Live blogging and news/blog roundup: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Syria (UPDATED with VIDEO)
This is live blogging of President Barack Obama’s speech on Syria from the viewpoint of an independent voter. These are quick reactions. Once the speech is over an extensive roundup of news, blog and Twitter reaction will be included. TMV is also offering live streaming video (below this post). All times are EST.
UPDATE: CNN poll did President make his case: 47% said yes, 50% said no. Some say this is improvement, others that it means speech did not succeed.
Check UNDER TMV live blogging for a cross section of other live blogging, news stories, blog posts and Tweets.
(MAJOR TECHNICAL GLITCHES INTERRUPTED THIS POST)
FINAL LIVE BLOGGING ENTRY:
9:17: A very steady, solid speech, his 9th formal address to the nation. He laid out the argument and essentially asked for Congress to wait until he sees whether the Russian proposal has actual teeth. LIKELY: It outlined his case. He can’t count on Vladimir Putin to enforce it as he wants or to join with the United States to use the United Nations as a moral and possibly military enforcement tool. The UN often shows it has much teeth as a Fixodent customer. UNLIKELY: The far left or far right will change their position. LIKELY: If there’s a vote he’ll lose.
GO HERE for a full text of his speech.
UPDATE: Here’s the video of his address:
9:03 EST: Obama gives recap about of the evolution of international prohibition on chemical weapons. A good backdrop for the speech. Many Presidents have used the Oval Office, sitting at their desks but this allows him more mobility with his body and hands. He gives some info about how the Syrian government launched the chemical weapons into neighborhoods “and the hospitals filled with the dead and the wounded.” Said when “dictators committ atrocities they depend on the world to look the other way…But these things happened. The facts cannot be denied.” The question is what the US and the international community plan to do about it. Not just violation of international law, he says, but a danger to U.S. national security.
9:11 EST: Final note: why not leave this to other countries or seek solutions short of force? He agrees “we should not be the world’s policeman” when people say it. He noted the US has used sanctions and diplomacy. But notes note hopeful signs about the Russian proposal – and the Assad regime has now admitted it has chemical weapons.
9:13: Asked Congress to postpone vote on use of force until they can get more details on the Russian proposal and to make sure it will be enforced. Will work with Russia and China to get a resolution before the UN. A very reasoned, steady report. This is a classic Presidential statement/report.
9:15: Basically asks right and left to be consistent with what each side contends is their core belief (but contradicted by their stands on the use of force). It’s a serious request — and I’m sure some on the right will criticize the crease in his tie. His notes we need to act when children are gassed to death to protect our own children in the longrun.
UPDATE: Here’s a bit of the reaction of Andrew Sullivan, who has been highly critical of Obama on Syria in recent days:
That was one of the clearest, simplest and most moving presidential speeches to the nation I can imagine. It explained and it argued, point after point. Everything the president said extemporaneously at the post-G20 presser was touched on, made terser, more elegant and more persuasive.
….I’m tired of the eye-rolling and the easy nit-picking of the president’s leadership on this over the last few weeks. The truth is: his threat of war galvanized the world and America, raised the profile of the issue of chemical weapons more powerfully than ever before, ensured that this atrocity would not be easily ignored and fostered a diplomatic initiative to resolve the issue without use of arms. All the objectives he has said he wanted from the get-go are now within reach, and the threat of military force – even if implicit – remains.
The money quote for me, apart from the deeply moving passage about poison gas use at the end, was his description of a letter from a service-member who told him, “We should not be the world’s policeman.” President Obama said, quite simply: “I agree.” And those on the far right who are accusing him of ceding the Middle East to Russia are half-right and yet completely wrong. What this remarkable breakthrough has brought about is a possible end to the dynamic in which America is both blamed for all the evils in the world and then also blamed for not stopping all of them. We desperately need to rebuild international cooperation to relieve us of that impossible burden in a cycle that can only hurt us and the West again and again.
If the Russians can more effectively enforce what the US wants, it is a huge step forward to give them that global responsibility, and credit. That inclination – deep in Obama’s bones in domestic and foreign policy – is at the root of his community organizing background. Stake your ground, flush out your partner’s cards, take a step back and see what would make a desired result more likely without you, and seize it if it emerges. The result is one less dependent on US might or presidential power, and thereby more easily entrenched in the habits and institutions of the world.
Yes, he’s still a community organizer. It’s just that now, the community he is so effectively organizing is the world.
Go to the link and read it in full.
A CROSS SECTION OF LIVE BLOGGING:
Update at 9:17 p.m. ET. Ideals At Stake:
President Obama closes by calling upon American values.
“Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria,” Obama said.
And if the country can stop a dictator from gassing his own citizens, including children, with “moderate effort and risk,” he said, “we should act.”
