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Hannity

Did Obama Make a Mistake By Not Seeking Congress's Authorization on Libya?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," March 22, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: As the allied attacks rage on, some are beginning to ask just who are the Libyan rebels that America is supporting in this war? And the answer is frightening. A series of reports indicates that the anti-Qaddafi rebels have direct ties to Al Qaeda.

Now, Andy McCarthy at National Review online cites a French report that has Libyan rebels shouting, quote, "Now, the time of Jihad has arrived." Rolling Stone cites a West Point analysis of Al Qaeda records which indicate that Libya's rebel groups may have facilitated the murder of American soldiers in Iraq. Quote, "nearly 20 percent of foreign fighters in Iraq were Libyans on a per capital basis, Libya nearly doubled Saudi Arabia as the top source of foreign fighters."

So I think it's pretty safe to say these are not the people America should be supporting abroad. And on the home front, the president is facing a growing outcry for not seeking permission from Congress before authorizing these attacks. Now, in 2007, he told the Boston globe, quote, "The president does not have the power under the constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

And that is a far cry from what the president said at our press conference yesterday. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The core principle that has to be upheld here is that when the entire international community, almost unanimously, says that there is a potential humanitarian crisis about to take place, that a leader who has lost his legitimacy decides to turn his military on his own people, then we can't simply stand by with empty words, that we have to take some sort of action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: All right. So I guess when the international community is onboard, Congressional approval is not required. Joining me now with analysis, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. By the way, you can check out his website, his new website, at NewtExplore2012.com, and yes, I will be asking question about that coming up.

All right. Mr. Speaker, these are serious significant times we are living in here. When -- I don't know what to make of this. Is this now the Obama doctrine? That if there is a potential humanitarian crisis about to take place and the international community is onboard, that we can't standby with empty words, we have to take some action. Does that apply to Mugabe, Sudan, taking him out? Does that apply to, you know, Syria, Lebanon? You know, where do we take this? Is it Bahrain? Saudi Arabia? What does that mean?

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, I don't think there is an Obama doctrine. I think there are a series of Obama excuses. I disagree profoundly with what he said yesterday. First of all, there is no international community that has any authority. So, the idea that the president of the United States isn't responsible to Congress and the American people, but he's responsible to some vague organization called the international community, is profoundly wrong.

Second, Qaddafi never had legitimacy. Qaddafi is a dictator, he's been a dictator since 1969. This idea that dictators lose legitimacy. Mugabe has no legitimacy. Castro has no legitimacy. We have to understand that dictators don't have legitimacy. They may have power. But they don't have legitimacy.

Third, if humanitarian is the standard, you pointed out correctly, then Sudan's does instruction in Darfur has to rank as one of the great disasters. There are several places in West Africa that are disasters. Mugabe in Zimbabwe is a disaster. Kim Jong-il in North Korea is a disaster. I mean, President Obama, the president has going to have to answer questions because his current policy is so incoherent and so confused that it is literally indefensible.

HANNITY: Well, you had four very specific questions that you want answers to. Then one of them was, what is the Obama standard now for deciding to intervene? You know, how do we define success? You say, you know, what are we prepared to do to achieve that success? And how is the president going to pay for it? I might also add, what is an exit strategy?

GINGRICH: Look, let me just say, first of all, that you have, I think two very different moments. Prior to March 3rd, the United States should have taken a quiet, careful, indirect route that would have gotten rid of Qaddafi but without using American force and without using overt American action. There are ways you can do that.

After March 3rd, when President Obama himself said, this is his own words, "Qaddafi must go." Well, if the president of the United States says that, and he said it by the way long before the international community said anything, and he said it without this support of the international community. And they have now changed his mission, from getting rid of Qaddafi to some kind of humanitarian intervention which makes no sense.

The only rational purpose for the United States to be engaged right now because of the president's own words are to get rid of Qaddafi and replace his government. But for us to try go in on some kind of a sees fire, in a tribal war. George Will has written two remarkable columns in which he has outlined the kind of questions we should be asking and has been raising the kind of troubling facts about the nature of Libya that people should be aware of. There is no Libya nation. Secretary Clinton was describing the Libyan nation. There is no Libyan nation. It is a collection of tribes. It is a society which is pre-national in its organizational structure. And we ought to be much more realistic about what we are dealing with.

HANNITY: You know, this is where I think the country has a media crisis. You know, it's sort of like the suck-up to Obama, I want another interview media is what I call it when you think about it. Because this is what he said. He said, it is not acceptable for Qaddafi to stay in power. He said, he needs to go. Then all weekend long, he sent out members of his own administration, military leaders contradicting that. Then today, now we went back to he has to go. And fundamentally, I'm having a hard time understanding. First of all, I don't think the president wanted to do this. And how to you confuse the issue in four days to this extent?

GINGRICH: Well, an effective American administration ought to speak with one voice. It ought to have one policy. They actually should agree on the policy before the first press conference. They shouldn't hold a press conference and then start planning.

But beyond that, if we are going to be in a coalition, the coalition should have one leadership. The very fact that from day one, the French have been doing one set of things and we've been doing something fundamentally different, should trouble every American. It violates everything we learned after World War I about how to have an effective coalition. And we spent a long time building a great capability and coalition warfare and we are now throwing it away and allowing that whole capability to collapse by having each country runoff and do whatever it wants to. This is as badly executed, I think as any policy we've seen since World War II. And it will become a case study for how not to engage in this kind of activity.

