What to expect from Obama’s speech on Libya
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Kai Ryssdal: President Obama’s going to make his case for American involvement in Libya tonight. It comes as a Pentagon official took pains to say the United States isn’t supporting the rebels. Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall Genzer is here with a preview of the speech. Hey Nancy.
Nancy Marshall Genzer: Hey Kai.
Ryssdal: So what’s the president going to tell us tonight about Libya?
Marshall Genzer: Well Kai, he is going to be selling the U.S. involvement in Libya to the American people, and this sales job is coming after we already bought the merchandise. It’s kind of late. We’re already involved in Libya. The White House really wants to downplay this speech. The president has said all along, ‘We’re just trying to protect civilians, not actually remove Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.’ It’s not a primetime speech, it’s at 7:30 Eastern tonight; only 4:30 for you guys in Los Angeles. And the speech won’t even be in the Oval Office. The president is going to speak at the National Defense University here in Washington; it’s a military training facility.
I talked to Larry Sabato about all this. He teaches political science at the University of Virginia.
Larry Sabato: So this non-primetime, non-Oval Office address is meant to convey this isn’t a full war. That somehow, it’s a police action.
Ryssdal: What’s he going to tell us, Nancy, the president, about how he might pay for this? I mean, the budget talks are heating up again as Congress comes back to town this week.
Marshall Genzer: Exactly. And Kai, this is where it gets interesting, and I might say, creative. The White House says it doesn’t need any extra money for the operation in Libya. It’s not submitting a separate spending request like it does for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And basically the president is saying, ‘Look Kai, I’m not spending any more money. I’m just shifting money around that’s already in the defense budget to pay for what we’re doing in Libya.’
Here’s James Thurber, he’s a political scientist at American University here in Washington.
James Thurber: If he takes money from another account in the defense budget, that’s a zero-sum game. That means we don’t buy more weapons or we don’t train more military people, if he lives within that budget.
Ryssdal: What happens afterward, though, Nancy? Part of the big expense in Iraq was the reconstruction of that country after the war, and Libya’s not on that scale, but there is rebuilding to be done.
Marshall Genzer: Yeah, there will be some sort of rebuilding to be done. We don’t know exactly how much at this point. The Obama administration isn’t too eager to talk about it. Right now they’re just saying any rebuilding will be an international effort, that we won’t be the only ones ponying up for it. There’s a big international conference on Libya tomorrow in London. Administration officials who spoke about this today said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be talking about an exit strategy at that conference. Presumably, she’ll also be talking about rebuilding.
Ryssdal: Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall Genzer on the president’s speech about Libya this evening. Nancy, thanks a lot.
Marshall Genzer: You’re welcome.
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