Update at 9:14 p.m. ET. Congress Vote On Hold:
Obama says he has asked Congress to put the Syria vote on hold, while his administration pursues the Russian proposal.
“I have ordered our military to maintain their current posture to keep the pressure on Assad, and to be in a position to respond,” Obama said.
6:22 PM PT: This is Obama explaining why he’s not going to ask Congress for approval if diplomacy falls apart. Prediction: There will never be a congressional vote—unless it’s to ratify a diplomatic solution.
–Drunkblogging by Vodka Pundit Stephen Green (who says he invented live blogging):
Stephen Green 24 MINUTES AGO
That last entry should really wrap things up, but I’ll overstep and add one thing more.
When Obama says he’s withdrawing his request for a Congressional vote, it’s like Booger from Revenge of the Nerds taking back his offer to take the homecoming queen to a swingers club.
And if that imagery disturbs you, then where the hell have you been the last two weeks?
Stephen Green 27 MINUTES AGO
If I were the student at the back of the class, the one who actually took notes and kept his mouth shut, right now I’d raise my hand and ask, “What was the assignment, Professor? I heard some nice sentiments, but what did you want us to do?”
Stephen Green 28 MINUTES AGO
My deepest, darkest fear… I mean, the thing that will keep me up at night, worried about my children and their futures…
Is that there will be another crisis in the next three-plus years, and I’ll have to do this all over again.
Stephen Green 29 MINUTES AGO
“The burdens of leadership are often heavy.”
Translation: Poor me.
My version: Pour me — another.
NEWS AND BLOG REACTION:
President Barack Obama says he long resisted calls for military action in Syria because he didn’t think force could solve the Syrian civil war. But he says he changed his mind after Syria’s government gassed its own citizens.
Obama on Tuesday used a televised address to the nation to explain his thinking on the ongoing fighting in Syria. He said the use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21 shifted his thinking and that the United States must respond with a military strike to deter future use of such weapons.
Obama said no one disputes that chemical weapons were used and said thousands of Syrians have died from them. He said the images and videos of men, women and children are sickening and demand a response.
–The Week boiled it down to a list of 16 lines. Here are the first four:
1. “100,000 people have been killed, and millions have fled the country. I have resisted calls for military action because we cannot resolve someone else’s civil wars with wars.”
2. “That abruptly changed on August 21. Assad’s government gassed to death over 1,000 people.”
3. “Chemical weapons are different.”
4. “No one disputes that chemical weapons were used in Syria … We know the Assad regime was responsible. We know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mixed sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops.”
More than a week since announcing his decision that the United States should — with the approval of Congress — launch a military strike against Syrian President Bashar Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons, President Obama on Tuesday night told the American public that the threat of a military strike should stay on the table while the U.S. and its allies take more time to pursue a diplomatic resolution with Assad.
“Sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough,” Mr. Obama said in a televised address from the East Room of the White House. “Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria.”
Mr. Obama said that, given Syria’s recent offer to give up its chemical weapons, he’s asked the leaders of Congress to postpone their vote on the use of force. The administration will work with its allies in the United Nations, he said, to put forward a resolution requiring Assad to give up the weapons. The international community will also give U.N. inspectors an opportunity to report their findings on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
In the meantime, Mr. Obama said, he’s ordered the U.S. military to “be in position” in case diplomatic efforts fail.
“For nearly seven decades the United States has been the anchor of global security,” he said. “This has meant more than forging international agreements, it has meant enforcing them.”
Speaking in a calm, direct, almost fatherly tone, Obama repeatedly invoked images of more than 400 children killed in the attack, launched by Assad’s against rebels in the two-year Syrian civil war.
Citing images of children “writhing in pain and going still on a cold hospital floor,” he said that condemning the attack would not be enough.
“When with modest effort and risk we can stop children from being to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act,” Obama said. “That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.”
Failure to respond to the regime of Syrian leader Bashar Assad would embolden other tyrants and also endanger American allies, including Turkey, Jordan and Israel, he said from the East Room of the White House.
He pledged no American boots on the ground, but warned: “The United States military doesn’t do pinpricks. Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver.”
“Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong,” Obama said. “But when with modest effort and risk we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.”
Obama’s speech capped a flurry of diplomatic activity, as American, British, and French officials spoke with Russian counterparts about their idea to have Syria turn over their chemical weapons to international control for dismantling.
So far, they are at odds on the details.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would only support a Syrian turnover if the Obama administration renounced the possible of use of force against Assad’s government.
Obama declined to do that. In meetings with U.S. senators on Tuesday, and during his prime time speech, Obama said it’s the potential for force that pressured Syria into negotiations about releasing its chemical weapons stockpile.
