WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republicans looking to succeed President Barack Obama all say he’s bungling Libya.

What most haven’t spelled out: how they would address the latest international crisis if they were in the White House.

“You have a spectator in chief, not a commander in chief,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich groused Thursday in Greenville, S.C., trying to make clear his position on the subject after a series of conflicting statements.

Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi called Obama’s response to the situation “dithering.” Ex-Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts said Obama has been “tentative, indecisive, timid and nuanced.” Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota said Obama erred by not forcing a no-fly zone more quickly.

Since the Middle East uprisings began and spread across North Africa to Libya, the crop of presidential hopefuls have been quick to cast Obama as unfit to lead a foreign crisis and themselves as logical alternatives — all without providing details of how they would govern. Their latest round of attacks came as U.S. forces have enforced no-fly zone over the North African nation to protect rebels trying to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi — just as the Republicans demanded.

The candidates’ hesitancy to weigh in with alternative solutions is somewhat understandable. They aren’t receiving the same national security briefings as Obama on which to base decisions, and the crisis is still unfolding. It’s also still early; the slow-to-form Republican field will have the better part of the next year to detail foreign policy visions and display international affairs credentials.

But as they embark on what’s effectively a national job interview in which they’re introducing themselves to GOP primary voters and the nation, the candidates must convince the public that they are ready to lead a nation juggling a host of international headaches, many with far-reaching, long-lasting consequences. Failing to provide details on how they would govern could undercut their efforts to cast themselves as credible challengers to an incumbent wartime president.

“What the Republicans should not do is flip-flop on whether the purpose of the action was just,” said Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington. “If they called for a no-fly zone before President Obama imposed it, they will look ridiculous to oppose it a week later. Leadership is a fair campaign issue; cynically using the military as a political football when Americans remain in harm’s way should be beneath any serious Republican or Democratic candidate.”

He added: “I don’t think any Republican candidate is going to step up to the plate and give precise military advice, but you might have them make arguments for better enunciated war aims.”

Republicans traditionally enjoy an advantage on national security issues; a January AP-GfK poll found 48 percent of adults trusted Republicans as a better protector for the country to the 39 percent who favored Democrats.

The lack of specifics on foreign matters has dogged other first-time presidential candidates.

During the 2008 presidential primary, Democratic opponents hammered Obama for being inexperienced on international issues. The fresh-faced freshman senator from Illinois eventually developed binders of comprehensive policy and doled them out in speeches in the early nominating states to prove he had a foreign policy agenda.

So far, the GOP candidates have largely all followed the lead of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who has criticized the president as authorizing the military actions without a clear goal and without enough consultation with Congress. The candidates also say Obama is too slow and too reliant on international approval from the Arab League, the United Nations and NATO.

A look at what they’ve said:

–Gingrich, the former House Speaker from Georgia, has faced criticism for his comments on the crisis. He demanded a no-fly zone after Obama said Gadhafi needed to be ousted. Then, Gingrich viewed the focus shifting to a humanitarian mission; Gingrich said he didn’t support U.S. involvement for that objective. He also said in one interview that air strikes would oust Gadhafi and then said jets would not be able to end his rule now that fighting had gone into the cities.

–Romney, who came up short in his 2008 White House bid and is to enter the 2012 race next month, has said he supports the mission in Libya. He’s just not a fan of the president who started it or his approach to international affairs.

“Thus far, the president has been unable to construct a foreign policy, any foreign policy,” Romney told Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. “I think it’s fair to ask, you know, what is it that explains the absence of any discernible foreign policy from the president of the United States?” He didn’t detail what the Libya policy would be under a Romney administration.

–Pawlenty, who entered the presidential race this week, offered a detailed critique of what could have been done differently to guarantee a Gadhafi ouster.

“The rebels at that time were on the verge of overthrowing Gadhafi. They had the momentum. They were in position to do it,” Pawlenty told Fox News Channel. He said Obama left the rebels without backup and Gadhafi ready to squelch them. But he didn’t say what he would do differently now; aides pointed to the transcript when given the chance to respond.

