Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), praised Hillary Clinton for her handling of the chaos in Libya during the early days of civil unrest there and encouraged the Obama administration to take aggressive action in the country.
The comments, which came during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in March 2011, put Pence at odds with the man with whom he now shares a ticket. Though Trump initially called for the U.S. to help Libyan rebels oust the country’s long-ruling dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, he has since reversed course. During the campaign, he harshly criticized the invasion of Libya and the role that Clinton, as secretary of state, specifically played in it.
“Her invasion of Libya handed the country over to ISIS, the barbarians,” he said in a recent speech.
During the March 2011 hearing, Pence, then a congressman, offered Clinton pro forma niceties for her role during the Libya crisis. But he also went on to “encourage and urge the administration to stand with” the rebels, and called for “a coordinated international response, including a no-fly zone.” He added, emphatically, “Gaddafi must go.”
“I’m grateful to hear the secretary of state and the administration take that position unambiguously,” Pence said.
Like other members of Congress, Pence’s enthusiasm for involvement in Libya waned over time. Later in March he told a local radio station that he certainly supported “the decision to enforce a no-fly zone with the wanton slaughter of civilians that was taking place at the hands of Muammar Gaddafi.” But at a town hall meeting captured by an attendee and posted on YouTube, he appeared ambivalent, wondering “who exactly it is that we are helping.”
“What are their intentions?” Pence said. “What is their vision for Libya?”
As time went on, and the public began turning further against intervention in Libya, Pence soured on the mission. In late June, the House considered a resolution to authorize the use of U.S. armed forces in support of NATO in Libya (though the White House had concluded it didn’t need any authorization). Pence voted ‘no,’ but with enough caveats to make clear that he wasn’t opposed to intervention itself, just the vagueness of Obama’s proposal.
“President Obama started military action in Libya more than 90 days ago,” said Pence. “To date, he has not come to the Congress to request authorization for this use of force.”
Sam Levine contributed reporting.