Obama Suddenly Staunch on Libya
“The U.S. view is that we need to be prepared to contemplate steps that include, but perhaps go beyond, a no-fly zone at this point.”
Perhaps sensing that the impending slaughter of the remaining rebels in Libya’s month-old civil war will be a moment of ignominy for Western powers, the Obama administration made a sudden shift Wednesday from ambivalence about imposing a no-fly zone on dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi to a broad call of military intervention.
Any action will likely come too late for the rebel forces, as Qaddafi’s army augmented by a coalition of pan-African forces and mercenaries encircled the remaining forces of the uprising in the port city of Benghazi. Vastly outnumbered and outgunned, the rebel forces prepared to make a final, bloody stand against Qaddafi.
While U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice still stipulated that any military involvement would require the substantial involvement of Arab nations, she closed a day of negotiations at Turtle Bay by announcing U.S. support for large-scale intervention in the North African nation, including air strikes against loyalist artillery positions now bombarding the rebel holdouts.
For weeks, the Obama administration has held that it was only weighing its options in regard to the ongoing regional conflict in Libya. Calls from Congress and allies for grounding Qaddafi’s air force were met with skepticism from administration figures. There was similar skepticism for calls to arm the rebels in their fight against Qaddafi.
The argument from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others on Team Obama was that American involvement could de-legitimize the rebel movement. The administration has stressed the need for an “organic” rebellion.
But with the rebels set to get wiped out, the administration is rapidly advanced on the idea of inorganic intervention.
Not only might the new fervor for intervention be made moot by the rout of the remaining rebels, but also by the unwillingness of the non-allied members of the U.N. Security Council. Russia and China have shown little interest in curbing Qaddafi and are deemed unlikely to support an even more aggressive move against the Libyan strongman.
But, U.S. support for even a failed resolution could help blunt charges of dithering against President Obama, who has been roundly criticized for passivity in the Libyan crisis.
The growing concern on the right, though, is that belated engagement could lead to a long-term entanglement and nation-building effort in Libya after the war.
"The advice the Japanese government is giving, based on the information it has, is different from the advice that we would be giving if this incident were happening in the United States of America."
-- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney
Amid fears that an out-of-control meltdown in Japan could produce massive radiation risks and a huge health crisis, the Obama administration began an aggressive push against Japan’s handling of the unfolding nuclear crisis there.
American nuclear officials contradicted Japanese safety dictums and warned of dire consequences of a full-scale meltdown at a tsunami-stricken power plant in the northern part of Japan’s mainland.
Japanese officials are hopeful that a plan to restore power to the site could avert a larger catastrophe, allowing pumps to again flood chambers containing exposed reactor cores. But the full extent of the damage so far and the potential for large-scale leaks of radioactive steam is mostly unknown.
“Blood Money” Differs from Diplomatic Immunity
“I knew it was self-defense. My husband is not a killer. He's not a Rambo.”
-- Rebecca Davis, wife of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, speaking to reporters
Someone used a provision of Sharia law that allows the payment of “blood money” to the family of a murder victim to end a diplomatic standoff between the U.S. and Pakistan over the detention of a CIA contractor.
The Obama administration had held that since Raymond Davis was in the country on a diplomatic passport, he had to be freed on murder charges stemming from the shooting of two Pakistanis in January.
But some entity agreed to pay the families of the dead men, whom Davis said he killed in self-defense during a robbery attempt. Who paid? Well, it’s complicated.
While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was adamant that the U.S. had not paid the ransom for Davis’ release, multiple reports today suggest that money came from the Pakistani government in the expectation that it would be reimbursed for the cost.
Aside from setting a bad precedent of paying for the release of prisoners, the administration is also keen to avoid an admission that an ally was unwilling or unable to honor the requirements of diplomatic immunity.
The payment ended the impasse, but does nothing to show that President Asif Ali Zardari has the capacity to function as a reliable ally as the leader of a rapidly radicalizing country
Obama Speeds Up Reelection Push
“I’ve always been a believer that what made 2008 special was we didn’t tack to the varying political winds; we didn’t make decisions about where we stood on issues simply based on political expediency.”
-- President Obama speaking to donors at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser
In a speech to donors on Wednesday, President Obama cast himself as a man unconcerned with politics who is instead focused on bold policy initiatives.
But the president’s schedule and stances suggest that the 2012 election is dominating the discussion at the White House.
An increasing number of fundraisers and outreach to core political groups show that the Obama re-election effort is very much underway. Recent reports indicate that those concerns are governing the administration response to everything from entitlement reform to defense policy.
EPA Defiant Ahead of Senate Vote
“EPA’s proposed utility [rule] today could, by itself, shut down up to 20 percent of America’s coal-fired power capacity.”
-- Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid scuttled a planned vote on a Republican amendment that would have stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of the power to clamp down on carbon emissions suggesting concern that the measure might have garnered the 13 Democratic votes needed to pass.
The proposed global warming regulations are widely scorned in the Midwest and South as harmful to manufacturing and for making energy more expensive by limiting the use of coal.
But as the Senate was in turmoil over carbon regulations, the EPA laid out a new initiative to limit the use of coal through existing regulations by ratcheting up the enforcement of emissions standards.
The move is a hedge against congressional action. Even if Congress produces a plan to bar the agency from getting into global warming policy, a sterner reading of the Clean Air Act as it relates to established pollutants like mercury, could take many power plants offline anyway.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“I would give them a B. I would give most administrations a B, and I would only chide them for what [White House Press Secretary Jay] Carney said, the usual hypocrisy of pumping themselves up and saying how they have been the best in the history of the planet.”
“When our friendless standards were first unfurled, who were the strangers who first mustered around our staff? And when it reeled in the light, who more brilliantly sustained it than Erin’s generous sons? Ireland, thou friend of my country in my country’s most friendless days, much injured, much enduring land, accept this poor tribute from one who esteems thy worth, and mourns thy desolation. May the God of Heaven, in His justice and mercy, grant thee more prosperous fortunes, and in His own time, cause the sun of Freedom to shed its benign radiance on the Emerald Isle.”
-- President George Washington in a letter to the people of Ireland