Ace thinks so and so do I, but I’ll let you judge for yourselves. Dave Weigel has the two key quotes side by side. On March 7, Greta Van Susteren asked him, “The president has said that military options with NATO are not off the table. What would you do about Libya?” His answer: No-fly zone, ASAP. “This is a moment to get rid of him. Do it. Get it over with.” The key bit:
The United States doesn’t need anybody’s permission. 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. All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we’re intervening. And we don’t have to send troops. All we have to do is suppress his air force, which we could do in minutes.
So, get Qaddafi and prevent a bloodbath. Fast-forward to his interview this morning on the Today show and suddenly preventing bloodbaths are less of a priority:
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. This isn’t a serious standard. This is a public relations conversation…
I would not have intervened. I think there were a lot of other ways to affect Qaddafi. I think there are a lot of other allies in the region we could have worked with. I would not have used American and European forces.
That echoes what he told Politico this weekend, after the mission began, about Iran and North Korea being bigger threats and humanitarian disasters happening all over the world. In fact, he posed four questions for The One that he neglected to raise when he condoned a no-fly zone a few weeks earlier with Greta:
• “What is the Obama standard [for deciding to intervene]?”
• “What is success?”
• “What are we prepared to do to achieve that success?”
• “What supplemental is the president prepared to ask for to pay for all this?”
How to square all this? His team gives it the ol’ college try:
Prior to the president’s March 3 declaration that Qaddafi must go, there were options to be indirect and subtle to achieve the desired result with no United States forces. The president took those options off the table on March 3.
Newt said on March 7 that the president should established in short order a no-fly zone when Gingrich understood that the president’s goal was regime change. What to do about Libya was pre-March 3 question. But from the moment of the president’s declaration, he put the prestige and authority of the United States on the line. Now, anything short of regime change is a defeat for the United States.
The president’s new policy announced on March 19 which Gingrich also reacted to, no longer included replacing Qaddafi but was narrowed to a “humanitarian” mission and that became the rationale for intervention causing great confusion given the president’s previously stated goal. Mullen on Meet the Press this past Sunday underscored the narrow scope of the new policy, saying that “the goals of this campaign right now again are limited, and it isn’t about seeing [Qaddafi] go.”
The president’s stated goal of removing Qaddafi changed. Gingrich’s goal of removing Qaddafi since the president made that his goal for the U.S. has not changed.
The only rational purpose for an intervention is to replace Qaddafi.
In other words, when Greta asked him, “What would you do?”, Newt supposedly thought she meant, “How would you advise the president now that he’s committed to regime change?” But … Greta didn’t ask him that. And if she had, he could have given her the same answer he gave Matt Lauer this morning — that military intervention is a bad idea, that there are diplomatic and economic ways to pressure Qaddafi, etc, but now that Obama’s put U.S. prestige on the line, we have no choice but to put some birds in the air. He didn’t say that. How come?
In response to his explanation this afternoon, Think Progress dug around and found a clip of him on Fox back in February sounding gung ho for stronger condemnation of Qaddafi by Obama. Watch below. He doesn’t say anything about military intervention, but Newt hasn’t been shy in the past about condoning international military action to prevent mass slaughter by rogue regimes of their own people. Exit question: Is this anti-Obama pandering or just a big misunderstanding?
Update: Newt elaborates on his team’s defense in a Facebook post, stressing that Obama’s dithering and the UN’s weak mandate (humanitarian, not regime change) changed the calculus of the decision to intervene by March 23.