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Obama Pressed To Do Something About Libya


Here in the U.S., there's an ongoing debate about whether the U.S. should get more involved in the crises in the Arab world.

Joining us now for some analysis, as she does most Monday mornings, is NPR's Cokie Roberts.

Good morning.


MONTAGNE: And so does the administration seem to feeling the pressure from lawmakers to do something?

ROBERTS: I think that pressure is rising, particularly in terms of Libya. Bahrain's a different situation, because the Fifth Fleet is home-ported there, and that becomes much harder - a much harder nut. But Libya is very much upsetting members of both parties in the Congress.

Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee - a Democrat, of course - suggested that the U.S. should perhaps bomb the airfields of Libya. Senator John McCain says a no-fly zone should be established. Gadhafi can't keep killing people from the air. Now, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has said that that is an act of war and that, you know, you have to be prepared, then, to be in another war in the Middle East, which is something that is not something to take lightly.

There's talk of getting human assistance to the borders, but every day that Gadhafi stays and fights, it's really harder for the U.S. to stay out of this. Senator McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, says: Well, then, arm the insurgents. But administration sources are saying they don't really know who the insurgents are, and they're making it very clear that they don't want to act without allies, without the international community being with the United States.

Chief of Staff Bill Daley underlined that yesterday. There will be NATO meetings this week. But, you know, you just heard Frank say that the price of oil is very much involved as the longer these battles go on, and anybody who put gas in their car this weekend saw how much the price of oil has gone up. We're beginning to feel it here. And anyone buying food all around the world is beginning to feel it, because as the energy prices go up, the food prices go up. So there's a lot of pressure to do something to change this situation.

MONTAGNE: Well, changing the situation about the oil, the administration is thinking about opening up the government's oil reserve. Or might it do that, or might it take any other action?

ROBERTS: Well, that would be the main action that they could take, but that is, again, something that is meant to only happen when the we are out of oil in this country, or running low on supply. Again yesterday, Chief of Staff Bill Daley said the administration would consider it, but he didn't sound very convinced.

But this oil price is a huge problem for the president because, you know, he got good news on Friday on the jobs front. But if the oil prices go up and stay up, it could completely dampen down the recovery.

MONTAGNE: And finally, let's talk about the budget battle. It seems to be never ending. What can we expect, Cokie, this week?

ROBERTS: Well, yes, the argument goes on, and the Democrats are emphasizing the individual cuts the Republicans are ready to make in education and cancer research, in all kinds of popular programs. Republicans are emphasizing the big picture. The country is broke. We have to cut.

Senate Democrat Dick Durbin said yesterday that he's not ready to take any more out of the tiny part of the budget that everybody's talking about, domestic discretionary spending, any more than the $6 billion that the Senate Democrats put on the table on Friday. He says that a group of six Senators of all stripes are meeting regularly to try to get at the big budget items, Medicare, Social Security, et cetera.

But the Senate leader Republican leader McConnell says the administration's not serious about those items. They're just fighting, and that's all down the road. Right now, they have to figure out, again, this year's budget, and that one's going to be very tough because the Republican freshmen in the House are not ready to go with their leaders at the moment.

MONTAGNE: Cokie, thanks very much. That's NPR's Cokie Roberts.

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MONTAGNE: And this is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.