Obama barely mentions Libya as Boehner demands details
March 20th, 2011
03:59 PM ET
7 years ago

Obama barely mentions Libya as Boehner demands details

RIO de JANEIRO, Brazil (CNN) - As the massive bombardment of Libya continued for a second day over 5,000 miles away from here, President Barack Obama delivered a speech that did not mention any specifics about the U.S. role in the military action despite Republican demands for him to better define the mission.

"We’ve seen the people of Libya take a courageous stand against a regime determined to brutalize its own citizens," Obama said in a 25-minute address that only briefly mentioned Libya.

"Across the region, we have seen young people rise up – a new generation demanding the right to determine their own future," added Obama. "From the beginning, we have made clear that the change they seek must be driven by their own people."

The speech came shortly after House Speaker John Boehner released a sharply worded statement in Washington pressing Obama to lay out more detail about the administration's goals in Libya.

"Before any further military commitments are made, the administration must do a better job of communicating to the American people and to Congress about our mission in Libya and how it will be achieved," Boehner said in the prepared statement.

Obama, however, did not offer any sort of a progress report one day after he authorized the U.S. military to join a massive air assault with several allies to wipe out Moammar Gadhafi's defenses and impose a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent the dictator from killing any more of his own people.

Instead Obama tried to frame the situation in Libya in the broader context of the change that is sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa, and tied it to Brazil's own revolution in 1984 that eventually ended 20 years of military dictatorship here.

Obama noted that the U.S. and Brazil are two nations "who have struggled over many generations to perfect our own democracies" and he stressed that the allies need to let the Arab world determine its own destiny.

"No one can say for certain how this change will end, but I do know that change is not something that we should fear," said Obama. "When young people insist that the currents of history are on the move, the burdens of the past are washed away. When men and women peacefully claim their human rights, our own common humanity is enhanced. Wherever the light of freedom is lit, the world becomes a brighter place."

Obama was speaking before a crowd of more than 2,000 people at the famed Municipal Theater, which overlooks Cinelandia Plaza, where millions of peaceful protesters began a pro-democracy movement in 1984.

"That is the example of Brazil," said Obama. "Brazil – a country that shows that a dictatorship can become a thriving democracy. Brazil – a country that shows democracy delivers both freedom and opportunity to its people. Brazil – a country that shows how a call for change that starts in the streets can transform a city, a country and the world."

Boehner noted in his statement that he agrees with Obama that it's "unacceptable and outrageous" for Gadhafi to attack his own people, and the Republican leader added the U.S. has a "moral obligation to stand with those who seek freedom from oppression and self-government for their people.”

But Boehner added that it's time for the White House to get much more specific about their military goals in Libya and how they will achieve them.

“The president is the commander-in-chief, but the administration has a responsibility to define for the American people, the Congress and our troops what the mission in Libya is, better explain what America’s role is in achieving that mission and make clear how it will be accomplished," said Boehner.

A White House official did not return an e-mail request for comment on Boehner's comments.

Earlier on Sunday here in Brazil, Obama held a secure conference call with his national security team as the White House continued to try to project the image of a commander-in-chief keeping close tabs on the military action even as he continues this five-day tour of Latin America.

After starting in Brasilia on Saturday, Obama leaves Rio early Monday for Santiago, Chile, and then wraps up the trip on Wednesday in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Obama held the secure conference call with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Bob Gates, AFRICOM Cmdr. Gen. Carter Ham and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough.

Also participating in the call were Chief of Staff William Daley and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, both of whom are traveling here with Obama.

A White House statement about the call said Obama received a briefing from Ham on the U.S. military action in Libya "as part of the international effort to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973," passed last Thursday to enforce a no-fly zone and use any means necessary to stop Gadhafi from continuing to harm civilians.

"The president also discussed the ongoing military and diplomatic consultations taking place on the situation in Libya," said the White House statement. "The president offered his thanks and admiration to General Ham and asked that he communicate that to all of the men and women of the U.S. armed forces who are carrying out this operation."

As part of the diplomatic consultations, especially with Arab nations in order to demonstrate this is a broad coalition and inoculate the White House from charges the mission is anti-Muslim, Vice President Joe Biden also worked the phones on Sunday.

Biden spoke by phone with Prime Minister of Algeria Ahmed Ouyahia as well as Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, according to a White House statement.

"The vice president discussed with both the prime minister and the emir their mutual support for the full implementation of the resolution and the need to protect the Libyan people," said the statement.

Filed under: John Boehner • President Obama
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Tony in Maine

    Boehner thinks that Obama might hit the Tripoli Country Club and mess up the greens on the 18th.

    March 20, 2011 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  2. John

    This intervention rather puts Boehner in a spot. He wanted to make the typical "Democrats are weaklngs" argument. But that one has been foreclosed for the present.

    March 20, 2011 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  3. OC25

    More specific? Gee, does he think he's the Commander in Chief or something?

    Besides, I don't recall Boehner wanting any such thing from Obama's predecessor. He was all too willing to just let the invasion happen.

    March 20, 2011 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  4. Jerry in NC

    He was specific "Bonehead"! He said in a televised statement, that there would be no ground forces involved. Beyond stating that, he is not required, nor would it be in the best interest of the coalition mission, to discuss the plans any further at this time. Why don't you idiots do the job you were elected to do, and try to resolve the issues here in America, instead of trying to "arm-chair-quarterback" and second guess the President??????

