Obama barely mentions Libya as Boehner demands details
March 20th, 2011
03:59 PM ET
12 years ago

Obama barely mentions Libya as Boehner demands details

RIO de JANEIRO, Brazil (CNN) - As the massive bombardment of Libya continued for a second day over 5,000 miles away from here, President Barack Obama delivered a speech that did not mention any specifics about the U.S. role in the military action despite Republican demands for him to better define the mission.

"We’ve seen the people of Libya take a courageous stand against a regime determined to brutalize its own citizens," Obama said in a 25-minute address that only briefly mentioned Libya.

"Across the region, we have seen young people rise up – a new generation demanding the right to determine their own future," added Obama. "From the beginning, we have made clear that the change they seek must be driven by their own people."

The speech came shortly after House Speaker John Boehner released a sharply worded statement in Washington pressing Obama to lay out more detail about the administration's goals in Libya.

"Before any further military commitments are made, the administration must do a better job of communicating to the American people and to Congress about our mission in Libya and how it will be achieved," Boehner said in the prepared statement.

Obama, however, did not offer any sort of a progress report one day after he authorized the U.S. military to join a massive air assault with several allies to wipe out Moammar Gadhafi's defenses and impose a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent the dictator from killing any more of his own people.

Instead Obama tried to frame the situation in Libya in the broader context of the change that is sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa, and tied it to Brazil's own revolution in 1984 that eventually ended 20 years of military dictatorship here.

Obama noted that the U.S. and Brazil are two nations "who have struggled over many generations to perfect our own democracies" and he stressed that the allies need to let the Arab world determine its own destiny.

"No one can say for certain how this change will end, but I do know that change is not something that we should fear," said Obama. "When young people insist that the currents of history are on the move, the burdens of the past are washed away. When men and women peacefully claim their human rights, our own common humanity is enhanced. Wherever the light of freedom is lit, the world becomes a brighter place."

Obama was speaking before a crowd of more than 2,000 people at the famed Municipal Theater, which overlooks Cinelandia Plaza, where millions of peaceful protesters began a pro-democracy movement in 1984.

"That is the example of Brazil," said Obama. "Brazil – a country that shows that a dictatorship can become a thriving democracy. Brazil – a country that shows democracy delivers both freedom and opportunity to its people. Brazil – a country that shows how a call for change that starts in the streets can transform a city, a country and the world."

Boehner noted in his statement that he agrees with Obama that it's "unacceptable and outrageous" for Gadhafi to attack his own people, and the Republican leader added the U.S. has a "moral obligation to stand with those who seek freedom from oppression and self-government for their people.”

But Boehner added that it's time for the White House to get much more specific about their military goals in Libya and how they will achieve them.

“The president is the commander-in-chief, but the administration has a responsibility to define for the American people, the Congress and our troops what the mission in Libya is, better explain what America’s role is in achieving that mission and make clear how it will be accomplished," said Boehner.

A White House official did not return an e-mail request for comment on Boehner's comments.

Earlier on Sunday here in Brazil, Obama held a secure conference call with his national security team as the White House continued to try to project the image of a commander-in-chief keeping close tabs on the military action even as he continues this five-day tour of Latin America.

After starting in Brasilia on Saturday, Obama leaves Rio early Monday for Santiago, Chile, and then wraps up the trip on Wednesday in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Obama held the secure conference call with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Bob Gates, AFRICOM Cmdr. Gen. Carter Ham and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough.

Also participating in the call were Chief of Staff William Daley and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, both of whom are traveling here with Obama.

A White House statement about the call said Obama received a briefing from Ham on the U.S. military action in Libya "as part of the international effort to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973," passed last Thursday to enforce a no-fly zone and use any means necessary to stop Gadhafi from continuing to harm civilians.

"The president also discussed the ongoing military and diplomatic consultations taking place on the situation in Libya," said the White House statement. "The president offered his thanks and admiration to General Ham and asked that he communicate that to all of the men and women of the U.S. armed forces who are carrying out this operation."

As part of the diplomatic consultations, especially with Arab nations in order to demonstrate this is a broad coalition and inoculate the White House from charges the mission is anti-Muslim, Vice President Joe Biden also worked the phones on Sunday.

Biden spoke by phone with Prime Minister of Algeria Ahmed Ouyahia as well as Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, according to a White House statement.

"The vice president discussed with both the prime minister and the emir their mutual support for the full implementation of the resolution and the need to protect the Libyan people," said the statement.

Filed under: John Boehner • President Obama
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. jcg

    @ Claudia – Neither him nor his party has any intention to do anything about jobs other than cut them from the federal and state pay rolls. To do anything else might hurt the GOP's chances in 2012, not to mention help out the American people instead of the Republican's corporate masters.

    March 20, 2011 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  2. Brad

    An explanation on what the military goals are in Libya? Hell, I'm still waiting for the same thing on Iraq and Afghanistan.

