On Monday night, Sen. John McCain went to CNN to criticize President for being too soft on Muammar Qaddafi who, he said, "must have been somewhat comforted" by his speech. McCain wondered why Obama would say “regime change by force would be a mistake,” even though the U.S. is ready to see the dictator go. Sounding a bit like John Wayne, he added: “There are times when we have to act alone."
"Comfort" is an odd word choice to discuss a guy currently ordering hundreds of cruise missiles and bombers into Libya. But it is even stranger when compared to McCain's own account of his visit to Libya in August 2009, which included, as he tweeted about the Colonel's hospitality: "Late evening with Col. Qadhafi at his 'ranch' in Libya - interesting meeting with an interesting man."
At the time of the trip he took with Senators Joe Lieberman, Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins (that's them giving a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli), many in the West were outraged that Britain was preparing to release Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland (McCain did not support the release). Despite those worries, McCain's trip was meant to show that the West's relationship with Qaddafi had turned a corner--a sign of "Qaddafi's makeover," as NPR called it. "Ties between the United States and Libya have taken a remarkable and positive turn in recent years," McCain told a news conference, according to the Associated Press.
"We discussed the possibility of moving ahead with the provision of non-lethal defense equipment to the government of Libya. ... As we move ahead with the many ways in which the United States and Libya can work together as partners, there remain areas where real work needs to be done," McCain said. "The status of human rights and political reform in Libya will remain a chief element of concern."
Libyan state-owned media, for what it's worth, reported even more effusive praise from the Arizona senator. "Senator McCain and the delegation with him expressed their deep happiness to meet the leader and praised him for his wisdom and strategic vision to tackle issues of concern to the world and his efforts to sustain peace and stability in Africa," the agency Jana reported, according to Reuters.
McCain's other tweets from the time his MIddle East trip were far more nuanced. After visiting in Iraq, McCain wrote, "Meetings with PM Maliki, Pres. Talabani, Gen. Odierno and Amb. Hill in Baghdad - situation continues to get better, but still a ways to go." That was followed by a Facebook status update, "Had a great visit to Erbil - met with Kurdish leaders and visited the Citadel - still a lot of issues between the Kurds and Arabs."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.