    March 20, 2011 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  5. bob in florida

    When did Boehner emerge from his tanning bed?

    March 20, 2011 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  6. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Boehner needs to communicate to the American people about what he and the GOP plan to do about jobs and stop "dithering" and BS.

    March 20, 2011 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  7. Sgt Schultz

    Stop acting like such a pompous jerk...Congressman Robber Baron. What details are you referring to...unless you are playing dumb as usual?

    March 20, 2011 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  8. Indy

    How about the President,the military and coaltion takes care of Libya and Boehner creates one single JOB !!!

    March 20, 2011 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  9. T'sah from Virginia

    I understand why President Obama took this stand of making a decision without Congress – and he had every LEGAL RIGHT to do so – The "negative" rhetoric coming from "the RIGHTEOUS" and some “LEFTeous” – even though they agree with the move – would have prolonged the decision ONLY to score "political point” when time was of the essence.

    Take a look @ McCain and Graham earlier – AGREEING but NOT agreeing!! Graham even taking out a “WANTED – DEAD OR ALIVE” on Khaddafy!! Now we have Boehner – AREEEING and DISAGREEING at the same time!! We had a few Democrats but have backed off since!!!

    Of course any other move will be discussed with Congress – it has to be. However, President Obama already stated that he will NOT be putting forces on the ground …………… PERIOD!!! So the CRAZY Righties need to calm down and put away their WANTED POSTERS!!

    March 20, 2011 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  10. stan

    What an utterly pathetic display. So what of Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia that are shooting democracy protesters too? Ohhh right, those undemocratic despots are friendly to the US and its 'interests', meaning that their citizens lives and 'human rights' don't exist. Democracy and human rights mean nothing to either the UN or to the US of A. All that matters is oil and 'sphere of influence' control. If violation of UN resolutions and violation of 'human rights' was grounds for war Israel would have been invaded decades ago.

    It's no wonder the vast majority of the worlds population despises America today as wonton hippocrites. Disgusting.

    March 20, 2011 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  11. Leo from East Texas

    Boehner is crying.... There are bombs going of ...... And a Democrat is running the war on Gadhafi... and not me.....

    March 20, 2011 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  12. daveM

    I wonder why My Boehner does not question banks activities, the cause of huge problems in America.... Why does he stay away from the real issues...

    March 20, 2011 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  13. Proud member of "Global Zero"

    I have been paying attention and I also work full time. This is his job...does he not even pay attention?

    March 20, 2011 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  14. Bill dodge from florida

    Thank god we have the right man in office ,im proud of him!

    March 20, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  15. Jerry

    Don't expect any kinds of logical answers from this president. After all, he is in his constant traveling mode. The situation in America is dire. Now we are, in essence, fighting another war. Wow! This president is really clueless on every single issue that he has faced! Maybe, after all, it's a good thing for America that he is constantly on a travel mode. I guess that he is not able to do as much damage when he is out out of the country.Maybe its worth it for taxpayers to be fleeced a little longer.

    However, I just can't help but wonder how many people in his ridiculous entourage...

    March 20, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  16. ThinkAgain

    Two words for Boehner: National Security.

    March 20, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  17. KatR

    First the GOP was pushing the president to implement a no-fly zone. Now that it's been implemented they are pushing the president again to state our mission over there as well as stating there's no money for another war. I don't think Republicans are intellligent enough to govern a democracy. They'd do better in a fascist country.

    March 20, 2011 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  18. Greenspam

    Where was Boehner during the Iraq War????

    March 20, 2011 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  19. vic nashville tn

    Boehner did you ask the same questions 8 years back if I am right congress was control by Republicans.
    Don’t worry Boehner Obama and his administration doing a good job

    March 20, 2011 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  20. Tired of the nonsense

    When will the idiots in the GOP ever define the mission in Iraq?

    March 20, 2011 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  21. KJ

    I believe the President was very clear about the mission. He refused to go it along which makes sense. The involvement would be limited to reducing the capability of Liyba's air defenses to attack theor own people. Did you not read the memo, Mr. Speaker?

    March 20, 2011 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  22. the real ib

    Why are we even doing anything about Libya? We are in debt head over heals and this president is spending money like there is no tomorrow and there won't be the way things are headed in this country. Libya is not even suppose to have WMD's like Iraq did and you people are taking up for Obama. Libya could not harm us so why are we even involved? If you say they are killing citizens so did Suddam by the thousands but you still but Bush down for Iraq. No reason for this at all other than to make Obama look big.

    March 20, 2011 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  23. charles

    This country is in a very big hole. A few weeks ago, the people who are making noises now in support of another war with Libya have been yarning to cut every penny in domestic spending not even excluding education. If this country is broke , where are we going to get the money to pay for that war?.

    March 20, 2011 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  24. charles

    Can this country go to war without congress approval? Dear readers advise me.

    March 20, 2011 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  25. jcg

    While I disagree with over 95% of what Senator Boehner does I agree with this. It is his duty to ask for specifics as to these types of actions, unfortunately his motivation for doing so probably has more to do with scoring political points than looking out for the best interests of this great country.

    March 20, 2011 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
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