March 29th, 2011
03:45 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Pushing back on criticism that President Obama did not deliver a clear message Monday on the end game in Libya, White House spokesman Jay Carney insisted the speech was “very clear about what our mission was.”
Ticking off a series of U.S. policy goals detailed by the president, Carney added “what we’ve accomplished in a short period of time, the lives that have been saved, the remarkable effort to build a coalition and take action in just 31 days and now make that transition from a U.S. lead military mission to NATO lead mission.”
Carney spoke with reporters aboard Air Force One as the president traveled to New York City for a fundraiser and dedication of a United Nations building in honor of former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown.
President Obama had been under immense pressure to deliver a speech that would answer outstanding questions about the U.S. role in Libya.
White House aides said when NATO agreed to take over command and control of the mission, the transition presented a good opportunity for the president to speak to the American people.
But the conservative Heritage Foundation said the Obama speech left “Libya questions unanswered.”
“It will be no small task to build a coalition that can keep Gadhafi isolated until he is brought to justice, prevent his forces from going on the offensive and bring stability and democracy to Libya while preventing the spread of terrorism,” wrote Heritage Senior Fellow James Carafano.
“That will take more than a speech and rhetorical reliance on the ‘international community.’ “
In his review of the president’s speech, Republican Senator John McCain said there had been a “convincing case for our military intervention,” but McCain criticized Obama for limiting the use of force when it comes to removing Col. Muammar Gadhafi.
“When the president says it would be a mistake to use military force in order to take him out of power, which is U.S. policy to ‘force him to step down,’ I think [that] is a serious mistake,” he said.
But Carney said the military mission approved by the United Nations Security Council and Arab League does not extend to the administrations policy that Gadhafi should go.
“We are obviously pursuing a number of different means, non lethal, non military means to help bring that about,” he said.
The administration is concerned that using military power to oust Gadhafi would fracture the international coalition. So aides are focused on a scenario where increased pressure isolates the Libyan leader and leads his own people to make that change.