Now that Qaddafi Is Dead, Will GOP Candidates Praise Obama?

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While they may be glad to see the dictator's end, several were fierce critics of the Libya mission

Qaddafi - Abdel Magid Al Fergany:AP:dapd - banner.jpg

Muammar Qaddafi is dead, and Republican presidential candidates are happy about it.

"I think it's about time. Qaddafi -- a terrible tyrant that killed his own people and murdered Americans and others in the tragedy in Lockerbie," former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney told a reporter. "The world is a better place with Qaddafi gone."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman share that sentiment, CBS News reports:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Qaddafi's death signaled "good news" for the future of Libya.

"The death of Muammar el-Qaddafi is good news for the people of Libya. It should bring the end of conflict there, and help them move closer to elections and a real democracy," he said in a Thursday statement.

Perry said the U.S. should "work closely" with Libya in its transition and argued that the Obama administration must take an "active role in ensuring the security of any remaining stockpiles of Qaddafi's weapons."

"These weapons pose a real danger to the United States and our allies, and we cannot help secure them through simple observation," he said.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman echoed that sentiment in a statement, celebrating Qaddafi's "demise" but noting that "it is just one step in a long and tumultuous turnover that is coming to Northern Africa."

"It is my sincere wish that this news accelerates Libya's transition to a society that respects openness, democracy, and human rights," he added. "I remain firm in my belief that America can best serve our interests and that transition through non-military assistance and rebuilding our own economic core here at home."

Republican candidates, Romney and Huntsman included, have routinely blasted the president for involving the U.S. in a NATO mission against Qaddafi in the first place.

"What we are watching in real time is another example of mission creep and mission muddle," Romney wrote in a blog post at National Review, criticizing Obama for failing to delineate a clear mission in Libya to the public and Congress. In his book, No Apology, Romney insinuated that Obama's foreign policies benefited Qaddafi.

The month after he resigned as Obama's ambassador to China, Huntsman said Libya was not in America's core national interest and that taxpayers couldn't afford the NATO mission there:

"It's an affordability issue," Mr. Huntsman said. "With all of our deployments and all of our engagements abroad, we need to ask a fundamental question: Can we afford to do this? That should be driven by the second point, which is whether or not it's in our national security interest. I felt from the beginning that Libya was not in our core national security interest."

Of course, it's entirely reasonable to be glad Qaddafi is dead in spite of reservations about the mission that led to his death. No one should be surprised that initiating airstrikes and supporting a rebellion entails a complex set of costs and benefits.

Republican presidential candidates haven't praised Obama very often, but when they have, they've done so for his national security successes. Both Romney and Perry commended Obama for the drone strike that killed American citizen and suspected terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki. In his first nationally televised debate appearance, on Sept. 7 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Perry went out of his way to praise Obama for the death of Osama bin Laden.

Qaddafi was primarily a dictator, not a transnational terrorist, but we'll soon find out whether Obama will once again collect praise from his harshest critics for the death of another U.S. enemy.

Image credit: Abdel Magid Al Fergany/AP/dapd

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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