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Obama takes Libya campaign to the U.S. public

President Obama will update the American people with an address today on actions to 'protect the Libyan people from the brutality of Moammar Kadafi.'

March 28, 2011|By Christi Parsons and Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — With a prime-time address to the nation Monday, President Obama launches his personal campaign to persuade Americans of the wisdom of the U.S. military intervention in Libya, more than one week after the operation began.

In his speech, the White House says, Obama will provide an update for the American people on actions taken so far with U.S. allies "to protect the Libyan people from the brutality of Moammar Kadafi," as well as the transition to NATO command and control.

Aides to the president say he feels he personally needs to "bring along" the nation on the campaign, an effort that begins with an argument that the military action is already succeeding and full responsibility is transitioning to the NATO alliance.

Photos: Rebels are back on familiar ground

Laying the groundwork for that argument, Secretaries Hillary Rodham Clinton and Robert M. Gates made the case during a series of talk-show appearances Sunday that, although turmoil in Libya didn't present a threat to the "vital interest" of the U.S., it did threaten close allies in Europe and imperil the governmental transitions taking place in Egypt and Tunisia.

"They didn't attack us, but what they were doing and Kadafi's history and the potential for the disruption and instability was very much in our interest," Clinton said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

As the president speaks, the White House will flesh out another angle. Samantha Power, a Pulitzer-winning author on the topic of genocide and a top Obama advisor who previously has remained behind the scenes, will speak about the humanitarian aspect of the mission -- and its place in the rapidly forming Obama doctrine.

Photos: A ride through familiar terrain in Libya

The president returned from a three-nation tour of Latin America last week facing criticism from all corners that he had failed to communicate adequately to the American people his rationale for the military campaign. Obama will follow up on his speech Tuesday in interviews with the three network news anchors.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are returning to Capitol Hill after a weeklong recess with plans for a battery of committee hearings on the U.S.-NATO operation throughout the week. Members of the House of Representatives also will receive a confidential briefing with White House officials on Wednesday.

cparsons@tribune.com

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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