As Michael Rubin has noted, on Saturday, President Obama finally said what the rest of the world realized days ago: Muammar Qaddafi needs to go. But instead of making this clear in a public statement, he said it over the phone to Angela Merkel.
The way this situation was handled was typical Obama. The uprisings across the Muslim world — which appeared to have caught him off-guard — have elicited slow and stumbling responses from him and his administration since they began. He equivocated on Cairo, and now he’s equivocating on Tripoli.
Instead of demanding that Qaddafi needed to go during his address to the nation on Thursday, Obama waited until the last minute, when he was finally forced to utter this obvious truth during his phone call with Merkel. The White House then immediately rushed to get the word out to reporters about Obama’s “bold” statement about the Libyan leader.
Of course, the president still refused to mention Qaddafi by name, even over the phone. And worse, he wasn’t leading the calls against Qaddafi. Merkel, like many other world leaders, had already bluntly spoken out against the Libyan regime. Obama, by making his statement to her over the phone, appeared to merely be running to catch up.