McCain: Obama waited too long in Libya
March 20th, 2011
09:00 AM ET
11 years ago

McCain: Obama waited too long in Libya

Washington (CNN) - Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona was critical of the president’s timetable for action in Libya, but said he is confident the American military will succeed.

“He (President Obama) waited too long, there is no doubt in my mind about it. But now, it is what it is,” McCain said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” taped Friday. “We need now to support him and the efforts that our military are going to make. And I regret that it didn’t – we didn’t act much more quickly, and we could have.”

The ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee said if the United States had acted a couple weeks ago, before the United Nations issued a cease-fire, a no-fly zone “would probably have been enough” to prevent the situation in the African country from deteriorating.

However, since the United Nations vote, McCain added “time is not on Gadhafi’s side.”

“If he (Gadhafi) doesn’t succeed in a relatively short period of time, he’ll be driven back and, over time, I believe, defeated,” McCain said. “I have great confidence in our capabilities that the most mightiest nation in the world is now matched up against a third-rate or fourth-rate power.”

American, French and British military forces launched an operation on Gadhafi’s military Saturday, convinced the Libyan leader was not adhering to the U.N.-mandated cease-fire. The attacks on Libyan military positions with missiles and airstrikes are part of an operation that will include enforcement of a no-fly zone.

Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut said “we can’t afford to let him (Gadhafi) stay in office.”

“If Gadhafi survives, the Arab spring maybe comes to too soon an end, at least it doesn’t move beyond Tunisian and Egypt,” Lieberman told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. “It’s late, but it’s not too late, if we act quickly together.”

“Now, how quickly we can move back and get him (Gadhafi) out? I think it’s going to be a matter of time,” McCain said.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

Filed under: Joe Lieberman • John McCain • Libya • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. WiredweirdoinSF

    Dumb McCain, the union toady, inept, incompetent president of the non working, non taxpayers had a bracket to fill out, parties to go to and a South American spring break to plan for he and his family, he does not have the time to deal with the real world, remember he voted present for most of his time in elected office. He does not have a clue what to do unless Andy Card of the SEIU tells him.

    March 20, 2011 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  2. annie s

    Who cares what McCain thinks? Had this man been elected President we'd be at war with Iran, North Korea and anybody else he decided he – or Sarah – didn't like. Thank goodness we have a President who is cautious and waited to work with the international community, rather than hot dogging like Bush or McCain or Palin would have. I'm not happy that we've involved ourselves in another country's civil war, but I'm grateful that we are doing so in partnership with others, rather than leading the charge prematurely.

    March 20, 2011 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  3. Anthony

    If McCain were president, he would have launched attack on Iran. Similar to what happened with Iraq, which had no involvement with 9/11, the fact that Gadhafi is in Libya is irrelevant. Republicans attack the country they want to attack.

    March 20, 2011 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  4. Larry L

    There is no way to gain approval from a Republican Party dedicated to the failure of the Obama Administration, regardless of the consequences to America. The GOP would finish the job they started and drive the country to ruin if that would help them at the polls. McCain lacks both honor and wisdom. He ran with Palin – enough said...

    March 20, 2011 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  5. Anonymous

    McCain, Palin and I am sure many other conservatives would have made the hypcritical move of stepping into Lybia's civi war. National health is an invasiono of stat's rights, but us bombing another country in the beginning of a revolution is perfectly alright.
    Conservatives seem to think as long as it involves explosives, we are allowed to do anything we want and it's always justified.

    March 20, 2011 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  6. Tom

    I guess McCain would not have worked with the UN, NATO or our allies. He would have played cowboy and shot from the hip which is what he is doing now. I think our Government absolutely did the right thing: worked with others, layed the ground work militarily, limited our exposure financially and then moved out.

    March 20, 2011 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  7. Operator37

    No suprise that McCain would disagree with the President on his timing. We all know that McCain is more hawkish about these type of matters. Either way, it;s good that he supports the mission. Many people don't like the consensus building leadership style. Sometimes its good to use the direct leadership sytle but in these type of situations, the combined leadership is style is the best since so much is at stake.

    March 20, 2011 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  8. Tired of the nonsense

    So our current intelligent president should make the exact same mistakes that the previously idiotic president did? What's with you, McCain? Bush was an idiot! He invaded a country we weren't at war with! Hitler did the EXACT same thing - why do you think the GOP is considered the new Nazi party or the American Taliban?

    Libya is fighting a revolutionary war of its own. Sure, the French came in and helped the US finally, but we were pretty much fighting the English on our own soil with our own powder and rounds. Guess what? It's Libya's right to fight off a dictator, remove him from office and the rest of the world can stay out of it. If the rest of the world comes into it? Fine and dandy! But even though there are American interests involved, I'd rather have a president who weighs all sides of the equation like President Obama has done before acting rather than the way Bush destroyed this country and embarrassed us on the world stage by pulling a Hitler.

    March 20, 2011 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  9. Tom

    I guess McCain would have moved out without the UN, NATO or our allies. He would have played cowboy and shot from the hip which is what he is doing now. I think our Government, absolutely, did the right thing; worked with others, layed the ground work militarily, limited our exposure financially, and then moved out.

    March 20, 2011 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  10. Debra From Georgia

    This is the reason that Barack Obama is POTUS and John McCain is not. Barack Obama does not have this rush to judgement and Erratic behavior which was a strong character of Buch Jr. and a characteristic of John Mccain. If it was up to John Mccain, we will be in five different wars with the American people suffering a direct effect to it. The President did a fine job with this decision. I am proud of him.