–Barbour told a Jackson, Miss., radio station: “we haven’t provided leadership in this administration. In fact, the Obama administration’s position has been to say, ‘You know, we’re just one of the boys. We’re not going to try to be the leader.”‘ He ignored the fact that the United States has led the airstrikes over Libya under the auspices of a United Nations resolution authorizing force in the interest of preventing a humanitarian crisis. And he offered no opinion on an appropriate U.S. response.

–Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee and former Alaska governor, said: “We’ve received different messages from our president and from his advisers as to what it is that we are doing there and what the mission is.”
She offered a response about how a President Palin would have handled the situation. But it was vague: if she were president, “certainly there would have been more decisiveness.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (29)
  1. Victim Du Jour says:

    They can bug Obama people by calling the Military Force in Libya

    “Operation Nobel Peace Prize”

  2. R says:

    We have been in enough wars and have lost and injured too many of our soldiers.
    Time to back away and let someone else do something if – it is necessary.
    Our president is doing exactly that, and that is what he has stated.
    His message was very clear. Clear the skies, and let the UN take further action.
    He couldn’t have been clearer.

  3. George says:

    Pawlenty move to Iowa, We don’t want you back in Minnesota. Your a double talking XXXX Gov. If you on the ticket I will vote for Obama

  4. Mike says:

    It is laughable when a poll comes out announcing Republicans are better at foriegn policy or are the party of choice for National Security. The USA suffered the worst modern day, foreign terrorism attack and lost a hundred years of internationally developed foreign relationships under Republican leadership!
    Republicans have taken very bold and misleading steps to selling their domestic agenda, but eventually the American public will understand their intent is dismal at best and is done for self serving implications that will only cost taxpayers more with no return on their investment.

  5. Wilbur says:

    Did these same republicans criticize Reagan for going into Grenada or Nicaragua?

  6. Don says:

    Republicans will bellyache whatever is done. We are glad for our president Obama and wish him a second term.

    1. Josh says:

      It’s true. They have nothing substantial to offer this country except opposing everything Obama does.

  7. The Crux of the Biscuit says:

    Is not criticizing the President in time of war an act of sedition? After all, is it not the purpose of the Pawlenty speech to rally people agaist, and undertake an insurection against the current government leaders? It was when W was President as I recall. No one DARED second guess that bafoon when he took the country into not one but two illegal wars, ONLY CONGRESS can decalre war and these wars were never DECLARED, the Constitution of the United States says so, all you tea bagging morons out there..

  8. The Crux of the Biscuit says:

    Does anyone else finf it to be just a bit too funny how the Republicans always tell everyone only they can run the Government the correct way, but yet they also are the first to tell us that the Government can’t do anything correctly, or ‘efficiently’? It seems the Government is at it’s worst when run by people bent on it’s own destruction. How many here think it would be ‘cheaper’ to turn the Navy over to private companies and their 20 percent plus profit margin requirements and excessive executive bonuses?

    1. Walker says:

      It is far easier to bury your head in the sand and hope the problem will go away than to do something about it. It is far easier to criticize than do. That is the problem with the conservatives.

  9. The Crux of the Biscuit says:

    Let me put this another way. How many here would take your car to a mechanic that tells you, “the car you have is the worst piece of junk imaginable and if you let me work on it, I can prove it to you.”? Thats the Republicans!

    1. Walker says:

      Good one Crux. I might have to steal that one later.

  10. TheCraziesAreLoose says:

    Haley Barbour? Ha!! – too much KKK
    Mitt Romney? Ha, ha!! – nowhere near as crazy as he needs to be.
    TimmyP? Ha, ha, ha!! – too unctuous even for the nuts.
    Newt? – that blowsy old retread?
    Which leaves – run Sarah, run!
    Run, run, run!!
    Please, please, please!!
    Obama would take all 50 states.

    1. anon says:

      Palin and Bachmann!!! the dream ticket!! then Obama would definitely win all 50 states.

  11. Tyler says:

    Talk about a left biased article.

