Former President Bill Clinton Praises Obama on Libya

Mar 29, 2011 6:34pm

From Sunlen Miller:

Speaking at the dedication of a new building for the U.S. delegation to the United Nations, named for the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, former President Clinton praised President Obama’s efforts in Libya.

“He would be very proud that Barack Obama became president of the United States, and very proud, Mr. President, of what you're doing in Libya with the international community," Bill Clinton said. "He would be very proud of you for wanting to share the responsibilities and the credit.”

The building is named after Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who died tragically in a plane crash near Dubrovnik, Croatia, on April 3, 1996.  President Obama said he did not know or work with Brown personally but drew on lessons of his life as an example of American leadership, which he related back to the situation in Libya.

“There are times, as when President Clinton showed extraordinary leadership in the Balkans, and moments, such as now, in the situation in Libya, where our conscience and our common interests compel us to act. We believe that force should not be the first option. We understand the costs and risks involved in the use of force. So whenever possible, we turn to alternatives that might change behavior: condemnation that puts violators on notice; sanctions that increase pressure; embargoes that block arms to aggressors; and accountability for those who commit crimes.”

The president said that if those efforts “prove insufficient” they have to be “prepared to take the necessary measures to uphold international peace and security and protect innocent people. “

Repeating from his speech last night to the nation,  the president said that the world is “more secure and the interests of the United States are best advanced when we act collectively,” and mentioned the meetings taking place in London with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today.

“Today in London we're seeing more than 30 nations and the Libyan opposition come together to support a transition to a future that better serves the Libyan people. That's how the international community should work — more nations. The United States right there at the center of it, but not alone — everybody stepping up, bearing their responsibilities, carrying the costs of upholding peace and security. That's what it means to be United Nations. That was the vision imagined by the founders of this institution.”

The president said that Brown, the first African American Commerce Secretary, paved the way, in part, for him to become president.

"While I didn't know Ron Brown personally, I knew his story, and I drew inspiration from that story. And so when you say he'd be proud that I'm president, I think it's fair to say that I'm president in part because of him — because of the example he set; because of the organization that he brought to the Democratic Party; because his capacity to get Bill Clinton elected, which, in turn, I think, showed how we could govern in a way that met the realities of the late 20th century and ultimately the 21st century."

The president joked that as the final speaker – following Ambassador Susan Rice, and former President Bill Clinton who both knew Brown personally he was thinking, “everything has been said, and, once again, Bill Clinton has said it better than I could.”

Obama then presented an American flag and plaque to the representatives of the Brown family.

-Sunlen Miller

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