama was not limited to foreign leaders. During a press conference a few days ago, Chip Reid of NBC news asked Jay Carney, Obama's new press secretary about Obama's seemingly chronic waffling and inaction, especially over Libya. Crowley's answer was that Obama wanted to weigh all the options, consider the consequences of all actions, hear everything everyone had to say, and mull everything over before making a decision. Crowley said, " I suggest to you that is what leadership is all about".
That is exactly what leadership is NOT all about which is why Obama is no leader. Leadership is about being decisive and making a decision when the decision needs to be made, not when its too late. Leadership is making the decision when making it is tough and hopefully the person making the decision has the insight, ability and foresight to make the right decision. Obama has none of these qualities and never did which is why he is always waffling, pandering to both sides, reversing himself or not acting at all. And if it appears that the U.S. has lost its leadership position and that foreign leaders are not really interested in what Obama thinks as long as he goes along with the program, its because its true.
Its also why it was Sarkozy of France, Cameron in the UK and Canada who decided to act before the UN vote was official. And why it was Obama who went off to Brazil.
As abhorrent as the anti-union Republican bill in Wisconsin was, as dishonest and as blatant an attempt at union busting that it is, you still have to give some credit to the Republicans for giving the finger to Wisconsin senate Democrats and passing what they wanted to pass whether the Democrats liked it or not. The lesson to be learned is the Republicans did it without one single Democratic vote. And they didnt care. Contrast that with Barrack Obama's groveling for more than a year for one single unneccesary Republican vote on healthcare, not getting it and then selling the public option down the river to capitualate to Republicans.
Had Washington congressional Democrats taken the same approach as Republicans, had there been a Democratic president and congress with the same degree of determination and conviction instead of playing an empty and nonsensical bipartisan game, ( if the country had wanted Republican "ideas" they never would have thrown them out of office in the first place) this country would now have a government run public option for healthcare, real financial reform, no tax cuts for the wealthy which is adding $800 billion to the deficit, and Democrats would still be in control of the House.
Instead Obama sold out the Democratic agenda because of weakness and having no principles, and the Democratic congress weakly led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid went along with Obama and without a whimper because they were more interested in presenting some phony idea of Democratic "unity" than in doing what was best for the country. And they did it without any real outrage from Democratic groups or commentors who insisted on blaming the Republicans instead of Obama. And now Democratic PACs like MoveOn have been going into whine overdrive over what the Republicans did in Wisconsin. Why? Because the Democrats didn't have the will or leadership or backbone to do the same when they had the biggest congressional majority in 60 years?
Yes Walker and the Republicans are liars and the budget shortfall while real, was used as an excuse to justify union busting. Yes Republicans again show that they are the ones who are unpatriotic and stand for and care about only two things - putting money first and shoving the values that make them uptight and miserable down the throats of people who want nothing to do with them.
But the level of whining going on by Democratic political groups like MoveOn and Democratic political commentators simply because the Republicans get things done and do it without Democratic support have their outrage misplaced. Even now none of them have the courage to place the blame on everything that went wrong for the Democrats where it belongs -- on Barrack Obama and the Democratic leadership and of course themselves for supporting a presidential candidate with a history of doing nothing and being duplicituous and dishonest while doing it.
The Democrats nationally and locally had their best chance in 60 years to advance their agenda and they blew it because of Barrack Obama's handling of the presidency and a failure of Democratic leadership to stand up to Obama's weakness, dishonesty and duplicity in capitulating to Republicans on everything.
The Democrats could have rammed through a public option with healthcare reform in June of 2009 using reconciliation which is how the Republicans rammed through the Bush tax cuts. Instead Obama wasted a year and a half groveling for one Republican vote in some useless and unneccesary, phony attempt at bipartisanship when Republicans made it clear they had no intention of supporting healthcare reform, and in the process, instead of just getting it done, Obama created a circus and a year of political angst, bloodletting and useless town hall meetings none of which would have occurred had the bill been rammed through with reconciliation. But Obama decided to cut a deal to drop the public option as a capitulation, and then typically lied and tried to claim that he never supported the public option in the first place. And congressional Democrats and Democratic commentators let him get away with it.
Democrats and those who call themselves strategists or supporters of Democratic causes need to stop this incessant whining about Republicans simply being Republicans and face up to the fact that they blew their best chance of pushing through liberal reforms by being psuedo liberals in supporting Barrack Obama's presidency and not standing up to him when he wouldn't stand up for or to anything simply because of race.
