"Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns, the third highest-ranking official at the State Department...maintained that the president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have responded with urgency to the fluid and rapidly evolving events on the ground in Libya.
But lawmakers from both parties on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee openly expressed skepticism about those claims, with a bluntness rare in the normally staid confines of Capitol Hill hearing rooms.
None was more direct or impassioned than Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the freshman elected last year with Tea Party backing.
"The United States, quite frankly, looks weak in this endeavor," said Rubio. "It looks unwilling, and maybe even unable, to act in this capacity.What are we going to do if there¹s a bloodbath after this? The president of the United States has specifically said Qaddafi must go, but has done nothing since saying that, except have internal debates about it for a week-and-a half or two."
When Burns cited pending efforts at the U.N. Security Council, where the U.S., France and Great Britain were working to secure Russian and Chinese agreement on a resolution establishing a no-fly zone over Libya, to be coordinated with Arab participation, Rubio--in extraordinarily blunt terms--challenged both the rationale and timing for that course of action.
"So our message to the dissidents," Rubio said, "the people with the bravery to stand up to Muammar Qaddafi, and then the people maybe thinking to stand up to the Iranian regime, and in other places, our message is: "You guys go ahead and do this stuff, and if we can ever get the Russians or the Chinese to ever come around, we may or may not join you?"
"Russia and China don't care about this stuff," Rubio continued. "They don't care that Muammar Qaddafi is going to massacre people. So if Russia doesn¹t care, and China doesn't care, and we care but won¹t do anything about it, who is it up to the French?"