Potential 2012 GOP presidential contender Donald Trump
says President Barack Obama’s Monday night address to the nation on America’s Libyan intervention “makes no sense.” Trump opined that two truths nonetheless shine forth: Obama apparently is afraid of Congress, and if tyrant Moammar Gadhafi remains in power, “it's a major, major black eye for this country.”
In contrast, Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., said critics’ mixed messages on the speech’s viability suggest the president is apparently on the right track.
In a heated debate on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight,” which also included former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Trump said calling the Libyan opposition “rebels” might be romanticizing a group of insurgents that no one knows anything about.
“I do really want to know who these people we’re fighting for — who they are. They call them the ‘rebels’ like they’re these wonderful guys,” Trump said. “But I hear they are aligned with Iran — I hear they may be aligned with al-Qaida.
“To be honest, wouldn’t that be really very, very sad if we’re bombing all of these tanks, killing all of these people . . . and Iran ends up taking over Libya?” he asked. “It makes no sense whatsoever — I think he's a little afraid of Congress — frankly, he doesn’t want to go in too strongly, because they’ll say that that he broke constitutional law and [then] he’s got himself some problems.
“So I think he’s trying to take sort of a neutral turn. And what he said just makes absolutely no sense — and at this point, if you don’t get rid of Gadhafi, it’s a major, major black eye for this country,” Trump noted. “But you also have to ask the other question: Who is paying for this? You have Saudi Arabia, the Arab League — the richest nations in the world — saying go in and get them. We don’t like them — go in and get them. And why aren’t they paying for this?”
Trump took issue with whether or not Libyan oil makes any dent in America’s energy needs, saying it is the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which controls the country’s supply.
“Look, Libya has two to three percent of the world's oil. OPEC is sitting back and laughing at us, because they sit down and set the price of oil. There is so much oil at sea — ships are floating at sea — they don’t know what to do with it,” Trump said. “Oil is artificially set, not by Libya, but by the . . . 12 men sitting around the table saying: ‘The stupid American leadership is not doing anything to us — we will drain them, and we will drain them now.’
“So don’t tell me about Libya. The fact is that OPEC is setting phony prices for oil — and we do nothing about it,” he continued. “Our leadership does nothing about it. And they could — because if it wasn’t for us, OPEC wouldn’t exist.”
Weiner told Morgan like in any diplomatic crisis, Libya’s civil unrest cannot be painted in black and white. Shaking his head, Weiner also noted the speech’s critics are fumbling over whether the United States should lead — or leave Libya to the Arab world and the Europeans.
“Look, the question is —in back-to-back questions at once — it was how come we’re not getting more support from the rest of the countries, meaning the Arab states. Then it was, like, how come we don’t feel confident enough, that we’re letting England and France take the lead,” Weiner said. “The fact is, part of being a coalition like NATO, part of being a country like the United States, is that you have to put together coalitions so that you’re not doing all the heavy lifting.
“And . . . it’s sheer folly to believe that the international oil supply is not a fungible thing. That’s why I was shaking my head at what Mr. Trump was saying,” he continued. “The fact is if you think it doesn’t impact U.S. economy, it does. But that’s not why the president said we were going in — he said because we’re a country that doesn’t sit by and let people be slaughtered. I'm glad we're not.
“I think the sign that the president’s probably on the right path is his critics are criticizing him in the same interview for going too far and not going far enough, and fast enough,” Weiner said. “The fact is foreign policy doesn’t lend us a lot of black-and-white lines here. It also has a lot of gray scenarios.”
Chiming in, Richardson said although U.S. intervention in Libya is not ideal, the alternative of Gadhafi remaining in power is infinitely worse.
“Look, this is a very difficult situation. But he also stated that NATO is going to be taking over — it's a limited military operation. This involves our allies, NATO, our most important alliance,” Richardson said. “The rebels are gaining momentum.
“Look, they’re probably not perfect revolutionary characters. But they're sure as heck a lot better than Gadhafi staying,” Richardson continued. “We don’t want Gadhafi to have a weapons of mass destruction program, like he had before. We don’t want him to continue the carnage.”
Morgan asked Richardson how Israel should react to what is happening in Libya, the turmoil in the Middle East — and particularly the unrest that has spread to Syria.
“Look, Piers, if I'm Israel today, I am concerned. The neighborhood is not very friendly — and our commitment to Israel should remain unshaken. And we have to look at ways probably to strengthen the military relationship with Israel,” Richardson said. “But at the same time, I don’t think the Syrian situation is similar to what is happening in Libya — the carnage that is taking place there.
“I think there’s still some hope, although limited, that the Syrian leadership will be much more moderate than Gadhafi has, and deal with this issue more effectively.”
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