    March 20, 2011 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  11. sue

    Just like Palin, shoot from the hip, get involved with out our allies without the other countries doing their part and let America foot the bill, use all our military equipment and men and women......these Republicans that are speaking out against our President for not going in right at the begining are ego maniacs, war hungry bullies.....with the Allies this is going to cost 300,000,000 dollars a month....who's going to pay for all this .if we went in alone who would be supporting this effort? You republicans are the ones crying cut the budget........come on get real.....Obama did the right thing waiting for the other countries to step up and take soome of this responsibility.....get a life besides bashing Obama for every thing he says and does.....find a better way to solve the problems of this country instead of using Obama as your one and only reason to get elected next year.

    March 20, 2011 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  12. Ken in NC

    Senator McCain says the Aircraft Carriers should have been in place a long time ago but they weren't. Senator McCain should have been in a museum a long time ago but he wasn't. There is still time to put this warmonger into one. That IDIOT probably still thinks "the principals of the economy are still strong". President Obama got the backing of Arab Nations in this quest and it is not the USA taking the lead and rightfully so. Tea-Republicans realy do not want to bring these wars to an end because it would cause the War Mfg. Industry to have to scale back their production of war materials and that means reduced profits for them and they cannot allow that to happen. This is why we must remain constantly in a state of war with someone somewhere.

    March 20, 2011 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  13. Larry

    Neither the bible nor the Constitution gives us the right to force democracy on other countries, so why are the republicans always in favor of ousting dictators?

    March 20, 2011 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  14. Dale

    America dodged a bullet when McCain / Palin lost the election. We would be at war with the whole world by now with those two wingnut warmongers in charge. Besides, McCain and Palin would criticize Obama no matter what he did.

    March 20, 2011 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  15. Obamacare = Romneycare v1.01

    If I wanted a second opinion about Obama's Libya's plan I wouldn't get it from a loser; I would ask one of the former presidents, who were winners.

    March 20, 2011 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  16. Dale

    McCain never saw a war he didn't like.

    March 20, 2011 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  17. Kim

    I like Obama but McCain is right. The US should have done something immediately – now, it is just going to cost more money and drag down the recovery. Say goodbye to what little money you have, war only makes the rich, richer. Have we learned nothing. The Libyan people let this happen to themselves and if they really wanted freedom they would die for it and not hide in their homes. Yes, many would die, but that is the price for letting a madman run your country for so long.

    March 20, 2011 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  18. JC

    McCain eyes glow when he talks of military action. He's never seen a country he wouldn't want to attack. The US timing was correct in waiting until the Arab league and some Arab nations signed on rather then hide in the back ground. In addition waiting for another country to put their forces in the game was correct also. Nice seeing France in there flying. It's called making your allies be real allies. McCain is an old warrior thinking like an old warrior. He would have the world go out in a mushroom cloud. I think he sees it as his destiny.

    March 20, 2011 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  19. Obamacare = Romneycare v1.01

    Don't forget that Senator McCain also declared that Afghanistan would be a relative cakewalk for U.S. troops after their experience in Iraq.

    So much for HIS expertise.

    March 20, 2011 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  20. Anonymous

    I think that Obama could have deployed US forces a little sooner. But I think McCain was looking to go in right away which I do not agree with. The threat had to develop before President Obama could make a decision whether or not to go in. Also, having allies on our side makes it a better fight that is easier to handle which has not happened in past wars.

    March 20, 2011 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  21. terry, va

    Give Obummie a break McCain. Obummie was dusting off his superman cape and waxing his ears so he could fly over Libya.

    March 20, 2011 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  22. Chris

    And if Obama had acted sooner, McCain would have criticized him for being too rash. I'm sorry, but the Republicans have turned into a bad parody of themselves – criticizing any and all Obama does.

    Last week, the Right was attacking Obama for being too weak and dithering. Now that Obama is backing the no fly zone in Libya, the Right is criticizing him for being an iron fisted war monger and saying he should have gotten approval from Congress first.

    Republicans' sole consistency is what ever makes Obama look bad at the moment.

    March 20, 2011 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  23. DC2003

    "I have great confidence in our capabilities that the most mightiest nation in the world is now matched up against a third-rate or fourth-rate power.”

    So John, why are we still huntin Osama Bin Laden? Why are we still fighting in Afghanistan? Why are we still in Iran (supposedly no fighting forces)?
    And then John tell us all whose going to pay for this little endeavor? What will you cut inorder to cover the tab? Medicare...Social Security? Education? EPA? FDA? OSHA?

    March 20, 2011 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  24. ephron

    The question she should have asked – "Senator McCain, if you were President would you have ordered a unilateral attack on Libya two weeks ago?" Then followed up with the political questions about why a UN resolution and a coalition is or is not important in this particular instance. McCain also talked about all the things we could be doing, such as jamming. The point was made by Admiral Mullen this morning that we could not do that until we had established a secure no-fly zone. Obama may at times dither too much for my liking but if McCain were President............

    March 20, 2011 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  25. Joan

    America is already distrusted and in some cases hated over in that part of the world ever since the Gulf War. They see the US as invaders, occupiers and after their oil. The Iraq War has tainted the reputation of the US in the whole world and it will take a long time to win it back. This President and his administration did this exactly right. They did the plainning and hard work out of the spotlight so as not to let Kdafi know what was going on. They have the UN, NATO and Arab League working with them so Libya cannot say the US invaded them. Everyone should thank God every day that McCain lost the election. Why does CNN give so much air time to people like McCain, Lieberman, Guiliani and Limbaugh who just want to tear down the President (and therefore the country), criticize everything he does and try to make his policies fail? Isn't that kind of treason?

    March 20, 2011 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
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