Could The U.S. Be More Forceful Against Gadhafi?

Over the weekend, the Obama administration has stepped up the calls for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to leave. Critics claim the administration has been slow to react.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

So that's the view from Tripoli. Now let's get a view from Washington. Our news analyst Cokie Roberts joins us, as she does most Mondays.

Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: Plenty of people have been asking why the United States is not acting more forcefully against Gadhafi.

ROBERTS: Well, over the weekend, certainly, they've stepped up the calls for Gadhafi to leave. And Secretary of State Clinton has been working with the U.N. and the allies to push him out. But they did seem a little slow off the mark. And many Republicans, though, over the weekend, seemed to be giving the administration the benefit of the doubt because of the concern about American hostages. And until the U.S. citizens got out of Libya, the administration seemed reluctant to make any strong calls.

But there is a sense on the part of members of both parties that more needs to be done. You heard a particularly strong call coming from Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman, calling for more action against the Libyan regime.

But, you know, the administration's trying to walk a fine line, here. First of all, events are happening so fast that it's hard to stay on top of them. But also, in this region, you know, you never know what "democracy," quote, unquote, will bring, especially for women. And then there's always the question of what any change in the status quo will mean for the supply and price of oil.

INSKEEP: Oh yeah, which is I mean, sometimes with a foreign crisis, people will wonder: What does this mean for the United States? Nobody has any real question about that here.

ROBERTS: Well, and it could be totally devastating to the economy. Just ask Jimmy Carter. You cannot have high oil prices at a time when the economy is struggling and make it work. So it could really sabotage everything in terms of an economic revival, not to mention presidential re-election, where President Obama's got to show some signs of a continuing economic sustainable growth.

INSKEEP: Well, now, that raises another question, because Congress and the president are negotiating over the federal budget, trying to keep the government open. They've negotiated a stop-gap measure for a couple weeks. What happens next?

ROBERTS: Well, they do seem to have dodged the bullet of a government shutdown. You heard the Republican leaders of the House saying over the weekend that nobody wants a government shutdown. The only outlier there is former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who seems to be preparing a run for the presidency, saying that the shutdown in 1995, when he was speaker, was a good thing for the country and the party. Now, the polling at the time didn't show that. Seventy-five percent in an ABC poll said that it was a bad thing, that partial shutdown. Twice as many blame the Republicans as blamed President Clinton, and the president certainly did very well in his '96 re-election.

So I think Republicans are looking at all of that and saying let's not have a shutdown. But they've only got a two-week stop-gap going here, and we'll see what happens at the end of that. I think really what does happen is that there will be further budget cuts for this fiscal year that we're in right now, and then taking up the budget for the next fiscal year. So, you know, there's going to be a lot of pain, as far as some people are concerned, as this unfolds.

INSKEEP: Well, now, what are the risks in another political battle playing out in Wisconsin, most notably, but in other places as well, this battle over the role of public service employees, public employees and how they're compensated and their union membership?

ROBERTS: Well, you know, government is not something that's very popular in this country. But when people think about government, they tend to think about Washington. And that is you know, Washington's an easy place to demonize.

But when you start talking about public service employees in the states, you start suddenly realizing you're talking about cops and firefighters and teachers, and those people are a whole lot more popular, and even their unions seem to be popular in public opinion polling. But it's also true, Steve, that everybody's got some story about, you know, some outrageous thing that is covered by a policeman's health benefits, like plastic surgery...

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm.

ROBERTS: ...or some outrageous pension, and so that both parties have to be careful here.

INSKEEP: OK. All right, thanks very much, as always. News analysis on this Monday morning from NPR's Cokie Roberts. You hear her right here on MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.

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