Senators criticize Obama over Libya
February 27th, 2011
09:04 AM ET
11 years ago

Senators criticize Obama over Libya

(CNN) – Two leading U.S. senators were both critical Sunday of President Barack Obama's delay in speaking out over the uprising in Libya.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Obama should "stand up for democracy" and noted that the British prime minister and French president were not hesitant to address the crisis.

"America leads," McCain told CNN's "State of the Union" from Cairo. "They're looking to America for leadership, for assistance, for moral support and ratification of the sacrifices they've made in the defense of democracy. America should lead."

Anti-government protests continued Sunday in Libya, where the nation's leader of more than 40 years, Moammar Gadhafi, clings to power in Tripoli after weeks of protests.

On the same program, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats and chairs the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said he understood why the administration initially hesitated in speaking out on the crisis in Libya due to concerns about the safety of U.S. citizens there.

"Frankly I wish we had spoken out much more clearly and early against the Gadhafi regime," Lieberman said, adding "the fact is now is the time for action, not just statements."

On Saturday, Obama said Gadhafi "has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also issued a statement urging the Libyan leader to step down.

Lieberman said he hoped that new sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the United States are successful, and that the U.S. should aid opposition forces in Libya if they are unable to end the Gadhafi regime on their own.

McCain predicted the end of Gadhafi's rule.

"I think his days are numbered," McCain said. "The question is how many people are going to be massacred between now and when he leaves. We ought to shorten that time frame as much as possible, and I believe we can."

McCain said the United States should help impose a no-fly zone to prevent government aircraft from attacking the Libyan people and should also recognize a provisional government in the east, where anti-Gadhafi forces hold power.

In addition, McCain said, Washington should make clear that Libyan officials involved in attacks on their own people would face war crimes prosecution.

"Get tough," McCain said. However, he stopped short of advocating that U.S. ground forces enter Libya to help oust Gadhafi. Instead, the United States should supply and equip a provisional government, McCain said.

- CNN's Tom Cohen contributed to this report

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soundoff (97 Responses)
  1. PaulC

    I'm confused. I thought Pres. Obama should be focused on jobs and the economy. The last president that felt that he should be involved in regime change got us into a quagmire that will haunt us for decades. If Pres. Obama had gotten heavily involved the wingnut right would be on him for meddling and losing focus.

    February 27, 2011 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  2. NameMiguel

    Marc says:
    February 27, 2011 09:53 am at 9:53 am
    Senators criticize Obama over what kind of suits he wears. Senators criticize Obama for the brand of toilet paper he uses. Blah, blah, blah. All these a-holes do is criticize without any legitimate alternatives to anything the President says or does. It’s disgusting their lack of respect for this man who is doing nothing other than his best to try to serve the people of this country. They were elected to serve the people, not try to get re-elected or “take down the president”.

    Isn't this what happened 4 years ago. Throw in the rising oil prices and it's exactly the same the dems criticized Bush and blamed him for everything under the sun. Now the repubs are doing the same thing to Obama. The more things change the more they stay the same.

    February 27, 2011 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  3. p

    We didn't expect either one to say anything good about this POTUS, did we?
    The repub narrative, in general, is SO TIRED! So freakin predictable.
    These 2 hang around together a way too much, to me. A little bit creepy...

    February 27, 2011 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  4. oldzoom

    larry in pa hit the nail on head, obama had to get our people out before he could really say what he thought. As usual Palin & the republicans look to run their mouths to shows us once again, yes we're that stupid...

    February 27, 2011 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  5. lucianne

    FINALLY we have a president who understands that the Arab world is just that, the ARAB world, and we can't and shouldn't run their governments. If we are so in favor of democracy, how come we won't let countries practise it unless they do it our way? These people are Muslims, and they have as much right to practise their faith and govern their contries as we do. Trying to install another puppet autocrat isn't going to benefit anyone, least of all our own interests.

    February 27, 2011 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  6. gord

    ask these two old birds when kuwit and saudi arbia are going to start paying back the west for saving there but like promised

    February 27, 2011 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  7. James

    I never comment on stories, but this has me so upset I just cannot refrain. Put simply, the president's primary concern is for the safety of U.S. citizens. A strong declaration of pending hostility towards the regime may have put the lives of these Americans at risk. President Obama has so far made the correct decisions.

    February 27, 2011 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  8. vic nashville tn

    I was listening I wish they stay there

    “Opposition forces in Libya if they are unable to end the Gadhafi regime on their own”

    Libyan they started they know how end they had enough with Gadhafi they will throw him out after that we can help Libyans

    Both must listen GPS opening statement today ( word by word )

    February 27, 2011 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  9. DOOGIE24

    And, yes, the great senator from Arizona is so omniscient! However, he couldn't convince the electorate of that in the last presidential election! I wonder why? It's folks like him that made me leave the GOP (Grandiose Old Phonies) and to become an independent voter. I believe in some objective reality here. How long has it been since a president has taken on the really difficult and meaningful issues that Obama has taken on knowing that criticism would come fast and furious? For these GOPers to spout off criticisms in their frivolous and uninformed diatribes makes me more cynical of humankind than I already am.

