He may not be an expert on Libya, but John McCain knows this much: Constantly firing guns in the air is no way to get people comfortable with their new government. That was part of the senator's advice to the interim authority there, which he praised on Thursday along with the Libyan people, in the first visit to Tripoli by members of Congress since Col. Muammar Qaddafi fell last month. The senator landed in Tripoli on Thursday as the leader of a delegation that included senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mark Kirk of Illinois, according to CNN. They toured a prison (McCain wanted to see it after spending time in one during the Vietnam war) and met with officials there. Reuters has some of the senator's comments to the press after the delegation landed:
"I do not claim to be an expert on Libya but I do know enough to know that the people of Libya are not in significant numbers interested in a radical Islamic extemist government such as we have in Iran or a couple of other countries. That's not the nature of the Libyan people."
McCain also said Libya's interim authorities, known as the National Transitional Council (NTC), had to continue trying to bring the country's many armed groups, whose habit of shooting in the air unnerves many in the capital, under control.
"It's important for the NTC to continue bringing the many armed groups in this city and beyond under the responsible control of its legitimate governing authority," McCain said.
But aside from his advice to the NTC to calm its forces down, McCain had generally glowing words for the Libyans and their recent revolution. CNN reported that he had characterized the revolution there as a showcase of the Arab Spring, and said, "the Libyan people have inspired the world," and "have turned cynics into supporters." Not a bad bit of praise for the NTC, though McCain may still be trying to come back from his 2009 Twitter gaffe when he called Qaddafi an "interesting man."