With the situation in Libya expected to affect the 2012 election campaigns, several presumed presidential hopefuls got a head start on pushing for U.S. involvement.
Expected candidate Mitt Romney slammed U.S. response to the crisis, describing President Barack Obama and his administration as "deer in the headlights." Tim Pawlenty saved his harshest words for Moammar Gaddafi, deeming the embattled Libyan leader a "sociopathic killer."
Sarah Palin went even further, noting that the U.S. "should have said [to] Gaddafi, 'If you touch a hair on one American citizen's head, we're going to hit you. We're going to hit you hard. And you're not going to be left standing.'"
View potential 2012 presidential candidates and their Libya responses here:
"Certainly a no fly zone," Palin is quoted as saying. "I hate to say, jeez, more troops on the ground. You know send more of our brave young men and women over there in Libya. When yes, 41 years of Gaddafi. He's got to go...we should have told him, warned him through strong verbiage. We should have said [to] Gaddafi, 'If you touch a hair on one American citizen's head, we're going to hit you. We're going to hit you hard. And you're not going to be left standing.'"
Romney said President Obama and his administration had been caught "off-guard" by the rising turmoil in the Middle East. "The President and his team look like deer in the headlights. Instead of leading the world, the President has been tiptoeing behind the Europeans," Romney said in New Hampshire last week.
The former governor of Arkansas told CNN: "I think I'd make it very clear that the United States is not going to stand by and watch a country slaughter its own people in cold blood, that there is a sense in which there's a virtual genocide going on. I'm still hopeful that Libya's army will take Gadhafi out and I think that's the solution we can all hope for. There's clearly a man who has virtually escaped the asylum who is in a position of extraordinary power. But when a person starts talking about killing his own citizens and then following up on it, creating rivers of blood in his own streets and blowing up the one resource that his country has to give it a foundation for any economic hope, he's clearly a mad man and this is a person who is maniacal and now we are beginning to learn that he did in fact order the bombing of Pan Am 103 over the Lockabee, the disco in Berlin. You know these are acts of international terrorism and I expect more than a strongly worded letter from the UN."
Gingrich said that the U.S. should "exercise a no fly zone this evening" and that the U.S. should proceed unilaterally. On forming a coalition with other nations, he said, "The United States doesn't need anybody's permission. We don't need to have NATO, who frankly, won't bring much to the fight. We don't need to have the United Nations."
"We got a situation, we got a confirmed terrorist, sociopathic killer Moammar Gaddafi, mowing down his own people who are trying to bring forward their view of liberty and freedom," Pawlenty told reporters following remarks to the Iowa State University College Republicans. The former Minnesota governor said a no-fly zone over the volatile country would be a "good thing for the United States to do," as some leading senators have suggested.