McCain slams Obama's messaging on Libya, yet supports military effort

Eroding support in Congress for the war in Libya is due, in part, to the “confusing” and “puzzling” messages coming out of the White House, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on the Senate floor on Thursday. 

McCain nonetheless urged his colleagues to support a resolution he will offer with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) supporting the U.S. role in the conflict because, he said, the NATO air campaign is on the verge of victory.

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“The administration made an announcement that will strike most of my colleagues as a confusing breach of common sense,” said McCain, referring to a 32-page report released by the White House that argues the Libya mission does not need congressional authorization because it doesn’t amount to “hostilities.”

McCain called that finding a “puzzling assertion,” considering that the U.S. is currently flying strike missions to suppress enemy air defenses and operating armed predator drones against Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

McCain also blasted Obama for seeking the counsel of foreign organizations without first seeking authorization from the Congress. 

“The administration sought the blessings of the United Nations, the Arab League and NATO before using force in Libya but still has not sought a similar authorization or statement approval from the representatives of the American people,” McCain said. 

According to McCain, Obama’s confused messaging has caused alienation in the Congress and is, in part, responsible for the resolution passed in the House earlier in the month that scolds the administration for failing to seek congressional authority under the War Powers Resolution.

“The result of all this, I hate to say, is plain in the actions of our colleagues on the other side of the Capitol in the House,” he said. “The accumulated consequences of all this delay, confusion and obfuscation has been a wholesale revolt in Congress against the administration's policy.”

McCain did not mention the rising opposition within his own chamber. Last week, Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a bipartisan measure that would admonish Obama for failing to offer a sufficient argument for the use of armed forces in Libya.

Regardless of the president’s lack of communication, however, McCain urged his colleagues to support a resolution he hopes to bring to the floor “in the very near future” with Kerry that would authorize the president to continue the fight. 

“The goal for all of us here in this body should not be to cut and run from Libya, but to ensure that we succeed,” said McCain, who added that victory was close. 

Following McCain’s speech, Corker came to the floor and called on his colleagues to take action.

“It's incredible that we have not acted as a Congress,” Corker said.

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