Obama barely mentions Libya as Boehner demands details
March 20th, 2011
03:58 PM ET

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 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 as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) released a sharply-worded statement in Washington pressing Obama to more clearly define the military mission for the American people.

"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 similarly 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 over 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 Commander General 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 General Ham on the U.S. military action in Libya "as part of the international effort to enforce UN 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.

Topics: Brazil • John Boehner • Libya • President Obama • The News

soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. SamAdams25

    As usual, Obama is long on soaring platitudes and short on anything of substance.

    March 20, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  2. Sharon

    This was a speech FOR the Brazilian people. If he had more to say on Libya, he would address it in a separated press appearance as he did yesterday. Thank goodness he follows his own judgment rather than the flawed judgment of Boehner.

    March 20, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • GoldBeachBiker

      Sharon: You've got to be kidding me .... "Thank goodness he follows his own judgment...." The judgement of this community organizer has been in question since "Hope and Change" was announced. This president is on track for showing the worst judgement in recorded American history.

      March 20, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
      • martin graf

        Worst judgment in history. You must have loved Bush's judgment when he lied to start a war, declared mission accomplished years ago and left us with the worst deficit in recorded history. I take this community organizers judgment any day over that of the world destroyer Bush

        March 21, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Jack von Bauer

      A post of mind-boggling fatuousness.

      Hey slowpoke, he's the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Not Brazil,.In case you hadn't noticed.

      The only flawed judgment on display is a President who launches a semi-war without reference to Congress, Then in his first public engagement makes NO mention of the men and women he just sent into harms way. That's dereliction of duty.

      I'd call your judgment "flawed" - except you show no judgment to begin with.

      March 20, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • Dave

      Thanks goodness we arestopping gaddafi from killing Libyan by killing Libyans.

      March 21, 2011 at 8:43 am |
      • Walter

        Pak;I really hate wiitrng long messages, which is why I left quite a few points to the understanding of the reader (given the high level of knowledge of our company on this site) rather than going into every single minute detail until I give everyone a headache.As a result I am afraid I did not finish reading your comment either. I will just briefly try to answer the parts that I did read: Firstly, there are more costs than just labour – raw materials is one example. This has implications for what I am going to say next. I never said that there wasn't. I merely said gross product (ie. the value difference between the final product and the means of production -including the raw material) minus the price of labour power is the net profit. Secondly, to say that the business owner simply pockets his money is incorrect. The whole point of capitalism is to encourage spending – i.e. fuel the economy – so it is likely that the business owner will reinvest his money, both to encourage the business to grow so he can maintain/increase competitiveness (through R&D, modernisation, expansion of production means, etc), and also to improve his own standard of living (or what Marx called the consumer fetish). His eagerness to spend is called the marginal propensity to consume; his actual spending, along with everybody else in the economy, is called aggregate demand. I dont think that you quite understood what I said. re-investing already means putting it into his pocket! When you re-invest your profit from company A and create company B, that company B does not belong to someone else, it belongs to you, meaning that it is in your pocket. And now about economic growth: you are wrong to suggest that economic growth is measured by profit, because it is not that simple. An economy is essentially measured by productivity – the capacity to produce goods and services – so growth occurs when there is an increase in productivity. This is what we know as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Again I think you are mistaken: productivity itself is about PROFIT! If there is no profit there will be no growth. What is the point of producing (in a capitalist society) if it does not bring profit? to admire the beauty of the final product???In fact you are the first person whom I see suggesting that there can be capitalist growth without profit! because in theory the injection of money into the market should create greater wealth than the nominal value of the loan, Again, not correct. It is not the money which creates value, it is the human labour which creates the value.In other words, if the investment by the business owner I talked about earlier results in increased competitiveness, it means that his factory can increase its output without changing any inputs, thus generating more wealth. Again I disagree, it is not his factory which creates the value, it is the workers inside the factory who do. The factory itself is the product of the workers who created it (its building, infrastructure and its machinery are all products of labour).Machines create no value, HUMANS (workers) do. Higher economic growth – increasing GDP – is easier in undeveloped/developing economies, because productivity is extremely low. This is also partly why innovation is slowly shifting away from developed economies towards developing economies (as identified by kooshy earlier), because production generates innovation, as people look to improve productivity. I'd put it differently: increasing GDP in developing countries is much easier because labour is dirt cheap and there are no environmental restrictions making investment much more PROFITABLE (there goes the direct relationship of profit to growth again!). Firstly, demand is technically infinite in capitalism (remember Marx). Demand is infinite?? So you are telling me that in the world with a population of 6 billion we may have 80 trillion cell-phones?Where does Marx say that exactly? Secondly, what you are describing is a shift in the economy, and not the end of the world. As technology advances, the economy adapts, as described by my mini taxonomy below: I am sorry but I really hate long messages and I have already posted two messages today (one of them very long).So you will have to forgive me for stopping here.It is a very serious problem in capitalism. 60% of the job losses in USA are not due to them flying overseas but rather because of the advancement of the technology.It does not necessarily have to mean an end to Capitalism, but it is very serious factor in creating crisis.

