Live blog of the president's address
March 28th, 2011
08:30 PM ET
7 years ago

Live blog of the president's address

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama addressed the nation Monday night at the National Defense University in Washington, following calls from across the political spectrum for the U.S. leader to clarify America's role in the U.N.-authorized military mission in Libya. For live updates throughout the speech follow this live blog. Find a full write on the address here and a full transcript of the remarks here.

8:02 p.m. ET - House Speaker John Boehner responded to the speech through his spokesman Michael Steel:

“It was helpful that the American people were able to hear from their Commander-in-Chief tonight. Unfortunately, Americans waited a long time to get few new answers. Whether it’s the American resources that will be required, our standards and objectives for engaging the rebel opposition, or how this action is consistent with U.S. policy goals, the speech failed to provide Americans much clarity to our involvement in Libya. Nine days into this military intervention, Americans still have no answer to the fundamental question: what does success in Libya look like?”

7:57 p.m. ET - President Obama ended his 27 minute speech with a push for democracy and freedom around the world.

"Let us also remember that for generations, we have done the hard work of protecting our own people, as well as millions around the globe. We have done so because we know that our own future is safer and brighter if more of mankind can live with the bright light of freedom and dignity."

7:55 p.m. ET - President Obama reiterated his comments in previous days that the people of Libya and other countries in the region will dictate changes, new leaders, etc. but said U.S. can help:

"The United States will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change. Only the people of the region can do that. But we can make a difference. I believe that this movement of change cannot be turned back, and that we must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms: our opposition to violence directed against one's own citizens; our support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders; our support for governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people."

7:55 p.m. ET - Obama talked about the importance of U.S. participation with an international coalition to support change:

"The United States will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change. Only the people of the region can do that. But we can make a difference. I believe that this movement of change cannot be turned back, and that we must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms: our opposition to violence directed against one's own citizens; our support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders; our support for governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people."

7:54 p.m. ET
- @edhenrycnn: # Line that surprised me the most: President vows he will use military "swiftly, decisively and unilaterally" whenever necessary #Libya

7:53 p.m. ET - @edhenrycnn: # Most succint rationale of night? "We have intervened to stop a massacre"

7:52 p.m. ET
- Obama explained to Americans why the U.S. is always helping other countries:

"Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and common security - responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America's problems alone, but they are important to us, and they are problems worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world's most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help. In such cases, we should not be afraid to act – but the burden of action should not be America's alone."

7:52 p.m. ET - The president reiterated why it was important for the U.S. to become involved as part of the international coalition to protect the citizens of Libya.

"…contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all. That's the kind of leadership we have shown in Libya."

7:50 p.m. ET
- @edhenrycnn: President also asserts NOT acting "would have carried a far greater price" for America

7:49 p.m. ET - The president said he doesn't want to repeat what happened in Iraq:

"Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq's future. But regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya. "

7:48 p.m. ET - Obama laid out key argument for U.S. involvement, after Secretary of Defense Robert Gates this weekend deemed Libya not "a vital strategic interest" to the United States.

"America has an important strategic interest in preventing Gadhafi from overrunning those who oppose him. A massacre would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya's borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful - yet fragile - transitions in Egypt and Tunisia."

7:48 p.m. ET - @edhenrycnn: Obama Doctrine? "As President I refuse to wait for the images of mass slaughter before taking action"

7:45 p.m. ET - The president argued that "America should not be expected to police the world," but that there are times when this country must step forward.

"It is true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what's right. In this particular country – Libya; at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves. We also had the ability to stop Gadhafi's forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground."

"To brush aside America's responsibility as a leader and - more profoundly - our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are."

7:44 p.m. ET - @edhenrycnn: #NOT a #MissionAccomplished moment: "it's not to say our work is complete"

7:44 p.m. ET - @edhenrycnn: # anyone hearing an #endgame?

7:43 p.m. ET - Obama announced the transfer of command of the mission in Libya to NATO. The transfer is scheduled for Wednesday.