    1. Wilbur says:

      Your ability to read is sorely lacking. It was all quotes from what the candidates said.. They said it. Sorry if I missed any sarcasm in your comment

  12. Hayward says:

    I forgot the A.P. works for B.O.
    The media is giving Obama a pass over Libya. Obama had plainly stipulated that the presidient lacked the constititional authority to lanch an attack without prior congressional approval. Vice President Biden, along with many other democrat leaders, call it an impeachable offense B. O. started thiis by enforcing a no fly zone. He then started attacking ground targets. He moved to strip bombing villages and killiing chiildren. He is now backing Al Qaeda ground forces. President Bush at least obtained a congressional resolution authorizing the use of force and held press conferences (which consisted of loaded questions).

    1. Quentin says:

      While there are conservative blog saying Al-Qaeda is in there fighting, there are no others. There are reports of them offering help. Would it not be in US interests to help the rebels so they don’t align with Al-Qaeda?

  13. Gizzards and stuffing and the GOP says:

    Hayward – you can’t see your nose on your face as your vision and brain is so clouded.
    Any chance you a Bachmann? Not that I care …. as I don’t think one should be blamed for the family they came from. Heck – I still think Charley Manson came from good stock too. lol

  14. Jon says:

    Biggest group of Flip/Floppers I’ve ever seen in my life time in any party!

  15. Chris K says:

    How about focus on the US? Keep our nose out of other country’s business.

  16. Bob says:

    Gee the 2012 Republician hopefuls are critizing Obama’s Libya policy?

    I’m shocked! LOL

  17. Incredulous1 says:

    Amazing how un-American and unpatriotic these candidates are. Last time I checked we’re still embroiled in the fight of a lifetime – the War on Terrorism. What kind of message are Pawlenty, Gingrich, and Bachmann sending the Terrorists by attacking our commander-in-chief?

    Or is that just Bush/Cheney/Rove garbage?

  18. theonlyg.o.p.choiceRonPaul says:

    Yet again,notice how every GOP possible candidate is mentioned EXCEPT FOR THE ONLY ONE WHO SPOKE CLEAR ABOUT WHAT HIS POLICY WOULD BE REGARDING LIBYA…RON PAUL!!! Is it possible that this news organizatiojn purposely leaves Paul out of all these articles because they are

  19. theonlyg.o.p.choiceRonPaul says:

    anti-constitutionalists behind the scenes?

  20. theonlyg.o.p.choiceRonPaul says:

    shame on CBS! shame on WCCO! You leave out the only REAL traditional G.O.P. candidate! A true conservative!

  21. Jaded says:

    It’s no secret anymore that the media has a blackout on Ron Paul… find out why.

    And also, all you “lefties” need to understand that the “left vs. right” paradigm is only meant to deter you from the truth. It doesnt matter what badge the president wears, they’re bought and paid for and will go to war when told. The 2 party system has been sold out. It was in Obama’s best interest to not get inovled in Libya, yet there we are… So open your eyes and stop thinking it’s Dems vs. Repubs. Incredulous has it right, “they” used be all for the terror war and now they flip flop. After being jaded by both parties I’ve finally realized they work together behind the scenes and we need a Ron Paul revolution, and not the Rove tea party one.

  22. Get Real.... says:

    For all those wannabes calling themselves the next Ronald Reagan,,, What would RR say on going after Gadhafi? *Let’s make it his last day(s).” “Just finishing what I tried to do in the 1980’s?”

    Or do they think we should have done it alone like we did in Iraq?

    What a bunch of hipocrites!!! All of them….

  23. Murph says:

    Republicans ? .. just tune them out! They are just so over the edge with the fantasy of being in the White house in 2012.Wisconsin will lose over a dozen GOP legislators with recalls soon.Within a year,the GOP governor will be gone as well.Unfortunately the Wisconsin constitution gives him a year in office before he can be booted! Not so for the legislators,they will be history much sooner than later.The GOP is running right into the rout of the century.Unfortunately for them,they are too stupid to know the degree of hatred the MAJORITY of voters have for them! Pawlenty is a convict already according to the district court and MN supreme court who heard his appeal.So how does he get vetted as POTUS?…answer ,he won’t!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Watch & Listen LIVE