        March 2, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • BARBBF


      US Struggles to Explain Difference Between Bahrain, Libya

      Posted By Jason Ditz On March 20, 2011 @ 5:58 pm

      The Obama Administration’s rush to escalate Libya into a full-scale war, nominally as a reaction to the Gadhafi government’s violence against protesters, has put it in an awkward position. The violence was far from exclusive to Libya, and similar crackdowns are growing all the time in Yemen and particularly Bahrain.

      Which leads to the inevitable question: how can the Obama Administration use Gadhafi’s crackdown on Libyan protesters as an excuse for war, while insisting Bahrain not only has the right to do the same, but has the “sovereign right” to invite Saudi Arabia et al. to join in on the fun?

      It is a question that was raised on a number of stages over the weekend and tackled by a number of top officials, particularly Sen. John Kerry (D – MA), who insisted that Iran and Hezbollah were secretly to blame for the protests.

      The most honest answer, however, came from Admiral Michael Mullen, who insisted that Bahrain “has been a critical ally for decades” but Libya hasn’t, and that in and of itself justified treating it as a totally different matter.

      Bahrain’s opposition, for its part, has been urging the UN and the Obama Administration to put a stop to the crackdown. No one seriously expects this to actually happen, but other than Admiral Mullen’s unusual candor, no one seems willing to explain why.

      * Police Fire on Syrian Protesters as Rallies Grow – March 20th, 2011
      * Ethiopia Threatens to Oust Eritrea Govt – March 20th, 2011
      * Petraeus Suspends Commander, Troops for Killing Afghan Kids – March 20th, 2011
      * Libya Rebels: Over 8,000 Killed in Revolt – March 20th, 2011
      * Yemen President Fires Entire Cabinet – March 20th, 2011

      March 21, 2011 at 9:40 am |
  3. Jay in NC

    Barry should run for King of the UN then next United Federation of Planets.

    March 20, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Jack von Bauer

      Federation of Planets... Excellent suggestion. That's fits in nicely with something...

      Forget birther. I am an EARTHER! I no longer believe Obama was born on THIS planet.

      March 20, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  4. Liz Carter in Georgia

    L O L! And he'd win too! YES HE CAN! L O L! You are more than a notion, Jay!

    March 20, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  5. Liz Carter in Georgia

    @Jack von Bauer; Jay was being sarcastic aka funny, he can be obnoxious and nasty but not 'flawed'! What part of the earth, which is on this planet did you come from? Have you not been reading the blogs, watching the news, and hearing them all say that OBAMA was 'dragging his feet' when it came to jumping into the LIBYAN CONFLICT? Even members OF Congress such as McCAIN, LIEBERMAN, and others! They said he waited too long; now here you come yelling he needed to put it through Congress first! SICK SICK SICK!

    March 21, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Jack von Bauer

      CRAZY CRAZY CRAZY. Your comment.

