Obama keeps low profile on high profile issues

By Jim Kuhnhenn

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, March 12 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

Ellison, together with liberal commentators and some union leaders, demanded that Obama go to Wisconsin in support of the teachers and other public sector workers. But White House officials believe the demonstrators have made the best case on their own and point to public opinion surveys that indicated support for bargaining rights.

Moreover, Republicans were already portraying Obama as a tool of labor for his remarks to the Wisconsin television station and for the logistical assistance that his political arm had supplied. White House officials say a higher profile on the issue by the president would have been counterproductive and could have interfered with a naturally occurring protest.

"In Wisconsin, it's been a much more organic movement there," said David DiMartino, a Democratic political consultant and former Senate staffer. "The White House doesn't need to get involved."

The bipartisan criticism of Obama on Libya has less to do with low profile rhetoric — the president has been vocal in his demand that Gadhafi step down — than with the direction of the president's policy. Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Republican Sen. John McCain and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman have all called for the United States to impose a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace.

But administration officials have shown little enthusiasm for such a step. They don't want to act unilaterally and would only consider it if it had widespread international support. As important, they point out enforcing a no-fly zone would require military action, including attacks on Libyan anti-aircraft defenses.

Asked at his news conference if he would use any means necessary to force Gadhafi's removal, Obama recited the steps already taken, including what he called "the largest financial seizure of assets in our history."

As for military action, he said: "Anytime I send United States forces into a potentially hostile situation, there are risks involved and there are consequences. And it is my job as president to make sure that we have considered all those risks.

"It's also important from a political perspective to, as much as possible, maintain the strong international coalition that we have right now."

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