    March 20, 2011 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  3. riprap

    When Reagan bombed Libya he didn't have to put up with political opponents like Boehner & McCain (who thank god are not president) second guessing him with their stupid comments. Why in the hell didn't they demand accountability from Bush. The Republican ideology hasn't delivered us the kind of leadership worth supporting for years. Republican leaders of the way past would turn over in their grave to see the best "their" party can deliver today. God bless the President of the United States.

    March 20, 2011 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  4. Betty

    Reagan bombs Libya and he's a god to the Republicans. Obama bombs Libya and the Republicans are howling maniacs. W enters Iraq unilaterally with no plan and he's a Republican hero. Obama takes action multinationally only after the Arab League OK's it and he's irresponsible to the American people. Republicans would be funny if they weren't so pathologically stupid and arrogant.

    March 20, 2011 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  5. GOP = Greed Over People

    Better do what he ask President Obama or Bawlin' Boehner will start the water works.

    March 20, 2011 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  6. Louise Gilstrap

    I am not a Republican, but the congress has the responsibility to the people of this country to keep us informes, Obama is President Obama NOT King Obama. as for Boehner having better things to do,This is a very important issue, this getting the US involved in yet another war IS their business. I say Boehner shoud insist on a full report to the congress. Why was no fly zone ocer Egypt? all this un-rest in the middle east, we should stay out of.

    March 20, 2011 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  7. Rosa, b'ham al

    I dont think Obama should tell the Repubs anything. They will just try to sabotage a delicate operation, they dont care just as long as they can get back in power and make corporate slaves out og us all.

    March 20, 2011 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  8. Ponder this.,....

    Good job Mr. President. Unlike his predecessor, President Obama did not present himself as a swaggering cowboy. I didn't hear any "if you're not with us you're against us" nonsense. He didnt put his country all-in under phoney intel as an act of vengeance, oil, arrogance and b.s. Under his watch, American involvement is as a participant in a coalition of countries acting under a United National Resolution. This is not a "war" President! This is a President who is content to get the job done the right way, without putting the U.S. in the forefront. Better to join with others fighting tyranny, than to try to go it alone and be seen as the tyrant. Good job Mr. President!

    March 20, 2011 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  9. B

    Crying again,just get back to work and come up with some legislation that will create some jobs for middle America.


    March 20, 2011 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  10. Lost in Texas FOREVER

    while you're demanding details Mr Speaker, how about giving the American people some details as why your guys have done little to NOTHING to create jobs after that is what you promised. You know good and well had you said you were going to go after abortion, gay marriage, PBS and NPR along with repealing Healthcare you would not have won. And when the jobs pictures does continue to improve tell us how your guys have to gall to try to take credit for it.

    March 20, 2011 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  11. Ken in NC

    Mr. Boehner asked President Obama for 2 years "were are the jobs?" Well Tea-Publicans now have the frigging power and so again I ask, "Where are the jobs Mr. Boehner?" I see where Tea-Publicans took on Abortion, NPR, giving more tax cuts to the wealthy and Healthcare so when do you get to the "JOBS"?

    March 20, 2011 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  12. nameless

    To Boehner...you spend way too much time showing 'The American People' your true colors of hate and discourse toward President Obama....that you leave tooooo little time to create jobs and get the economy on track....stay in your lane and let President Obama do his job. I love to see the Repubs at a lost of words.....then you can be sure they'll shoot from the hip.

    March 20, 2011 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  13. Lobo74

    He can't give any details if he doesn't know what he's doing.

    March 20, 2011 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  14. Lobo74

    Now the left wingnuts are endorsing a president that starts a war without consulting congress or the senate ? What were they crying about during the Bush years ? You can't have it both ways.

    March 20, 2011 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  15. DS

    The speaker needs to focus his attention to solving the problems in his own House. He has not been even able to get his fellow GOPers to come together to solve the budget problem, let alone job creation. My. Speaker – Can you provide us with some details of what your plan is on this front, instead of just obstructing the government. What has your House done so far?

    March 20, 2011 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  16. Loubies

    Where were the demands for details when Bush invaded Iraq and Afghanistan? Where were the demands for details when Bush began the bank bailouts? Where were the demands for details when he purchased his tanning salon membership? Maybe if he demanded details then, we wouldn't have all this debt and he wouldn't be so orange.

    March 20, 2011 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    The orange Greedy Old Parasite seems to have missed the point: Sane Americans don't want a "military plan" for Libya. Protect the rebels and nothing more. Any talk of "nation-building" or "regime change" will be met with howls at home and abroad.

    March 20, 2011 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  18. Root and stem

    Treachery, thou name is Obama.

    March 20, 2011 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  19. jules sand-perkins

    Obama's posture on the military action in Libya has been so ideal that I am surprised by his combination of strength and savvy handling of Libya's regime's accusations of terrorism on our part.
    The administration's position that we are "not going after Gadhafi" himself is brilliant.
    I am very proud of Obama.
    I don't think that any other president in our history would have handled this matter better than Obama has.

    March 20, 2011 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
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