Instead of complaining about Republicans they need to learn from them and their own mistakes (since they were all easily avoidable) and not only start leveling criticism at Obama( he always seems to respond to those who criticize him the most) but also start searching for a credible Democratic challenger to Obama in the 2012 presidential primaries. Because if they don't, there are going to be a lot more Wisconsins in the future. And a Republican in the White House.
As violence spreads in Libya and troops loyal to Gadaffi bomb oil fields and open fire on peaceful demonstrators and with silence coming from the White House for most of the first two weeks of the revolt, Obama finally ditched his "Where's Waldo" act and said something. Here are the latest statements coming from Barrack Obama on Libya:
" I am outraged at the appalling violence". "Gadaffi has lost his ability to lead". "Gadiffi must go".
Once again,Obama has resorted to statements that are the approximate equivalent of "air is good".
As with Egypt and with Iran more than a year ago Obama seems to simply to not know what to do. And that comes from having no real convictions about anything beyond his own domestic political fortunes, to guide him.
Like with Egypt when I suggested Obama would do better to just shut up then to make his constantly empty and vacillating statements, Obama's recent statements concerning Libya haven't exactly caused Gadaffi to double over in remorse. Gadiffi is giving no indication that he is stung inconsolably by Obama's remarks and Obama standing at a podium and saying "Gadaffi must go" does not have Gadaffi looking for his travel iron.
As I wrote more than a year ago, accusing Obama of blowing the best opportunity the west had in 30 years to topple the regime in Iran because Obama, in his own words, "didn't want to meddle" in Iranian affairs while people took to the streets to protest a rigged election and were being shot and killed, Obama, as he did with Egypt, continues to show weakness and all the reasons that so many Democrats felt he wasnt qualified for the job both from the point of view of character and ability.
Now with the middle east boiling over as people take to the streets in a demand for democracy, something that only a year ago most would have thought impossible and the biggest blow that could be leveled against Islamist terrorism, Obama seems unable to make decisions that could remake the middle east for all time.
And its not as if his advisors don't have a point of view. According to reports there are two sharply divided camps in the White House, each having their own convictions regarding a course of action, one side favoring military intervention and the other a more hands off approach. The merits of each can be debated but the real problem is that Obama as president has to decide which way to go. And Obama is unable to do so.
If the statement of a Libyan foreign minister who has now turned against Gadaffi is true, that Gadaffi ordered the bombing of Pan Am 103, that is justification enough to try and find his whereabouts and drop a bomb on him. It doesn't seem to be that hard of a decision. Given all that is happening in Libya the timing couldn't be better.
But Obama seems caught in a quandary about what to do. The fact that, as the popular saying goes, there are no good options, doesn't mean do nothing.
Hillary Clinton said the other day " there is confusion on the ground in Libya". She could have said exactly the same thing about the Obama White House.
Two weeks ago, a former member of Gadaffi's inner circle and part of his government who has turned against him during the Libyan protests said that it was Gadaffi who ordered the bombing of Pan Am 103.
Prior to 911 it was the worst terrorist attack against American civilians in history Hezbollah killed 200 Marines in Lebanon in a truck bomb terrorist attack that made Reagan, using the parlance of Republican conservatives when talking about Democrats, turn tail and run).
If this government official can provide details that make his account credible, the U.S. should try and locate Gadaffi and drop a bomb on him. The fact that killing him would benefit the protestors and put an end to his regime would be a collateral benefit and the timing couldn't be better. But if the U.S. was able to find international justification for trying to drop a bomb on Saddam before the Iraq invasion when Saddam had nothing to threaten or attack the United States, certainly evidence that Gadaffi ordered the Pan Am bombing which killed 200 people is justification for retaliation.
Of course we have Obama in the White House and its hard to imagine that someone who cant stand up to Republicans would order an attack that would kill Gadaffi. After all, he hardly raised his voice when he learned that al -Megrhai, the only person convicted in the Pan Am 103 bombing was going to be released and sent back to Libya.
But dropping a bomb on Gadaffi in retribution for Pan Am 103 would be entirely justified and given the timing, the revolt in Libya and Gadaffi's current threats of death against his own people, the time to do it couldn't be better. But it wouldn't be the first time Obama blew an opportunity to do what is right so people could reap the benefits, either in domestic or foreign policy.