Democratic Backlash Over Obama's Military Action in Libya

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," March 21, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: For more on this Democratic backlash, I'm joined by former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak. Congressman, good to see you. Welcome back to the program.


HANNITY: Before we get to the criticism. Can you tell me, can you tell America, you have friends in Congress, you have been there yourself, who is heading up operation Odyssey Dawn? Who is in charge of this?

SESTAK: Without a question right now, it is the United States. And if I could, my viewpoints that I'm going to give you here were shaped from 31 years in the United States navy doing a no-fly zone over Iraq and strikes against Afghanistan. And also serving at the National Security Council. They are not shaped by certainly any liberalism. It is by a pragmatic approach that weighs the cost versus the benefits and that's my concern.

HANNITY: Wait a minute, Congressman, wait a minute. You are probably one of the few that actually believe America is heading this effort up. But is the president himself said, that we are playing a supportive role. The administration said they are playing a supportive role. And all on the Sunday shows, they're playing a supportive role.

So, we are not heading this up. Nicholas Sarkozy, Great Britain, France and England, they seem to be heading this up. Does that concern you that the president has giving conflicting messages vis-a-vis his secretary of state, his own words and with his defense secretary? We are not heading this up.

SESTAK: Without any question, when about 135 of the 140 tomahawk missiles that are fired by the United States, all the refueling and the all the command and control is by us, we are the muscle in this operation. But I agree with this, whenever men and women of the United States are placed in the harm's way, I want the United States to have leadership. I do not believe that we should back away from this, I felt earlier on in this crisis, we should have made a strong determination, will we or won't we? Rather than being apparently dragged into this by the Arab League, France and England.

HANNITY: Wait a minute. But wait a minute, Admiral Mullen said that our role is going to be short term, and then he's leaving it. And, so we don't really know what the mission is.

Let me ask you this, one Democratic Congress, we have one calling for impeachment, we have others saying that he should have gone to Congress. Here's what one Democratic congressman said they consulted the Arab League, the United Nations, they didn't consult the United States Congress. George Bush got the authorization for the use of force in Iraq and formed a coalition. Did the president make a mistake by not doing that?

SESTAK: I think that calls for impeachment or absolutely ridiculous. Yes, I do think the president should have better consulted. But look, since World War II, you know as well as I do from Korea on, presidents have had to take sudden action like this has been. Now, all that said, Admiral Mullen also said something that was very insightful over the weekend. When he stated that circumstances will drive where this goes in the future, that concerns me. Because, our military force that we are to use must be very carefully matched with the political objective. What is it? If it is humanitarian assistance, that's one thing.

HANNITY: All right.

SESTAK: But if it is to remove Qaddafi eventually by some means.

HANNITY: Wait a minute.

SESTAK: How do we ever extradite ourselves from Libya? And that's my concern.

HANNITY: Hillary Clinton said that was an objective, but the president did not say that in Rio this weekend.

Look, I agree with you about the war -- act, I agree there are issues that probably should be resolved. But are you concerned about the president's vacillation? The inconsistent message from top Cabinet members? Are you concerned about mission creep that has already started?

SESTAK: With due respect to the commander in chief and the administration, no, I am concerned that early on, we did not somehow on our own seem to speak up not only in the international community but to a public that has been through two long wars for a decade. To say, here's where we are going and here is what the end game is.

Look, you and I both remember Bosnia, where after 78 days of air strikes having said that no ground troops would ever be in there, there were ground troops. And so, my thing is you cannot say or ever takeoff the table ground intervention. I don't think we should.

HANNITY: I agree with you. I agree. Wait a minute . If we're going to go in we better go in and win it.


All right. We better have an objective.

The president said in Rio, you know, we are going to make the world safe from tyrants. Are we going to Sudan? Are we going after Mugabe? Are we going to go in Bahrain, Yemen? Are we going to insert ourselves in Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia? Are we going to insert ourselves in Saudi Arabia? I mean, what is -- how do we define success here? What is our mission here? And what is the new Obama standard here?

SESTAK: Points are taken. Look, I'm a believer that the Clinton administration should have intervened for example -- the first George Bush was correct in Somalia when we first went in. But then you remember, we changed the political objective but didn't build up our forces to match it, and that is my concern here. We put up with a continent that has had Amin, AlBashar, Robert Taylor, Robert Mugabe.

My point is that, you have to weigh the cost versus the benefits. And if we go into this thing, you cannot just say that we are in and we are out, not when men and women of the United States are involved. Would we have done this for Egypt for example just a month and a half ago?

I care about humanitarian concerns. It is one of our interests. But I don't think this matched up to it at this particular moment.

HANNITY: I got to tell you. If we are not in this to win it and by definition I would say winning has to be the removal of Qaddafi. I also have a feeling -- we are getting into this in the next segment. Are we supporting -- are these rebels in any way connected to Al Qaeda? I mean, it is a big question. There is evidence they may be.

SESTAK: This is a political end game that is so uncertain that gives me the pause that I brought out.

HANNITY: Yes, I think you raised some fair objectives. We wish our military men and women the best as always. But thank you for being with us.

SESTAK: As always, thank you. Let's hope it goes well.

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