The White House moved quickly Thursday to distance itself from National Intelligence Director James Clapper's latest controversial comments involving Libya, China and Russia.
Speaking to a congressional committee early Thursday, Clapper asserted that "over the long term ... the [Gaddafi] regime will previal" in Libya, a message which directly conflicts with the administration's pro-rebel messages to date:
In addition, Clapper, the nation's top intelligence official, went on to describe both China and Russia as "mortal [threats]" to American security as Vice President Joe Biden simultaneously met with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow:
National Security Adviser Tom Donilon told reporters on a conference call Thursday that he still has confidence in Clapper, but admitted Clapper's conclusion about Libya reflected "a static and one-dimensional assessment."
Administration analysts have “come to various conclusions about the various advantages that the Qadhafy regime has … and [what] opposition has,” Donilon said. In a more "multi-dimensional" view of the situation unfolding in Libya, the White House believes pro-democracy rebels are still strong and worth supporting as potential allies.
Reflecting on Clapper's comments on Russia and China, Donilon added: “Gen. Clapper was presenting a kind of a flat-out resources analysis in terms of their regime. He went through the kind of equipment and resources that the regime has. … I’m talking about looking to the future here.”
Still, he concluded: “I don’t think that’s the most informative analysis, quite frankly.”
In addition, Clapper raised eyebrows last December after admitting to ABC News' Diane Sawyer that he knew nothing about recent terror arrests made in the United Kingdom:
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Fox News Thursday that it may be time for Clapper to resign or be fired as Director of National Intelligence. President Obama should "repudiate" today's "third strike," Graham said. "Three strikes and you're out."
Graham added that Clapper has a "lack of situational awareness" and was sending the wrong message to Gaddafi and the people of Libya Thursday. He should know better, Graham concluded.
Meanwhile, at the White House, press secretary Jay Carney insisted that Clapper maintains Obama's full support.