As the details begin to roll in about the capture and killing of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, so too are the GOP presidential candidates’ reactions to the fall of the world’s most wanted man.
But for some candidates their praise for the tyrant’s death comes in stark contrast to the condemnation they expressed towards the U.S. getting militarily involved in the effort to oust him.
“It’s about time,” Mitt Romney said of Gadhafi’s death this morning on KSCJ radio in Sioux City Iowa. ”I think people across the world recognize that the world is a better place without Moammar Ghadafi.”
Romney’s position on U.S. military operations in Libya has been far more muddled than his denunciation of the African nation’s leader.
On March 21, three days after President Obama authorized “limited military action in Libya,” Romney criticized the president for waiting too long to get involved.
“His inability to have a clear and convincing foreign policy made him delegate to the United Nations and the Arab League a decision about our involvement there,” Romney told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Exactly a month later Romney again criticized Obama, but this time for being too hasty.
“Military action cannot be under-deliberated and ad hoc,” the former Massachusetts governor wrote in a Nationalreview.com op-ed. “The president owes it to the American people and Congress to immediately explain his new Libya mission and its strategic rationale.”
And in July, Romney questioned the president’s rationale behind removing Gadhafi.
“Now the president is saying we have to remove Gadafi,” he said. “Who’s going to own Libya if we get rid of the government there?”
By August Romney again supported the ouster of the Libyan dictator, telling Neil Cavuto on the Fox Business Network that “the world celebrates the idea of getting rid of Gadhafi” because he was “one of the worst actors on the world stage, responsible for terror around the world.”
Romney’s spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said today that the candidate has “responded to the situation in Libya as it has developed” and instead blamed Obama for being “completely unclear” on the United States’ military strategy in Libya.
“The fall from power and subsequent death of Qaddafi brings to end a brutal chapter in Libya’s history-but that does not validate the president’s approach to Libya” Fehrnstrom added. “The credit goes to the people of Libya.”
Newt Gingrich has demonstrated a similarly undefined position toward the Libyan conflicts.
On March 23, the then-unannounced presidential candidate scolded Obama’s decision to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, saying it was “amateur opportunism.” But three weeks earlier, Gingrich said if he were in the White House he would “exercise a no-fly zone this evening.”
“The United States doesn’t need anybody’s permission,” Gingrich told Fox News’ Greta van Susteren. “All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we’re intervening.”
Gingrich has not publicly reacted to Gadhafi’s death today.
Michele Bachmann has been one of the harshest critics of Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya. In a June debate the Minnesota congresswoman cautioned that the Libyan rebels, known as the Transitional National Council, could have ties to Al Qaeda.
“We to this day don’t yet know who the rebel forces are that were helping,” she said in a June 13 debate, according to the New York Times. “What possible vital American interests could we have to empower Al Qaeda of North Africa and Libya?”
In her statement today, Bachmann reiterated her position that the U.S. military should not be involved.
“Hopefully, today will also bring to an end our military involvement there, something I opposed from its beginning,” Bachmann said in the statement.
Jon Huntsman, who has been consistently opposed to U.S. involvement in Libya, commended the dictator’s death, but cautioned that the U.S. should focus on domestic rebuilding, not Libyan reconstruction.
“Colonel Gadafi’s demise is positive news for freedom-loving people everywhere, but it is just one step in a long and tumultuous turnover that is coming to Northern Africa,” Huntsman said in a statement. “I remain firm in my belief that America can best serve our interests and that transition through non-military assistance and rebuilding our own economic core here at home.”
In a May interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Huntsman said the U.S. should not intervene in Libya because it was “not core to our national security interest.”
But when it comes to national security, it seems Huntsman and his fellow GOP candidate Rick Perry disagree. Perry said in a statement today that the U.S. should “take an active role” during the Libyan transition to democracy in order to prevent “any remaining stockpiles of Gadhafi’s weapons” from falling into the wrong hands.
“These weapons pose a real danger to the United States and our allies, and we cannot help secure them through simple observation,” Perry said.
Presidential contender Herman Cain also expressed concern about the Libyan missiles.
“Qaddafi is gone — that’s good,” Cain’s spokesman JD Gordon said in a statement. ”So the question now is — what’s next? We’re concerned about the abundance of missing shoulder-fired missiles — which should Al Qaeda or other terror groups acquire, will pose a major threat to the civilian aviation industry.”
ABC News’ Jake Tapper, Z. Byron Wolf and Sarah Kunin contributed to this report.