"Our most effective alliance, NATO, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and No Fly Zone. Last night, NATO decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians. This transfer from the United States to NATO will take place on Wednesday."

7:40 p.m. ET
- Obama made sure he was crystal clear that this was an international effort:

"In this effort, the United States has not acted alone. Instead, we have been joined by a strong and growing coalition. This includes our closest allies - nations like the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey – all of whom have fought by our side for decades. And it includes Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, who have chosen to meet their responsibility to defend the Libyan people."

7:40 p.m. ET
- @edhenrycnn: # counting 3 teleprompters in room

7:39 p.m. ET
- @edhenrycnn: # President says he authorized US force after world was "confronted by this brutal repression" and "campaign of killing" by Gadhafi

7:38 p.m. ET - @edhenrycnn: #President says he authorized US force after world was "confronted by this brutal repression" and "campaign of killing" by Gadhafi

7:38 p.m. ET - The president stated why the U.S. joined an international coalition to use military force to impose a no fly zone over Libya and announced the coalition has stopped Gadhafi.

"We knew that if we (wanted) waited one more day, Benghazi – a city nearly the size of Charlotte – could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world. It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen. And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973. We struck regime forces approaching Benghazi to save that city and the people within it. We hit Gaddafi's troops in neighboring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out. We hit his air defenses, which paved the way for a No Fly Zone. We targeted tanks and military assets that had been choking off towns and cities and we cut off much of their source of supply. And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Gaddafi's deadly advance."

7:37 p.m. ET - The president gave the history of Gadhafi's aggression against his own people and those abroad- including Americans. He said "At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice. Gaddafi declared that he would show 'no mercy' to his own people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment. In the past, we had seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day."

7:37 p.m. ET
- @edhenrycnn: #President says US reluctant to use force but "when our interests and values are at stake" must act

7:35 p.m. ET - The president listed all the actions that the U.S. took against Libya - evacuated the embassy in Tripoli, froze Gadhafi's assets, arms embargo through the UN, etc. Then he said, "I made it clear that Gadhafi had lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to lead, and I said that he needed to step down from power. "

7:33 p.m. ET - Obama explained why the U.S. became involved in the international coalition to impose a no fly zone over Libya:

"For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and advocate for human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world's many challenges. But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. That is what happened in Libya over the course of these last six weeks."

7:32 p.m. ET - Obama paid tribute to U.S. troops around the world- mentioned troops supporting the people in Japan, Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world.

7:31 p.m. ET - President Obama started off concisely telling us the speech will contain three parts of the U.S. efforts in Libya- "what we have done, what we plan to do, and why this matters to us."

7:31 p.m. ET
- President Obama took the stage at the National Defense University in Washington.

Filed under: Libya • President Obama
soundoff (107 Responses)
  1. Bill

    What if this happens in Iran or china are we going to get involved in ww 3. Mean while the us hasn't heard from iran as they are working on there a bomb and been speaking about doing some thing to prevent them from making a bomb. Are we the us going to keep speaking about it for the next 3 years untill its to late. Mr president you did the rIght thing with libya.

    March 28, 2011 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  2. Michael

    Well one thing is clear, neither the President nor Senator McCain get it. This country is broke, bankrupt, insolvent, penniless, whatever you want to call it. We cannot go around getting involved in other countries civil wars. The President and Congress need to cut the budget, stop the wars we can’t pay for and take care of our problems here. This country comes first, fix our own problems before running off and sticking our nose in where it doesn’t belong. Let NATO deal with it, that’s their job, they don’t need us to hold their hand to take care of problems around the world. Mr. President, pull out of Afghanistan, Libya and pull what is left of our troops out of Iraq and focus on our issues at home, stop spending money this country doesn’t have.

