Minutes after unconfirmed reports of Qaddafi's death broke, pundits started arguing over whether or not Obama deserves credit. If indeed the Libyan dictator is done for--and it certainly looks like is--he would be yet another on a growing list of major terrorist targets brought down this year under the president's watch. However, Qaddafi wasn't the sort of direct hit that Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and Atiyah Abd al-Rahman (Al Qaeda's former number two) were, so the debate over Obama's role in the former dictator's death is necessarily convoluted. But the entire Libyan conflict has been that way from the start. When he sent troops to help the rebels less than six months ago, the president caused an uproar on all sides, catching flak from some for not being more aggressive and others for entangling the United States needlessly in another war. As The Atlantic Wire's Elspeth Reeve wrote at the time, conservatives and liberals simply "agreed to disagree with Obama." Now that Qaddafi is reportedly gone for good, folks seem eager to take sides, and this time, the split is more predictable.
Those Giving Obama Credit
Nick Kristoff at The New York Times tweeted soon after the news broke, "If Qaddafi is dead, this is (tentative) vindication of a brave Obama decision to back rebels trying to overthrow him." On MSNBC later on Thursday morning, Kristoff said, "It was an unusual decision by President Obama to engage in libya and it was very controversial … At least for now, tentatively, this strikes me as somehwat of a vindication for that decision."
Juan Williams at Fox News rushed up a column unabashed tipping his hat to the president under the headline "Can't Argue with American Policy Now, Qaddafi's Dead and the Results Speak for Themselves." Williams sounds a lot like Kristoff, too. "The news from the Middle East is vindication of the Obama administration's policy in Libya," he writes.
John Kerry doesn't name Obama specifically but says that Qaddafi's death shows how "the United States demostrated clear leadership," according to MSNBC's live broadcast.
Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast blogged, "To rid the world of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and Moammar Qaddafi within six months: if Obama were a Republican, he'd be on Mount Rushmore by now."
John McCain conspicuously avoided mentioning the president in his remarks, as The Chicago Tribute pointed out on his Thursday morning. However, the former presidential candidate told Fox News, "This is a victory for the president, the Obama administration but most importantly [for the Libyan people]." (Note: Before his remarks to Fox News, we'd put McCain in the not-giving-credit camp. We've since updated the post and bumped him up into the giving-credit camp.)
Those Not Giving Obama Credit
Mitt Romney tweeted "Muammar al-Qaddafi was a tyrant who terrorized the Libyan people and shed American blood and the world is a better place without him."
Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post anticipates the credit question and argues how it won't even matter. "The reported death of deposed Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi will be touted by Democrats as another foreign policy success story for President Obama but seems unlikely to seriously affect his political fortunes heading into a 2012 campaign still laser-focused on the struggling U.S. economy," he writes.
A Lot of People on Twitter are saying things like this: "I swear to god if Obama gets praised for
#Gadhafi I will leave the United States."