HANNITY: All right. When we come back, I want to ask you about, should he have sought the approval of Congress? We'll also talk about these reports that the rebels we are supporting may in fact be members of Al Qaeda, it is now all over the media, we'll get to that and we will have more with Speaker Gingrich coming up in just a moment. Also, is he running for president?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: And we continue our coverage on the allied attacks on Muammar Qaddafi's regime in Libya. And for more on that, we are joined once again by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Speaker, Time Magazine, administration knows no-fly zone may help Al Qaeda, quote, an aide has quoted saying, "It is a huge gamble, the administration knows that Al Qaeda which has active cells in Libya will try to exploit the power vacuum that exists. Hillary's own state department recognizes the Libyan rebels have an Al Qaeda affiliate." In other words, the Libyan Islamic fighting group is considered an Al Qaeda affiliate. Rolling Stone, "U.S. bombs helping jihadists," question marks. Andy McCarthy -- Sky News, AP, the U.K. Telegraph. Is there a chance they didn't know or that they didn't think about who we may ultimately be helping in this?

GINGRICH: Well, I think it is very likely that they didn't know and didn't think through who they were helping. I think that the lack of sophisticated planning, the lack of professionalism. We really miss General Jones as the National Security adviser because he brought a level of pure professionalism to the White House that is now I think totally gone in National Security matters. And the fact is that you really need a much larger strategic view than we have right now. And I think that's probably a topic for a different day.

Whether you are talking about Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, we need a much deeper and much more serious view than we've had. And I'm in the process of asking the Congress, both the House and Senate to really organize a unique working group to look at 10 years after 9/11 and try to assess whether in fact, we are in worse shape in a deeper trouble with more enemies than we had 10 years ago. Because I'm afraid that's the case.

HANNITY: Let me talk to you about, and get your thoughts on what we call mission creep here. Because again, the word, Qaddafi has to go. All weekend long we heard, no, we are not going after Qaddafi. Now, this has evolved into a Washington Examiner report that says, Mr. Speaker, that Obama spoke to the prime minister, "We will install democracy in Libya." He finally notified congress three days later. And Dennis Kucinich is introducing a bill to defund it. And Ralph Nader wants him impeached.

So, did he make a mistake by not seeking Congress's authorization? And did you view that as a violation of the War Powers Act?

GINGRICH: Well, no, the war powers act technically gives him 45 days. But it is a violation of common sense. Here's the problem I think they're into. I don't think they knew what they were doing. So I don't think they were in a position to advise the Congress and seek counsel. In the years when I was the Republican whip under President George H. W. Bush, and then the first years of the Clinton administration and the years I was speaker, I went through lots and lots of briefings with the executive branch, both of the Republican president and with the Democratic president, looking at Somalia, looking at the Balkans, looking at Iraq.

And I think it is very important for any president to recognize you need to have the congressional leadership in the room. You need to listen to them. You need to give them honest briefings. You need to have your senior team go up and brief them.

But remember, all the evidence we have right now is the secretary of defense was opposed to doing this. The secretary of state was in favor of doing it. So, how do you send them up to a meeting?

I think this has been so badly organized and so badly planned that they have now burned a lot of bridges in Congress. And I think that they can't with a straight face, claim to have seriously consulted the Congress. And that's a huge mistake. Presidents have to have some kind of support from the Congress if they are going to sustain a national security or foreign policy.

HANNITY: Well, FoxNews is reporting late tonight, just as we are coming on the air, that the command will likely transition to French or British control by this time next week. And would be based in Naples, Italy. And so, in other words, it seems like the president reluctantly went in with a conflicting message and looking to hightail it out as quick as he can. I don't know what's worse.

GINGRICH: But what does that mean? Does that mean we are still going to supply tankers, so their aircraft can reach Libya?

HANNITY: I don't know what it means.

GINGRICH: Does it mean we are going to provide aircraft overhead in order to watch the missiles?

HANNITY: I don't suck up to Obama, he won't give me an interview. I wish I knew.

GINGRICH: Yes. Well, I'm not sure he knows what it means.

HANNITY: I agree.

GINGRICH: But my point is, it is very hard for a president and his senior team if they don't know what they are planning to do, to share that information with either the news media or the Congress. So, sometimes it is not because they are stalling you, they don't really know themselves right now. And I suspect, you would find that there's chaos on the planning side right now, in the military operations.

HANNITY: Let me ask you this, because I know you are not going to give me an answer if you are running, but you do have this website NewtExplore2012.com. And you said you are going to make a decision probably within weeks.

So, my question is this, do these events in Libya, the events in Japan, the president brackets, Rio, golfing, distraction, at a time of economic crisis. Does this inspire you more to run? Does this increase your resolve or have no affect at all?

GINGRICH: Well, I think that the lack of leadership, the lack of consistency, the lack of professionalism, combined with real confusion, things like relying on the international community instead of the United States Congress. All those things make it, seem to be more important to have somebody who believes in American exceptionalism, somebody who believes in the Constitution, and somebody who understands the realities of foreign and national security issues in the White House. And so, from that standpoint, I think the obligation as a citizen to seriously consider it gets higher we you look at the current damage being done by this administration on so many different fronts.

HANNITY: Yes. Mr. Speaker, serious times. And we need strong leadership, there is no doubt about it. And as Sarah Palin said, November 2012 can't come soon enough. Mr. Speaker, thanks for being with us.

GINGRICH: Thank you.

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