    March 28, 2011 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  3. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    President Obama gave intelligent and careful thought before putting in a no-fly zone in Libya while American civilians and civilians from other countries were still on the ground in Libya. Wouldn't that have been a World disaster if he had rushed to a no-fly zone as Palin, John McCain and the Republicans were pushing for resulting in the death of civilians but that's the same of Bush doctrine they are following as Iraq; no coalition, just go it alone and kill up more military men and women along with innocent civilians. NO to John McCain and the Republicans and Hell NO to Palin.

    March 28, 2011 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  4. Andrew

    To the responce from John Boehner;

    The message is clear house speaker. We are there to protect civilians. We will do what it takes to protect them. That is success, protecting civilians.

    March 28, 2011 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  5. Jared

    When our interests are at stake? Hmmm what interests could those be? Thought this was a humanitarian mission. Make up your minds. Looks like politics as usual. The little R or D next to the name doesn't matter, it is always the same thing and you simply cannot trust anything that anyone from any party says. Sad that the vast majority of Americans simply do not trust our government, regardless of party.

    March 28, 2011 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  6. Pretzel Logic

    "Nine days into this military intervention, Americans still have no answer to the fundamental question: what does success in Libya look like?”

    Uh huh and nearly nine years into the Iraq military intervention we're still asking the same question. Problem Mr. Speaker is that when anyone dared question the President between 2003-2008 you were one of the people shouting every questioner down as unpatriotic and un-American. Gee, I wonder what's changed?

    March 28, 2011 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  7. fredly2

    Of course the Neo-Cons must complain and not agree. Of course the Speaker must criticize. He must earn his keep. It is politics.

    March 28, 2011 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  8. Anthony herzog

    I dont mean to slam my boss its really hard to be able to make decitions about helping others, but wouldnt you want to be helped if you were being shot at?

    March 28, 2011 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  9. Andy Whiteman

    The President's speech was a disappointment. The issue is not whether the Libyan rebels deserve our assistance. Of course they do. But there needs to be a debate about our priorities. Should the President commit our scare resources to another war, when our states are cutting teacher pay and medicaid benefits? How are we paying for our this military intervention? Should the the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans be repealed? Why Libya and not Darfur, the Congo, Zimbabwe, etc.? What role does our need for oil play into this? Unfortunately, the President failed to address these important issues.

    March 28, 2011 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  10. Lisa S

    Consulting with congressional leaders prior to acting is something that has not been mentioned in the media that I can remember....

    March 28, 2011 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  11. Rupert Dean O'Connor

    The President sadly enough did not explain what America's national interest is in his Libyan incursion. The Constitution talks about providing for the common defence, but it does not allow for such humanitarian reaches, paritcularly when in fact the intervention has the potention of actually imperiling our national interest. In the long-term, mainstream and radical Arabs will be persuaded to perceive the action as yet another of the many Islamophobic gestures mounted by the three traditional imperalist countries. There is also the issue of cost: Americans resent the sacrifice required of being the policeman of the world, when our own health care, education, services, infrastructre and general style of living is under attack by a determinedly cost-slashing Congress. Mr. Obama failed to make his case tonight. Even more, I find myself even more resentful of the President's impetuous plunge into LIbya when he makes this feckless attempt to justify it ten days or so later. Not good.

    March 28, 2011 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  12. Bobby hill

    Thank you for showing after everything we all have been thou you still have time to be husband father thank you im praying for you st.paul minn

    March 28, 2011 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  13. GOP-Tea Party IDIOTs

    Great speech! – Keep up the good work President Obama!

    The naysayers are always gonna hate, but it's always in the best interest of Americans to act when we see a muderous terrorist cum dictator who've not only murdered Americans but is killing his own people just to continue to justify his iron clad fist on power for over 40yrs!!!

    March 28, 2011 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  14. Martin

    I just finished watching the speech.... is Obama endorsing the Bush Doctrine!? My how the tides have changed!

    March 28, 2011 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  15. doubtful

    I don't know but for all of the "America not leading in this" Ol'bama sure used a lot of "we targeted", " we cut", "we did", and "I said' he had to go". Thats a lot for a country who wasn't taking lead. If he could just be straight about something once he might be believeable.

