GOP presidential candidates react to Gadhafi
October 20th, 2011
11:16 AM ET
7 years ago

GOP presidential candidates react to Gadhafi

(CNN) - Mitt Romney was the first candidate to respond to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's death Thursday, saying the world is a better place with the longtime leader gone.

"I think it's about time Gadhafi, a terrible tyrant that killed his own people and murdered Americans and others in the traged in Lockerbie," Romney said after a town hall in Iowa. "The world is a better place with Gadhafi gone."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry released a statement Thursday saying the death was good for the people of Libya.

"It should bring the end of conflict there, and help them move closer to elections and a real democracy," Perry said. "The United States should work closely with Libya to ensure the transition is successful, and that a stable, peaceful nation emerges."

Perry also urged the United States to actively ensure Gadhafi's weapons are secured.

"These weapons pose a real danger to the United States and our allies, and we cannot help secure them through simple observation," Perry said.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said Gadhafi's death was good news for the entire region.

"It is just one step in a long and tumultuous turnover that is coming to Northern Africa," Huntsman said in a statement. "It is my sincere wish that this news accelerates Libya's transition to a society that respects openness, democracy, and human rights."

Interim Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril told reporters in Tripoli Thursday that he was killed.

Romney's reaction follows months of statements from the GOP candidates on the campaign trail and in presidential debates as events unfolded in Libya.

The most outspoken criticism of President Barack Obama's action in the African country came from Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota who repeatedly characterized the policy of the U.S. as "flawed."

At a June CNN presidential debate, Bachmann said the U.S. is "leading from behind" and said the president was wrong to defer leadership in the region to other nations. She continued the same line of attack in September.

"President Obama's own people said that he was leading from behind. The United States doesn't lead from behind," Bachmann said at the New Hampshire event. "As commander in chief, I would not lead from behind. We are the head. We are not the tail. The president was wrong."

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also leveled criticism of U.S. action in the region

Santorum said waiting for the U.N. showed Obama's indecisiveness, while Paul, who is typically a critic of foreign intervention, said Gadhafi's past as a "bad guy" should not justify war.

"I wouldn't start a war in Libya," Paul said at the CNN Debate in June.

"There are a lot of bad people in the world. Does he [Obama] want to do it in every dictatorship around the country?" Paul said in a June interview on CNN's "John King USA."

After tweaking his positions based on unfolding events, Gingrich, in June, said the U.S. needed to "find a new and very different strategy."

At the same June debate, former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain called the situation "an absolute mess."

"The United States didn't understand the problem, didn't have the intelligence," Cain said. "Is it a U.S. vital interest? If the answer is no, then we don't go any further."

Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China, cheered the rebels and was not directly critical of the president. However, he did say a clear exit strategy was needed.

"My original premise was based on Libya not being a core U.S. national security interest, and I maintain that view today," Huntsman said on PBS in August. "Although I cheer on the rebels and I think it's terrific."

While former Massachusetts governor Romney has supported the mission, he said the operation was "muddled."

"Our involvement in Libya was marked by inadequate clarity of purpose before we began the mission," Romney said at an August speech in Texas. "And the mission muddled during the operation and ongoing confusion as to our role in the future."

Perry said in an August press release said the "crumbling of Muammar Ghadafi's reign, a violent, repressive dictatorship with a history of terrorism, is cause for cautious celebration."

- CNN's Peter Hamby, Robert Yoon and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • Herman Cain • Jon Huntsman • Libya • Michele Bachmann • Mitt Romney • Newt Gingrich • Rick Perry • Rick Santorum
soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. TEAliban/TEAhadists

    None of these candidates need to comment. They are not responsible for the Arab Spring. None of them went to Cairo and pitched patching America's and the Arab world's relations better. That was all the work of President Obama. They all criticize the President's foreign policy, yet he has done more than Bush ever did. Pirates dead, Bin Laden dead, Awlaki dead and now Gadhafi's dead. Then look at all of these revolutions. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and next Syria.

    October 20, 2011 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  2. rs

    I cannot believe these idiots. Bush was all about getting cozy with Libya before the end of his administration. Ghadafi was all he was advertised to be: a sposor of state terrorism (remember the Pan-Am flight downed over Scotland, and the Americans killed); someone who terrorized his own people, and; kept Libya from developing.
    Now the Republicans (who were for before the Arab Spring before they were against it), are bashing Obama (again) claiming somehow a policy that supported NATO, with no Americans on the ground (with no casualties) that ended Ghadafi's regin was "flawed".

