By Alicia M. Cohn - 10/21/11 12:36 PM EDT
“I'd like to give the administration credit,” McCain said on Fox News, qualifying his comment by saying that NATO allies deserved more credit for the successful mission.
“I want to thank the British and the French for their leadership,” he said.
McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been hawkish on Libya since before the U.S. intervention began, and has said the U.S. should have retained the lead on the mission rather than turning it over to NATO.
“If they’d used the full weight of U.S. airpower, this would have been over a lot earlier,” he said.
McCain illustrated a stark difference of opinion between many Republicans and Democrats on whose leadership prompted the overthrow of Gadhafi, who was reported killed on Thursday morning.
“The architect of how to liberate Libya was clearly the United States,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told progressive radio host Bill Press on Friday morning.
“There’s a perception that the U.S. is weaker and is not leading,” McCain told Fox of President Obama’s foreign policy. He dismissed the notion of “leading from behind,” a phrase used by an Obama adviser in the past to describe the commander in chief's approach.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also said Thursday following reports of Gadhafi’s death that “the French and the British led on this fight and probably even led on the strike that led to his capture or to his death.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney refused to weigh in on who deserved the credit Thursday, saying history would be the judge.
“This was a day not to engage in politics but to commend the Libyan people on what they’ve accomplished, and to commend our Armed Forces and the Libyan people for the progress they’ve made,” Carney said.
The White House has said they will wait to hear the next steps plotted by the Libyan Transitional National Council before discussing timelines for Libya’s future. However, McCain said there are several things the U.S. can immediately do to support the Libyan transition, including sending a hospital ship and flying some of the many wounded Libyans to a U.S. hospital in Germany.
He also said the U.S. should ensure that some of the militias on the ground are folded into a new national army.