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“It was helpful that the American people were able to hear from their commander in chief tonight,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “Unfortunately, Americans waited a long time to get few new answers. Whether it’s the American resources that will be required, our standards and objectives for engaging the rebel opposition, or how this action is consistent with U.S. policy goals, the speech failed to provide Americans much clarity to our involvement in Libya.
“Nine days into this military intervention, Americans still have no answer to the fundamental question: what does success in Libya look like?” Steel added.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was particularly critical of Obama in a floor speech before the president’s remarks.
“The president has failed to explain up to this point what follows the evident establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya, as it was originally described,” the Kentucky Republican said. “Further, the president has articulated a wider political objective of regime change in Libya that is not the stated objective of our military intervention, nor is it the mandate of the U.N. resolution that the president has used as a justification for our military efforts there.”
In a webcast response to the speech, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) charged that the White House “has ignored our Constitution and engaged us in a military conflict without Congressional debate and approval.”
“While the president is the commander of our armed forces, he is not a king,” the Kentucky Republican said. “He may involve those forces in military conflict only when authorized by Congress or in response to an imminent threat. Neither was the case here.”
Paul, whose name has been mentioned as a potential 2012 presidential contender, argued that it is unclear whether the United States should side with the rebels, alleging that al-Qaida may be involved.
“We simply do not know enough about the potential outcomes or leaders to know if this will end up in the interests of the United States, or if we are in fact helping to install a radical Islamic government in the place of a secular dictatorship,” Paul said.
But not all Republicans were critical. Sen. John McCain, who has pushed for a military intervention for weeks, hailed the administration. “I welcome the President’s strong defense of our military action in Libya, and I appreciate that he explained why this intervention was both right and necessary in light of the unprecedented democratic awakening now sweeping the broader Middle East,” the Arizona Republican said in a statement.