Should U.S. Continue in Libya?

Panel weigh in on nation's involvement


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 23, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We do believe time is working against Qaddafi, that he cannot reestablish control over the country. The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible interim council that is committed to Democratic principles. Their military forces are improving. And when Qaddafi inevitably leaves, a new Libya stands ready to move forward.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Secretary Clinton in London talking about Libya and the expectations there. Before the break we asked you should the U.S. increase military and financial aid to Libyan rebels. Only five percent of you said yes, 95 percent said no in this nonscientific online poll.

We're back with the panel. Jonah, the president sent this letter last Friday to Congress saying at time of the deadline, the authorization that he's set off War Powers Act, but downplayed it, saying it's not necessary for Congress to have a vote, saying, quote, "Since April 4, U.S. participation has consisted of non-kinetic support to the NATO-led operation." What is happening in Libya?

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Which according to your earlier report includes drones. Which are basically bombs with wings and computer brains.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Seems pretty kinetic to me.

GOLDBERG: Yeah, awfully kinetic. I mean if my house is blown up by a drone I wouldn't think it was metaphorical.

I think it's a very strange thing. I think we basically have this very strange shot clap going on. Where nobody wants to get too out in front criticizing Obama, first of all because Republicans hated War Powers resolution and think it's a bad policy. And also, they don't want to criticize the engagement too much because, first of all, Qaddafi could go any day now. And you don't want to seem like you were criticizing something that all of a sudden seemed like a success. But ya know again, I always say, 'what if this was Bush? ' is the lowest form of punditry, but it doesn't mean it's not right. If this had been Bush, the idea that we would just sort of ignore in a cavalier way, the War Powers Act would be considered, ya know, a huge scandal.

BAIER: Or how about ignore a war?


BAIER: Mara? I mean it's not getting a ton of focus.

LIASSON: Yeah, it's really interesting. Many Republicans wanted him to be more vigorous in Libya, there is a split. Because this weekend, Jon Huntsman said he didn't think that we should be doing this at all, which I thought was really interesting. I mean so there is a real kind of Ron Paul isolationist wing in the Republican Party. Maybe Jon Huntsman thinks he can make some hay there. But yes --


BAIER: But there were others, not isolationists who said Libya is not right to do.

LIASSON: That's right, Libya, is not in our national interest. But the fact that this is -- we are acting as if it's not happening at all is pretty extraordinary.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: This is all about the War Powers Act, which all presidents, Republican and Democratic, have ignored and disdained -- well, not ignored, but disdained and think is not applicable, is not binding, and they've all ignored it or danced around it.

And what Obama is doing here, because it says that in 60 days Congress has to approve what is happening or the troops have to come home. Well actually, technically speaking, there are no American troops in Libya. There are a couple of CIA guys I suppose, but that's not troop involvement. But what Obama wanted to do was to say he offered them sort of a soft way around this. He says it isn't kinetic. But I would welcome a resolution in the Congress which would support me so it's a way to get around it.

But this is nothing new. What I think is interesting as you said, is the war is being ignored. We are involved in the war. We are killing people with drones. And by our policy we've essentially set up a stalemate. I think it's probably true that in the long run as the Secretary of State has said, Qaddafi will probably fall. But the long run could be a long way away. In the meantime, the country is bleeding and a lot of people are dying. So it's not the optimal policy, I think.

BAIER: I mean they say it's not kinetic but it is pricy, $750 million so far.

GOLDBERG: And it's not the "Kinetic Powers Act." It's the War Powers Act. We are committing many acts of war against Libya.

BAIER: Then you have Jonah, the other disconnect, perhaps, the action in Libya versus the inaction in Syria. And as people continue to die of the hands of Bashar al Assad, according to all reports on the ground, there is not action there.

GOLDBERG: Yeah, ya know, I understand that the non-Israel part of Obama's speech was very lofty and wonderful and was suppose to sort of reset and realign us with our ideals. But what better way to spread cynicism in the Arab world than say all these things, say all this stuff about Qaddafi and then do nothing while Bashar Assad is slaughtering his people in the streets.

KRAUTHAMMER: And to actually say in that speech there was a shocking line in that speech. In which the president said Assad has a choice to lead a democratic transition or to get out of way. Assad leading a democratic transition? This is a man who's already made war at his people, is using artillery in suburban neighborhoods, is arresting and executing wantonly, and the administration is still holding out hope that this is a guy who will lead a democratic transition? We are at a point in Syria where he is, Assad is at least as illegitimate as Qaddafi. And even if you aren't going to send in a drone, kinetic or otherwise, we can at least say so and declare ourselves on the side unequivocally.

BAIER: So Mara...?


LIASSON: I agree with Charles. I was surprised at the line only because I haven't talked to anybody in the administration who thinks that Assad can lead a democratic transition--


LIASSON: -- who doesn't think that he's lost all credibility. The minute he fired on his own people it was over. So I don't understand that either. It makes no sense at all.

BAIER: We'll follow them both. That is it for panel. But stay tuned for an interesting goodbye.

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