      You seem to be conflating and confusing my responses to two different posters. Oh, and the olny one "yelling" here is you.

      The POTUS could have and should have gotten authorization from Congress, even post-facto. But he thinks its more important to get UN permission first, and "coalition" of five, while golding and vacationing and getting a Brazilian.

      Compare that to Bush. Bush went to Congress for Iraq and Afghanistan and received authorization. He also gathered a coalition of 42 nations to support him.

      Suck on that lady.

      March 22, 2011 at 6:43 am |
    • Jay in NC

      "obnoxious and nasty but not 'flawed'!" Thank you Liz, will take that as a compliment.

      March 22, 2011 at 7:17 am |
  6. Liz Carter in Georgia

    @Jack von Bauer; Yes, I WAS addressing your responses to 2 different posters, and? Now, your claim that BUSH took his cause for war intentions to CONGRESS before he authorized military actions, did he also get UN approval for the bombing of BAGHDAD, IRAQ? Were people in BAGHDAD being shot down in the streets? What was his mission? Was it in behalf of 'humanitarianism' or their oil; or was it in retaliation to 911? IRAQ hadn't attacked the US! International campaigns must be cleared by the UN, period.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Jack von Bauer

      Yes he did dimwit. And you just revealed yourself as an Obama drtone. Look up the constitution lady, for starters.

      In fact, I am not even saying a POTUS cannot act militarily without reference to Congres. But the fact is BUSH DID, and Obama didn't. They are Presidents of the US – not the UN.

      And your memory is as flawed as your non-argument. Bush had 42 COUNTRIES - that's FORTY-TWO nations in his "coalition" which Powell spent A YEAR organizing, mainly via the UN.

      Are you just deliberatley obtuse, or really that ill-educated.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  7. Liz Carter in Georgia

    @Jack von Bauer; furthermore of the 42 nations you claimed he gathered to support his 'illegal' US Congressional authorized wars, how many of them can you claim actually went with him? If my memory serves me right, there weren't many more nations than the ones who are so far, in LIBYA! I hadn't checked lately, but I know Our 'old standby buddies' such as Great Brittain and France were there! Japan went, but pulled out right away; and France pulled back next! So much for a show of the BUSH WAR support!

    March 22, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Jack von Bauer

      Obama drone. Obama lied Libyans died.


      Obama's ILLEGAL WAR. Impeach Obama – that Denis Kuscinich, by the way. A DEMOCRAT.

      Suck it up Liz. Obama is a lawless President.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  8. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Your big beef is OBAMA is in BRAZIL! He might be having too good of a time while giving his PRESIDENTIAL orders! He just did. He doesn't have to be sitting behind a desk in the OVAL OFFICE in DC to give a directive! I'm sure Bush called in directives from CRAWFORD and CAMP DAVID. A US PRESIDENT is never 'just on vacation'; he has to take his office, computer, blackberry, and many of his staff with him! We've been told that for years, when media was speaking of previous presidents being 'out of the office!

    March 22, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  9. Jack von Bauer

    Bush Bush Bush Bla blah blah. Obama's President lady, Noit Bush. Suck it up lady.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  10. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Jay, feel free to! In a strange but honest way, that's how I meant it! You're welcome!

    March 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  11. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Jack, by the way if you all are trying to brew up a conspiracy, to even think of the possibility of 'impeaching' PRES OBAMA for his actions in LIBYA, be careful what you brew, it may just turn into BUSH STEW, before it's over! I'm still sure that OBAMA executed military execution correctly. The devious CONGRESS and everybody else was aware of what he was waiting on! They were all complaining about him taking so long; 'OMG, people are dying'! Ooops, until he went ahead and gave the UN satisfied directive!

    March 22, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      Like it or not Barry does not work for the UN he works for us and is bound by our laws, The Constitution. Barry did not get authorization from the USA Congress, he has committed an impeachable offence.

