CNN Senior White House Correspondent
Washington (CNN) - While President Obama has taken heat for a relatively muted response in the early days of the crisis in Libya, U.S. officials privately believe it was the best strategy because if Obama had bashed Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi it could have put the thousands of Americans who are in Libya in harm's way.
U.S. officials said there was a fear inside the administration that some of those Americans could have been taken hostage by Gadhafi, who once again made his distaste for America clear in rambling public remarks earlier this week and would relish the chance to escalate the crisis and drag U.S. citizens into the crossfire.
It's no accident that aides now say Obama is planning to make his first on-camera comments about the matter late Wednesday or early Thursday, just as a chartered ferry is expected to evacuate more than 500 Americans from Tripoli to nearby Malta.
Asked by CNN if Obama was being more cautious in his public comments because of the Americans in harm's way, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged it was an "important factor" in the calculations.
"The president is obviously concerned about the safety of American citizens - no question," Carney said at his daily briefing with reporters. "And that is an important factor in any country. And the circumstances of American citizens are different in each country. The protections they have, say, at the embassy, might be different in one country than the protections they have in another. All of those factors are important in how we approach these situations and how the president looks at them."
Carney added the president is also "extremely concerned and alarmed by the horrific violence and bloodshed that's happened in Libya" in recent days.
Obama has been blistered by some critics for being too soft on Gadhafi, with columnist Jackson Diehl writing in the Washington Post that Libya "ought to be the easy case in the Middle East's turmoil" for the White House to deal with because of Gadhafi's government killing at least hundreds of its own people.
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