    February 27, 2011 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  10. BenFrankie

    If this drool is the best we have to offer, then this country is hurtin. But we already knew that...

    February 27, 2011 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  11. informed voter

    President Obama has handled this situation in Lybia with much care to ensure the safety of American citizens in the country. Of course McCain and Lieberman wanted him to handle it differently, because they are hoping for another war. These two old war mongers still believe America should police the world. Can you imagine how that would decrease our deficits and add new jobs for American? (Please note the sarcasm). Thank God we elected the right man as our leader and rejected McCain and Palin.

    February 27, 2011 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  12. Jack

    Get these two old men off the center stage, well the CT Senator is leaving thank God...what traitor to his party. It's time for America to say what it has to say and let the people of the Libya fight for their own democracy. I'm tired of being the World Cop, too many criticize us for getting our hands in places we don't belong. America stands behind any new democracy and will help build a better country but what the hell is it with jerks that sit back and snipe at the President. Get with the program old Senators and leave, it's a new world out there and you're dragging your feet. I'm as old or older than both those guys and I thing they suck as Senators. Both "flip flop" on everything....get out!

    February 27, 2011 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  13. Alexander Bridge

    Wake up everyone. Politicians are the same everywhere. In the past, when did either McCain and Lieberman protested Gadhafi's iron fist policies in the past? When have they ever taken a stand against this twit? We buy his country's oil and ignore the Gadhafi regime. Western countries do this all around the world.

    February 27, 2011 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  14. midnitejax

    Here's a couple of wannabes that never made it to the WH. One chose the "intellectual" Palin as a running mate, the other was the running mate that brought down another WH hopefull. Niether has anything to lose in their careers by speaking out aganist the prez. Where were either of theses two idiots when the Chinese uprising began? Regean never said a peep, but no discontent from either of these two morons. Lieberman's largest concerns have allways been the supporting of Israeli interests.he should resigne now instead of collecting a paycheck for nothing until his retirement.

    February 27, 2011 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  15. JHA in Texas

    President Obama's number one concern was the safety and extraction, of as many US citizens as possible, in a environment that was becoming extremely lethal. A possible Iran hostage situation could of easily occured and may still, if there are any remaining Americans in Libya. As for all these Middle east eruptions of independence he has handled himself very well. That goes for the all the 3:00am crisis calls, from domestic to foreign policy. So leave the man alone let him to his job and quit nipping on his heels.

    February 27, 2011 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  16. Gary

    Thanks for the advice old ma(e)n, but your opinions lost. Remember?

    February 27, 2011 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  17. Arron

    Sure, why not go and invade another middle east country. Its practically the Republican way.

    February 27, 2011 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  18. tom

    So easy to criticize from the comforts of your office on capitol hill. The president is trying to let the arab world work out what they want instead of the usual republican stace of go in with guns firing. I'm surprised The Penguin Mc Cain hasn't already called for troops to be sent in. We get criticized all the time by the world for butting into their countries affairs...and we should wisely watch, support and 'talk' to our allies in the area and around the world. So just STFU Mc Cain, Palin, Boner, Beck and the rest of your flying monkeys.

    February 27, 2011 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  19. terry, va

    Obummie has ties to Gadhafi. Gadhafi has said that Obummie is a friend of Muslims. Obummie has not said that Gadhafi is lying. Gadhafi and the Rev. Wright, Obummie's spiritual adviser for over 20 years, are big buddies. That is why Obummie wouldn't tell Gadhafi that he should go. The public pressure made Obummie denounce Gadhafi do that but he did so kicking and screaming I don't want to; he is my Muslim friend. Obummie is quickly killing the US. Impeach him !!!!

    February 27, 2011 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  20. Reno

    Everything that goes wrong in the US is Obama's fault and everything that goes wrong in the Middle East is Iran's fault. Any questions?

    February 27, 2011 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  21. Karen

    The President was protecting our citizens in Libya by waiting until they were out before making strong statements or implementing sanctions. HE, at least, remembers 1979. I'm glad the Europeans were the first to make threats. We've been the daddy to the world for way too long. Well past time that everyone else grew a set! We have more than enough to deal with already. Time to let other countries carry a load or two.

    February 27, 2011 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  22. Nick

    Obama did the right thing. America needs to focus on it's jobs and falling infrastructure. We don't want republican warmongers like McPalin driving our nation into further bankruptcy like Dubya... Thank god I voted for Obama!!!

    February 27, 2011 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  23. E

    Ya great idea supply them with weapons, thats has worked well in the past...morons.

    February 27, 2011 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  24. Jay

    Impose a no-fly zone? Did US declared war on Libya and I missed it?

    They sure want to help Gadhafi out and make him a martyr.

    February 27, 2011 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  25. gregdn

    I wish both of these guys would just fade away. Both Lieberman and McCain lost any relevance a long time ago.

    February 27, 2011 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
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