    March 28, 2011 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  16. rusty155

    President Obama can't do any thing right with the Republican, first they say why was President Obama not doing any like put up a no fly zone. So he does more by going to the UN and get 1973 pass and get International Coalition and the Arab Country ask for help. So President Obama help the people of Libya, so now the Republican are mad that he did something. The Republican either got to make up their mind or they are just going to complain about everything President Obama does. If that the case the Republican will never get any thing done because they have no Idea to work with President Obama.

    March 28, 2011 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  17. RKP

    This was an excellant speech by the President. I agree with his rationale. And I agree that the military mission should not include getting Gadafi. That is a task that will be handled diplomatically.

    March 28, 2011 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  18. Charles

    the president speech just reminded me of Geroge Bush building up the case against Saddam in iraq, i think in a few months from now, everybody will look and say the Libya attack was a disaster and failure and, i hope they will not blame it on faulty intelligence report as nucle Geroge W Bush did in the case of Iraq

    March 28, 2011 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  19. Gordon D.Waldmo

    Clearly, CNN announcers and analysts are not trained to listen. They only want to talk. I expect that they could talk more quickly and hear less is they used a lighter grade of oil.

    March 28, 2011 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  20. Name. David D.Cutting

    I am amazed by the stubborn unwillingness of those who clearly dislike President Obama to see that he has clearly articulated a strategy on Libya which is admirable considering the complexity of the changes taking place in the Middle East. It is a shame that so many in the media and in the political leadership of the Country simply refuse to be mature in looking at these challenges. Nobody has any idea what the future holds. Why does everybody expect the

    President to have a crystal ball? He should
    be given great credit for the action he has
    taken to help the cause of freedom in

    March 28, 2011 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  21. ABM

    The GOP response was very immature and not respectful considering all we knew since this engagement started. I would ask that the obama Administration release the tapes of the conference call our President had with Congress to prove that they had ample information but are trying once again to score political points instead working WITH our President.

    I am tired of the armchair Presidential hopefuls who claim they can do better. Why don't they try to focus on their role and make the country better for all of us and prove to us that they are worthy for consideration for President first. Crying, complaining, and calling for impeachments is not going to get points. Leadership, compromise, compassion, and intelligence will get you there. So far no one has proven to me that they are better than our current President. Not one!

    (and no I am not a Democrat or Liberal)

    March 28, 2011 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  22. Root and stem

    I am more convinced now than before that Obama must now be impeached and removed from office.

    March 28, 2011 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  23. al in memphis

    Based on the comments from the Republican, I didn't know that you could do a daily accounting of military action. It must be like going to the gas pump and getting 20 gallons of gas, and I take $60 of military action this week.

    The last time American jump into military action , defiining all the cost, declaring the mission, what did we end of with - Iraq and Afgan. Two wars that are still going on.

    Here we don't know what it is like to have the military attacking it public–who would step in to say us

    March 28, 2011 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  24. Lee Oates

    This is one of the few times in the last 50 years that I have been proud of being an American. We have an intelligent and caring President who represents the best in America. Despite the line of lunatics that have ran America for so long with such disasterous results, and despite a constant opposition from the Republicans and the right-wing fringe, he has moved ahead and is attempting to meet the need of the average American in health, energy and education. On Libya he made the right decisions for the right reasons and improved our standing in the world. He improved our relationships in South America. He is a President to be proud of.

    March 28, 2011 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  25. Johnnyaero

    Someone needs to explain to this Prez. that their are atrocities on a far greater scale in the same continent. Political strife and civil war are common in West and Central Africa. In the Congo the death toll is reported to approach 3 million.The U.N. has documented rape and torture to intimidate whole villages. To call the struggle in Libya "horrific" compared to these attrocities is a joke. I would love for a reporter to ask the president about the possibility that this intervention is related to oil.

    March 28, 2011 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
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