      March 22, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  12. Liz Carter in Georgia

    You OBAMA haters have been looking to find something to impeach this PRESIDENT ever since he's been in office. If BUSH wasn't impeached, OBAMA shouldn't be impeached. We are also bound to INTERNATIONAL LAW, if the problem is an International problem; one that's manifesting or occurring outside of the UNITED STATES. BUSH didn't get that authorization! According to many Congressional leaders, including McCAIN, LIEBERMAN, and YOU, he should've already authorized it weeks ago! Jay, 'killing African children'?

    March 22, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
  13. Liz Carter in Georgia

    The UNITED STATES is one a member of the UNITED NATIONS; one of the most powerful, and of course, persuasive members. Why wouldn't we be subjected to the same regulations that we go after other nations and their leaders for defying? That is exactly why we went after and killed Hussein and the very reason we are in LIBYA to stop Gadhafi! OBAMA is bound to the CONSTITUTION when it comes to regulating issues within THE UNITED STATES. CONGRESS was aware of the potential, and was thru the media asking WHEN?

    March 22, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  14. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Furthermore, according to DC REP ELEANOR HOLMES, yesterday on CNN, CONGRESS was gone home on vacation for a week! Wouldn't be back until next week I guess! So what should he have done? Waited to each one of them got back; took each one by the hand and told each one PERSONALLY what his plans were, since CLINTON and RICE got the UN in authorization; and then beg them to 'let's go'! There would be many more AFRICAN children dead by the time the 'stonewallers' got through bouncing it back and forth! MY GOD!

    March 22, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      Liz, I am the one that brought up the issue of African children. I said that Barry killed African children when he sent tomahawk missiles into Libya. Their blood is on his hands. It will not wash off. Every time we see him we will see a man that killed his brothers children.

      Your argument for why Barry did not need congress approval is, well, asinine. You are actually arguing that the President, and I guess anyone else, can break a US law as long as the action is directed in another country. Sorry but the Constitution does not give him or any of us that leeway. He could call a special session if he needed it, no excuse because the law makers were not in town.

      The constitution is clear on this issue. The UN can not overrule US law. The president has made an impeachable offence. He must be brought to justice.

      March 22, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  15. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Jay, you started saying the AFRICAN childrens' blood was on his hands for waiting for UN authorization; even said he was a UN BOY! That all of those people were dying while he waited; saying what about those peoples lives? You were saying he was responsible! He needed to do something then or their blood was on his hands! You were saying that before he even authorized US military action! Then on the day of his authorization, you claimed their blood was on his hands for trying to HALT the bloodshed! Twisted!

    March 23, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      No Liz, That is not true. Here is my original post on March 19, 2011 at 9:34 pm

      Jay in NC
      Barry failed at diplomacy. Now he is using death and destruction to 'fix' the world problems. The blood of African children is on his hands.

      March 23, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      Here is the link for the post.

      I also said on March 19, 2011 at 9:30 pm
      Jay in NC
      Barry is not the leader of the free word he is the lap dog of the UN. The blood of African children is on his hands.

      and here is the link https://whitehouse.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/19/no-questions-at-obama-rousseff-news-conference/

      you can search google for your self and see. Just enter this into the google search box.
      site:whitehouse.blogs.cnn.com Jay in NC African children

      If you are going to quote me please take the time to get it right.

      March 23, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  16. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Jay, I KNOW you are the one who brought the 'AFRICAN children'! That's what I've been saying in many of my exchanges to you! My point is, you brought this up blaming him for their bloodshed before MAR 19! Look back at your posts. As soon as you heard the assinine crack about a possibility that OBAMA could or should be impeached, of course, you were the first one to jump aboard that train and become the engineer! Oh yeah! I was the one who told you the CONGRESS was out; you didn't have to tell me back.

    March 23, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      No Liz, I commented after the missiles were sent into Libya. Take a look at my two response above this one. Also who in the world was talking about Impeachment before he ordered the attack? The illegal attack is the reason for the impeachment.

      Again search cnn.com search google and you will see that I made my comments after the attack, not before.

      March 23, 2011 at 2:50 pm |