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Boehner criticizes Obama's rationale for Libyan mission

House Speaker John Boehner sends a letter to President Obama asking him to provide a more thorough assessment of the United States' mission in Libya. Boehner says he and other lawmakers 'are troubled that U.S. military resources were committed to war' without a clear explanation of the mission.

March 23, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli and Lisa Mascaro, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — House Speaker John Boehner called on President Obama to provide a more thorough assessment of the United States' mission in Libya, charging that the administration's rationale so far has been ill-defined and at times "contradictory."

In a letter to the president, the Ohio Republican says he respects Obama's authority as commander-in-chief, but that he and other lawmakers "are troubled that U.S. military resources were committed to war" without a clear explanation of the mission and America's role in it.

Boehner's letter comes as an unusual convergence of lawmakers on the political left and right have raised concerns about the president's handling of the military campaign. Several Democratic leaders in the Senate sought to defend the president Wednesday.

Boehner outlined a series of questions covering the range of issues being raised by lawmakers — from the costs of the campaign to the military end-game if Libyan dictator Moammar Kadafi is not removed from power.

"What is your benchmark for success in Libya?" Boehner wrote.

Boehner's letter was released to the press just moments before Air Force One touched down outside Washington on Wednesday as the president returned from a five-day Latin American trip. Earlier this week, Obama sent a letter to Boehner as well as Senate President Pro Tempore Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) in which he informed them of the military operation, which he said was "in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States," and executed within his authority as commander-in-chief.

The two-page letter from Boehner concludes that it was "regrettable that no opportunity was afforded to consult with congressional leaders" before the operation was launch, which he said was "the custom of your predecessors."

Obama did meet with bipartisan leadership in the Situation Room on Friday before his departure, though Boehner did not participate in person. An administration briefing for congressional staff on Tuesday failed to answer many lawmakers' concerns, sources said.

White House press secretary Jay Carney, speaking to reporters en route from El Salvador before Boehner's letter was released, said lawmakers criticizing the administration's actions were the same ones who at the outset complained the White House wasn't acting quickly enough.

"We obviously take very seriously … the need for congressional consultations. We have done them and will continue to do them," he said.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

lisa.mascaro@latimes.com

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