Strange bedfellows: Webb, Radtke both criticize Obama administration’s handling of Libya

March 21, 2011

Both Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) and one of the Republicans seeking to replace him, tea party leader Jamie Radtke, harshly criticized the Obama administration Monday for its launch of airstrikes against Libya, proving that the latest Middle East conflict has created some strange political bedfellows.

Congressional critics on both sides of the aisle have accused the White House of mishandling the situation in recent days, with some calling the entire operation misguided and some just complaining that they weren’t consulted. In an interview on MSNBC Monday, Webb — a former Navy secretary and influential Senate voice on military and foreign policy matters — added his voice to that chorus.

“We do not have a clear diplomatic policy or a clear statement of foreign policy that is accompanying this military operation,” Webb said, later emphasizing that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “have a very clear obligation now to come forward to the American people and to the Congress and state clearly what the y believe the endpoint of this should be. They haven’t done that.”

Members of the House and Senate have long grumbled that presidents have ignored the Constitution’s dictum giving Congress the power to declare war, and Obama’s failure to seek authorization from Congress to implement the Libyan no-fly zone has stirred the ire of some on the Hill.

“We have been sort of on auto­pilot for almost ten years ... now in terms of presidential authority in conducting these type of military operations absent the meaningful participation of the Congress,” Webb said. “We have not had a debate. ... This isn’t the way that our system is supposed to work.”

Radtke, meanwhile, is part of the GOP field looking to succeed the retiring Webb, along with ex-Sen. George Allen. In a statement issued Monday, she made some of the same points Webb did but in much sharper, clearly oppositional language.

“President Obama’s decision to commit America to a third concurrent war has two serious flaws,” Radtke said. “First, the president has committed American troops to battle without the authorization of Congress. And second, Libya does not present a security threat to the United States, and we have no business being a part of this military intervention.”

Radtke concluded by saying, “Obama’s decision is reckless and ill-advised. Congress must find the courage to reassert its Constitutional prerogative for any use of force involving the American military.”

Allen, for his part, has not yet commented publicly on Libya.

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