Newt Gingrich told reporters today that the Libyan rebels have France’s lack of bracket fever to thank for the no-fly zone that will soon protect them from aerial attacks by embattled dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Asked about the U.N. Resolution authorizing military intervention in Libya — something Gingrich has been pushing for a while now — Gingrich ripped President Obama for not acting sooner, and again mocked him for his March Madness bracket.
“I was, frankly, very disappointed that [Nicolas] Sarkozy did not share with us his Final Four picks,” Gingrich said, referring to the French president, who’s nation has led the push for military intervention in Libya. “And i think it’s his failure to understand the Final Four that allowed him to focus on Libya on a way tha. Clearly, if he had understood the American system he would have understood that his is not a good week to deal with Libya because this is the week to deal with Kansas, Ohio State, and you know things that were really important.”
The New York Times reported today that the U.S. “strongly backed” the Lebanese-sponsored resolution authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya, although France and Great Britain are expected to take the lead in implementing it.
Gingrich said even though the resolution came long after he first suggested the U.S. get directly involved in the conflict, it’s not “too late” for the the no-fly zone to work.
“It’s never too late when dealing with a small dictator,” Gingrich said. “If they want to, they can get rid of Qaddafi.”
But the former House speaker, and 2012 presidential exploratory campaign explorer, said he wishes the U.S. had acted sooner, and he slammed Obama for not acting more like his predecessors. Gingrich called it “ironic” that Obama announced Qaddafi should go back on March 3, but waited until now to back a no-fly zone.
Gingrich said some of Obama’s Republican predecessors in the White House would have played things very differently.
“This is the opposite of Eisenhower and Reagan, neither of whom would have held a press conference and both of whom would have made sure he was gone,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich was vague about what exactly those two presidents did to “get rid” of dictators that Obama hasn’t, but he made it clear he thinks Obama’s way is the wrong — and dangerous — way to go.
“This idea that we posture, we talk, we have diplomatic meetings … this is very weak,” he said. “It makes us look weak and uncertain. It increases the danger in the Persian Gulf.”
Asked what he’d do if he was running the show, Gingrich was cryptic.
“In a situation like this, you start by communicating to the military that he’s going to be gone and they should be on your side,” he said. “In a lot of cases the militaries got it and said ‘we’re with you guys.’”
Beyond that, he said he’d look to the past: “I think you ought to study Eisenhower and Reagan and the things they did,” he said. “There are lots of ways to not necessarily use American troops that have enormous impact on a country the size of Libya.”
Whatever happens, Gingrich said the U.N. resolution means the West has made a promise to rid Libya of the man who’s ruled there for more than 40 years.
“The Western democracies have now made clear that they’re prepared to get rid of Qaddafi,” he said. “They better have a plan to for getting rid of Qaddafi.”
Update: It’s worth noting that though the French don’t have a March Madness bracket to contend with, France has its own sports fixations that the government there has turned into official business. Last year, after the French lost out in the World Cup soccer tournament too early for the tastes of most in the country, Sarkozy and the parliament got directly involved in the “crisis.”