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. gt

    good another terrorist dead.... no american killed... great... now get the hell out of afganistan now...

    October 20, 2011 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  2. AllenS

    If Bachmann doesn't understand the Art of War concept of 'leading from behind' and letting people learn to do things on their own, then she's just going to lead more quagmires down the road if let in charge... oh, wait, that doesn't have a remote chance of happening. Nevermind.

    October 20, 2011 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "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? "

    Nuance. Get some.

    October 20, 2011 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  4. Me

    "The President is making a mistake, indecisive, not leading...wha? it worked? Ghadafi is dead? What a great day!"

    October 20, 2011 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  5. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    That my republican cynics, is how to deal with terrorists. President Obama helped the world, and there were no American casualties. Republicans always talked tough, but have always been soft on terror.

    October 20, 2011 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  6. Robert

    First question at the next debate better start: "Can I get a show of hands of those of you that think President Obama was directly involved in the death of Bin Laden, Alwaki, and Ghaddafi?" – That right would end all their chances, as they scramble to say "NO! He did nothing!! It was our service men and women. Obama was on vacation every decision. He was playing basketball in his 84 degree white house with his Arabic curtains!! He did nothing to help this country".

    Sad part? If Lybia had turned out bad: "President Obama is a failed leader. He couldn't complete his objectives in Lybia, even with our great military might... "

    October 20, 2011 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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."

    Can't you just see Mitt Romney during an international crisis calling out for "Anderson Cooper" to mediate his comments when the going gets too rough for him. Or Newt whining because he hasn't gotten his allotted "minutes", or Rick Perry too busy taking over the negotiations? I won't even get into a Cain scenario of befuddled nothingness.

    October 20, 2011 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    ""The President is making a mistake, indecisive, not leading...wha? it worked? Ghadafi is dead? What a great day!"

    Honestly, I think it's more along the lines of: "The President is making a huge mistake, indecisive, not leading and deserves all the blame...wha? it worked? Ghadafi is dead? Obama had nothing to do with it and deserves no credit!!!!"

    October 20, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    I want to hear from Sen. John McCain. Recall that McCain had advocated boots on the ground. He even paid a visit to one of the cities where there was fighting occurring, supposedly to find out who the rebels were. A President McCain would have had us involved in a 3rd major conflict and the resulting nation rebuilding. All of the leading candidates criticized the adminstration's approach. I see no reason to believe that any of them would not have followed Sen. McCain's lead and advice.

    October 20, 2011 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  10. V in Chicago

    Their comments = Good reason NOT to vote for any of these candidates.
    Obviously, we have a President who is not only smart enough to figure out the best way to handle these situations, but also has no problem working with other countries rather than trying torun the show. Congratulations to President Obama and his team. As an American, I thank you for ridding the world of a very dangerous, mad man. And, I'm sure the people of Libya who have been tortured and oppressed for the last 42 years, thank you too.
    Good Job Mr. President! Now we see what a true leader is all about.

    October 20, 2011 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  11. Now what?

    The spineless GOP candidates can't even muster a "job well done, Mr. President?" No wonder why an invisible Republican candidate actually polls better against Obama than any of these clowns do.

    October 20, 2011 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  12. Peace

    There was a lot of: "leading from behind", "impeach the president". Oh! boy, the man (president) is a super thinker. He goes slowly but sure. He will get my vote come 2012.

    October 20, 2011 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  13. emma

    Another victory for the Obama administration! The GOP candidates may need to eat their own words with their Obama bashing. But of course it is not their pattern to honor the good outcomes, despite the evidence.

    October 20, 2011 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  14. GOP = Greed Over People

    CNN should run the clips of some of the GOP "candidates" whining it was too much force in Libya, it was not enough force in Libya, he is starting a third war, etc.

    What ever you call it, at least President Obama and NATO can truthfully say "mission accomplished" and no "shooting from the hip" required!

    Well played, President Obama, well played!

    October 20, 2011 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  15. kevin

    4 more years! the success can not be ignored!

    October 20, 2011 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  16. billy

    Amazing how many dictators and evil men have fallen since President Obama took over.

    October 20, 2011 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  17. Steveo


    What Victory? It was the Libyans that took care of business!

    October 20, 2011 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  18. Scott S.

    Not 2 days ago were these nitwits bashing Obama for being in Libya. Relative to Iraq, we hardly committed any manpower or capital to this operation. Yet Ghadafi is dead. Looks like President Obama's Libya strategy was a very sound one. I'm aware we didn't kill him, some rebels did. But we aided. Let's watch as these Republicans try and back track through all the garbage they've been spewing the last few months. It should be entertaining.

    October 20, 2011 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  19. R

    Sorry to burst a lot of bubbles, but the rebels in Libya got Gadhafi – not our military, not President Obama. The people of Libya are the ones that deserve the credit for this.

    October 20, 2011 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    Steveo wrote:
    Did you say anything when we went to Liyba? How about when 100 special force went to Uganda? You say anything then? You talk about "Future" violence. Have you been muted concerning "present violence? Just wondering!
    Duh. It doesn't matter what I say. I'm not running for POTUS and leading in the polls. If you wish to know what I said then, I suggest you look it up with that little calendar tool right over there on there right. See?--–>

    October 20, 2011 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  21. Laverne

    These candidates are pathetic! They criticize this administration all the time and under president Obama more have been done to keep our country and the world safer than any other administration. POTUS is not weak on foreign policy on any level. President Obama/Biden 2012!!

    October 20, 2011 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  22. Rick 7809

    The heck with what these guys said, what does Sarah Palin have to say about this!!!!!!!

    October 20, 2011 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  23. thomas

    I cant wait to hear the praise for Obama's strategy from Boehner, Cantor and McConnell .

    October 20, 2011 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    "Sorry to burst a lot of bubbles, but the rebels in Libya got Gadhafi"

    And you think our missiles and fly overs and strategic and logistical advice had nothing to do with their ability to wage their rebellion in the first place, let alone find success?

    October 20, 2011 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  25. DIANA

    We get it Michele, you don't like our President. But you haven't said anything that wasn't absolutely insane to fix what you think is wrong instead of repeating the same line over and over like a Barbie doll? I bet if Jesus Christ himself did come down and endorse our President, you'd find fault in that too.

    October 20, 2011 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
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