    Too bad Bush didn't use the same methods in Afghanistan or Iraq (or simply avaoided that mess altogether).

    What's next for these GOP/TP rubes? Support for another dicator in Libya? Maybe our "war" in Libya just wasn't violent enough for them.

    October 20, 2011 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  3. The Real Tom Paine

    Once again, it was logistical support we provided to NATO and to the rebels. Libya may not have been a vital national security threat, but we responded appropriately to a situation where there was a chance of success. Its amazing to me that any GOP candidate could complain about how this was carried out.

    October 20, 2011 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  4. Jay

    Well. Gadafy is dead, we had 0 casualties and minimal expenditure, relatively. Seems like the President chose wisely.

    October 20, 2011 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  5. JustMe

    So I'll be really interested to see what the reactions of those that were critical of this being done are.

    October 20, 2011 11:33 am at 11:33 am |

    Typical GOP: talking from both sides of their mouths.

    I like President Obama's sagacious foreign policy. The GOP would have us starting wars with everyone who disagrees with us.

    October 20, 2011 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    One day they are critical of NATO allies for not putting bigger investments into joint military operations. The next day they are critical of the fact that NATO allies put a bigger stake into a joint military operation, allowing the US to fulfill a minor support role. The day after that the mission objective is achieved, with no US lives put at risk or lost, and suggestive comments that they contributed to the mission's success.

    And now the right wing expects the public to just forget about everything they had previously said. The sad part it that they are probably correct that the majority of the public will forget.

    October 20, 2011 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  8. jean2009

    Who really cares what these numbskulls think? Bachmann Hello! Leading is what most generals do, what most coaches do, but doing it in front is not what they do. The use of strategic air strikes where needed to soften targets is not exactly leading from behind. That the United States did not go in guns blazing and put boots on the ground, to me shows great wisdom. It also got the job done without our troops being bogged down in yet another ground war.

    October 20, 2011 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  9. Charlie from the North

    Okay let me see if I can understand the GOP position here. It's okay for your guy to spend $12 million an hour, get thousands of Americans killed, and hundreds of thousands of Iraquis killed in an effort to get end a dictatorial power, But when our guys helps the Libyans "do it themselves" that is a bad idea. What kind of idiot.... oh wait I think my answer lies in my first sentence. No, no I can't understand the GOP position here.

    October 20, 2011 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  10. Seattle Sue

    President Obama finished the job Reagan started and could not do. Go Obama.

    October 20, 2011 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  11. Bill from GA

    Mitt responds first.
    Now that he sees the other repugs are against 'Obama's action', you think he can get a do-over. I'm sure he's against it now.

    October 20, 2011 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  12. Charles

    Anyone that supports our troops should be voting for Ron Paul. After all, Ron Paul has received more monetary support from overseas troops than all other candidates COMBINED.

    October 20, 2011 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  13. Out of Texas

    I would have loved to seen the look on their faces when they first received word of Gadhafi's demise after months of criticizing President Obama foreign policy. PRICELESS!

    October 20, 2011 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  14. Bill

    Bottom line – Obama's policies lead to the downfall and removal of Ghadaffi. These pathetic excuses for candidates just can not handle that. And Michelle baby, you are the one that is flawed, not this administration's policies.

    October 20, 2011 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  15. Ann Marie

    Does anyone need anymore proof of what nut cases these supposed candidates are? The world is a different place than their reality is. I commend our President, for holding other powers as responsible as us. We are not the "saviors" of the world anymore, we are an ally with the powers that be. Very little $$$ spent, no ground troops, not one of our soldiers lives lost. And we want out President to do what???

    October 20, 2011 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  16. Sniffit

    Would you rather:
    a) The new Libyan gov't be encouraged to feel grateful towards and indebted and beholden to the U.S. for its involvement in their liberation from a madman considerable expense to the U.S. gov't for the effort and resources expended to assist in said dictator's ouster; OR
    b) In order to deny Obama any credit for showing any leadership or judgment and for having assisted in the removal of a madman dictator, people spend all their energy focused on how this can best be spun for political gain in November 2012 and thereby convince as many people as possible, including the new Libyan government that Libya has no reason to show any gratitude or allegiance or feel indebted to the U.S. for its involvement.


