ABC News’ Michael Falcone (@michaelpfalcone) reports:
Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, the 2012 GOP contender with the most foreign policy experience, has been one of the fiercest critics of the Obama administration’s decision to intervene in Libya.
As he was preparing to unveil his presidential campaign in May, Huntsman, the former U.S. Ambassador to China, told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview that the U.S. not should have become involved in the conflict.
“I would have chosen from the beginning not to intervene in Libya,” he said. “I would say that is not core to our national security interest.”
Less than a month later he echoed those comments in an interview with Esquire magazine, saying “we just can’t afford” military involvement in the North African country ruled with an iron fist for decades by dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
And this week, when asked by a New Hampshire resident whether President Obama should be impeached over Libya, Huntsman refused to say, telling the voter that he’d “let Congress make that decision."
Here’s the exchange from a question-and-answer session at a house party Huntsman attended in Rochester, N.H. on Monday night:
VOTER: “You mentioned Libya, and you mentioned the Constitution a couple of times. The president has decided to make Congress irrelevant, go around Congress, not — not go to Congress and ask for whether permission to go to war for — with, with Libya. He takes, what he thought, a UN resolution as his mandate to be able to go to war in Libya, do you think that's unconstitutional in what he's doing in Libya right now?”
HUNTSMAN: “Well, last I looked the UN was not our Constitution. We ought to recognize who's responsible for declaring war and giving the approval for these kinds of things, and get back to the basics of who should be driving these decisions.”
VOTER: “What should Congress be doing in the fact that he went around Congress and he's, he's not abiding to the War Powers Act?”
HUNTSMAN: “I think, I think Congress is, is in a mild uproar about it.”
VOTER: “It's very mild.”
HUNTSMAN: “I have a fundamental problem, generally, I mean beyond this decision, just with the decision that has been made to get involved, in Libya, in a tribal country, when we have no definable interest at stake, we have no exit strategy. Look in Afghanistan, you want to get involved in tribal government? How hard it is to extricate yourself once you've gotten involved? Let history be your guide. Thank you.”
VOTER: “Do you think it's impeachable?”
HUNTSMAN: “I'll let Congress make that decision.”
Representatives from Huntsman’s campaign declined to clarify the former ambassador's remarks when asked by ABC News.
The Obama Administration has argued, over the protestations of some members of Congress, that continuing U.S. involvement in Libya does not violate the War Powers Act because, as White House Counsel Bob Bauer put it in June, “we're not engaged in sustained fighting. … We don't have troops on the ground. We don't risk casualties to those troops.”
The clip of the exchange was uncovered by the trackers at the Democratic “super PAC,” American Bridge 21st Century, which is aiming to hold the Republican presidential candidates accountable throughout the election cycle.
“Failing to gain any traction in the polls after pledging to run a civil, high-minded campaign, it's sad to see Jon Huntsman abandon his convictions for a chance to appease the rabid right-wing base by refusing to rule out impeachment,” said American Bridge’s Ty Matsdorf. “As the only candidate with any foreign policy experience, Jon Huntsman had an opportunity to bring real ideas to the table. Unfortunately, he's willing to throw that away to momentarily impress the far right Tea Party.”
Watch the video of the exchange at Huntsman's event in New Hampshire: