WOLFEBORO, N.H. — Republican Jon Huntsman, who until last month served as President Barack Obama's ambassador to China, told reporters on Friday that he would have backed a congressional resolution scolding the president for ordering U.S. military forces to aid Libya without Congress' approval.
Huntsman, a former Utah governor who is weighing a White House bid, told reporters at the end of an evening GOP cruise on Lake Winnipesaukee that the United States hasn't set a terrific example of helping tribal countries such as Libya, citing Afghanistan.
Instead, the 51-year-old Huntsman said the United States should "call a time-out" and focus on domestic priorities.
"We're at a point in time where increasingly we need to call a timeout and focus on rebuilding our core right here at home because if we don't get this right, we don't have a foreign policy," Huntsman said on a dock, the sun setting behind him.
Huntsman, who hours earlier arrived for his second trip to the early nominating state of New Hampshire as he contemplates a presidential campaign, has opposed U.S. military efforts in Libya since stepping down as the Obama administration's representative in Beijing. A veteran of three Republican administrations with deep foreign policy experience, Huntsman said Libya is not "core to our national security interests."
The House flashed bipartisan frustration over an almost three-month-old conflict that has no end in sight. Over White House objections, the House adopted a resolution chastising Obama for failing to provide a "compelling rationale" for the Libyan mission and demanding answers in the next 14 days on the operation's objective, its costs and its impact on the nation's two other wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The fact that this resolution is required is a testament to the president's failure of leadership on foreign policy," said former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is running for the GOP nomination. "Members of the House from both parties have asked where we are headed in Libya, wondered whether the commander in chief is poised to command troops, asked for information about costs and end game, and been rebuffed."
The United States plays a significant support role in the NATO-led military operations to aid the rebels who are battling Moammar Gadhafi's forces.
"It might sound like it's a tangential, supportive role at the beginning, even if it's just a no-fly zone. But you're making a commitment," Huntsman said, standing just around the point from potential rival Mitt Romney's vacation home here. "You're making an investment of resources and of people. Sometimes those things become very hard to unwind."
Obama ordered air strikes in March after a U.N. resolution and limited consultation with Congress. The U.S. Constitution specifies that the president is commander in chief but says only Congress has the power to declare war.
The 1973 War Powers Resolution requires the president to obtain congressional authorization within 60 days of the start of military operations, a deadline that passed last month.