    October 20, 2011 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  17. Lynda/Minnesota

    Once again the GOPer Clown Car had to stop and address criticisms directed at President Obama's leadership during a world crisis. And once again - to their dismay - President Obama is proven to have made the right choice. Could these fools look any more silly in the eyes of the world?

    October 20, 2011 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  18. AntiFringe

    What do we expect? These people want Obama's job. So, it's natural to:
    1. Criticize the president about how he is handling the situation.
    2. Declare how much better the world is after the bad man is dead.
    3. Tell the voters how you, as president, would have handled it (after the fact, of course).

    October 20, 2011 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  19. tigerakabj

    President Obama, "Strong on terror and national security." Here's the list:

    1. Bin Laden - fish food
    2. Al Alwahri (Al Qaeda's number 2) - see ya lata alligator
    3. Somali pirates - Whom?
    4. End to torture (which is against international law)
    5. Winding down the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (saving us billions that the GOP says we can spend, but won't spend a dime to help the citizens that created the wealth in the first place)
    6. Gadhafi - history, good riddance

    Honestly, not one GOPers running for president can say a thing. They were the very ones criticizing for going around the world "apologizing for America," being "weak on terror, dithering," and "leading from behind."

    Well, President Obama does more than talk he get results, results that would be higher if the GOPers weren't able to obstruct on the domestic side like they can't on the foreign policy side. It's time the American people remedy that by voting them ou en masse next year and say goodbye to the GOPers who want and are doing their best to crash the economy for political gain.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    October 20, 2011 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  20. MTATL67

    Our involvement in the downfall of Gadhafi was one of the best strategies President Obama's. Allowing NATO to take the lead accomplished a few things. 1) Prevented deaths of American soldiers 2) Showed trust in our allies and prevents a buildup of resentment toward us. 3) Allowed us to assist Arabs without appearing to throw our weight around. It was damn good strategy. The Republican candidates came out against it for pure political reason and now they look foolish because the United States wins on all fronts. I have a friend in England who read some of their remarks and said “God if one of them become President they’d bully their allies to the point no one would want to help the U.S.”. He is right sometimes the best way to lead is to step back and let a friend step forward. President Obama saw this truth to bad the Republican candidates cannot.

    October 20, 2011 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  21. w l jones

    A lot of people see but a few knows...our president have an indept knowledge of that area as well the people for better relationship between both country.

    October 20, 2011 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  22. A Repulbican

    Look, supporting the people to do it themselves is what we should all have learned from Iraq; let them do it with our support. We republicans once again hate this our President so much we'll find a way to say he was wrong on everything no matter what, it's so obvious and sad! We are ALL Americans first. The way it took place thay say it was muddled, these things are not clean, on white paper, perfect, that's foolish and naive. It's the overall thesis that's important that when given a chance people will always choose freedom. Means to America's freedom too was muddled, no freedoms, no rights, many lives lost in a civil war, but we are all happy it took place and we payed the cost. So, let's stop the monday night quarterbacking, and be proud our the job our President performed.

    October 20, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  23. Baffled

    When will the GOP have the gumption to give credit to where credit is due?? Or is the hatred of President Obama that deep that you can't muster of the courage to say job well done? Believe it or not, the majority of the American public would support you more if you at least called it as it was instead of politicizing everything. I mean afterall, we are all still Americans, fight??

    October 20, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  24. ST

    Now I do understand why GOP are not satisfied with the field of contenders. Civilised people always give praise to any one who acquire success regardless of having different views. No one here gives credit to the President. It is so absurd! There might be time to attack, but also should be time to praise.

    October 20, 2011 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  25. Charles

    "Charlie from the North",

    Actually, Congressman Paul (a current Representative from Texas) and Governor Johnson (former Governor of New Mexico) were both outspoken in their criticisms of the Bush Administration's military aggressive policies, and these two men fairly accurately predicted the Iraqi invasion's deadly and destructive course (which is still ongoing as you know).

    Please don't fall into the all too common mental trap that all Rebublican politicians are alike and all Democrat politicians are alike.
    The two men I mentioned are very different than the rest of the Republican candidates and I recommend you look into their platforms (especially Governor Johnson's).

    With regards to foreign policy, if you look carefully I believe that you may see that there is little difference between the major parties' actions. Have you not noticed that President Obama and his administration have proven to be more similar to President Bush and his administration than different with regards to foreign policy/military interventionism?



    October 20, 2011 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
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