President Barack Obama’s speech Monday night about the U.S. military intervention in Libya did little to quell criticism from liberal Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who has been a leading critic of the mission and is pushing to defund the effort, reiterated his opposition in an interview on MSNBC.
Saying the speech sounded “eerily similar” to President George W. Bush, Kucinich criticized the White House for not going “to the House of Representatives for permission to go to war.”
When asked whether Obama had swayed him at all, the Ohio Democrat said, “No, I heard an Obama doctrine that war is an executive privilege.”
Rep. Anthony Weiner defended Obama in the same interview, although the New York Democrat said he was also troubled by a lack of consultation with Congress. The United States led an international coalition in the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya, where the regime of Moammar Gaddafi was violently cracking down on civilians as he sought to quell political protests. The mission began March 19, and command over it is being transitioned to NATO.
“What’s the point of being a powerful country with high ideals if we never lift a finger to do anything” in defense of those ideals? Weiner asked. “I think the president struck that right tone” in his speech, he added.
Weiner also criticized Democrats such as Kucinich who have begun working with conservatives against the mission. “I don’t think we should be giving aid to those who are oppositionists to the president at every turn,” he said.
Some Democratic leaders on the Hill rallied around the White House’s position.
“I support the president’s decision not to commit ground troops to this mission, [and] I share the president’s determination to see this tyrant removed from power,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement.
Likewise, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) strongly defended Obama’s decision, saying in a statement, “I support this lifesaving effort, which has been authorized by the United Nations and backed by our European allies and the Arab League.”
But others, such as Sen. Barbara Boxer, were largely noncommittal. “Obama reminded the country tonight of why it was critical for the international community to take action to prevent the mass slaughter of innocent men, women and children by Moammar Gaddafi’s forces,” the California Democrat said in a statement, but she did not explicitly endorse the administration’s efforts or expanded military action in the country.
The speech received a cool response from Republicans on Capitol Hill, who questioned Obama’s decision process as well as whether the United States should back Libyan rebels.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.