As ThinkProgress noted this morning, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich has undergone a remarkable transformation in his views about intervening in Libya. On March 7, before President Obama acted, Gingrich said that if it were up to him, he would “exercise a no-fly zone this evening…the United States doesn’t need anybody’s permission.” Then, less than 24 hours after President Obama signed off on a no-fly zone, Gingrich accused him of “opportunism,” and this morning on the Today Show, said plainly that “I would not have intervened.”
First, Gingrich’s assertion that he would use “allies” and not Americans — which he also said on the Today Show this morning — is a direct contradiction to the earlier interview in which he dismisses the need for allies. “We don’t need to have NATO, who frankly, won’t bring much to the fight. We don’t need to have the United Nations,” he said earlier this month.
Gingrich’s explanation that that Obama “changed the choice” on March 3 makes no sense. That excuse ignores the fact that both of Gingrich’s contradictory statements came after March 3. Again, he strongly advocated intervention on March 7 and slammed Obama for doing so on March 20.
Obama has been consistent about his desire to see Qaddafi relinquish power, as have other world leaders. Obama joined an international effort to protect the rebels, which is what Newt originally advocated (“All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we’re intervening,”) before explicitly denouncing that justification. (“The standard [Obama] has fallen back to of humanitarian intervention could apply to Sudan, to North Korea, to Zimbabwe, to Syria this week, to Yemen, to Bahrain.”)
So what is Newt’s point? That’s not really clear. Except that Obama is wrong.
Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler attempts to issue a clarification about Newt’s flip-flop. “What to do about Libya was pre-March 3 question,” Tyler incredulously asserts. He adds that “The only rational purpose for an intervention is to replace Qaddafi.”
Obama has maintained his position that Qaddafi must go, but that the intervention’s purpose is to protect civilians. Tyler’s statement, however, does little to clarify where Gingrich currently stands on Libya.