–ON CNN: Andrew Sullivan (a favorite here at TMV) says he thought Obama’s speech was “terrific.” He had been highly critical of Obama on Syria in recent days.
President Obama, facing an almost certain defeat in obtaining Congressional support for a military strike against Syria, made the case for that strike to the nation Tuesday night, but said he would give serious consideration to a proposal by Russia that international monitors take over and destroy Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons.
“It’s too early to tell whether this offer will succeed and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitment but this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particular because Russia is one of Assad’s strongest allies,” Mr. Obama said in a speech delivered in the White House.
But Mr. Obama said he has asked Congressional leaders to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while he pursues what he described as “this diplomatic path,”even while making the moral case for punishing Syria for its deadly use of chemical weapons.
“When dictators commit atrocities they depend upon the world to look away until those horrifying pictures fade from memory,” he said. “But these things happened. The facts cannot be denied. The question is now what is the United States and the international community prepared to do about it. Because what happened to those people, to those children, is not only a violation of international law but a threat to our security.”
But in a speech that only 48 hours ago was going to be a call to arms, Mr. Obama offered a qualified endorsement of a Russian proposal that his own advisers conceded was rife with risk, given Russia’s steadfast refusal to agree to any previous measures to pressure its longtime client in Syria. And his speech was to be a frank acknowledgment of how radically the political and diplomatic landscape had shifted in just a few days.
But with little guarantee that diplomacy would prevail, Obama argued that the nation must be prepared to strike Assad. Facing a skeptical public and Congress, the war-weary president said the United States still carries the burden of using its military power to punish regimes that would flout long-held conventions banning the use of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.
“If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons,” Obama said. “The purpose of a strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons and make clear to the world we will not tolerate their use.”
(Read the transcript of President Obama’s speech.)
But the president added that he has “a deeply held preference for peaceful solutions” as he pledged to work with international partners to negotiate with Russia over a United Nations resolution on a Syria solution.
The speech was a plea from a president who, defying public opinion, has pushed the nation toward using American force in Syria — and staked his and his nation’s credibility on whether he can get Congress to support him. But it also capped two days of intense political and diplomatic negotiations on Capitol Hill and abroad that appear to have shifted his calculus for how quickly to move forward in Syria.
US President Barack Obama pledged to explore a Russian diplomatic initiative to remove chemical weapons from Syria in a speech delivered on Tuesday night, but added that he had ordered the US military to maintain their current posture to keep the pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad, and to be in a position to respond.
In an address from the White House, Obama explained to Americans that it was a US national security interest for Syria to face consequences for an August 21 chemical weapons attack that killed more than a thousand people, many of them children.
In his first prime-time address from the White House in more than two years, Obama found himself unexpectedly tasked with a dual challenge: bolstering public support for his decision to launch military strikes against the Assad government while explaining his decision to pursue a diplomatic alternative.
The almost contradictory messages reflected the unsettled state of affairs in the standoff with Syria over the alleged chemical attack. The White House and U.S. allies worked quickly Tuesday to explore the viability of a proposal made by Russian on Monday to put Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles under international control.
The Obama administration said it was skeptical that Assad’s government would follow through with the plan. Still, in a meeting with senators on Capitol Hill, Obama asked lawmakers to give him time to sort through the options, and Senate leaders, in a sign of the deep reluctance to endorse the president’s push for another military intervention, readily complied.
But the president’s speech from the East Room was announced before Russia’s plan emerged. While diplomats in Paris, Damascus, Moscow and Washington worked through the details – running into early signs of the difficulty of crafting a workable plan – Obama continued his public relations campaign.
The speech, which aides rewrote on the fly Tuesday, was designed as the keynote of a week of meetings, briefings, speeches and phone calls aimed at lawmakers whose support Obama needs in his pursuit of congressional authorization for a punitive strike against Syria.
With polls showing Americans opposed to a strike by roughly a 2-1 margin, the White House sought to convince lawmakers to buck public opinion and back the president on a vote some say could determine the future of his presidency and U.S. credibility abroad.
But on Capitol Hill, resistance to entering another war seemed to firm up with the sudden appearance of the Russia alternative.
A CROSS SECTION OF TWEETS:
**Larry Sabato is one of the country’s best analysts. Here’s a cross section of his tweets:
If peace efforts fail, I wonder if Obama comes back to Congress. He might say, 'I've consulted Hill, now I'll act under War Powers Act.'
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) September 11, 2013
Obama almost seemed eager for military action–one presumes to keep the pressure on Putin & the Syrians.
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) September 11, 2013
Obama keeping all options open–but indirectly acknowledges neither left or right wants to attack #Syria.
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) September 11, 2013
Good Obama speech. Puts the lie to rightwing claim that he doesn't believe in American exceptionalism.
— Jonathan Alter (@jonathanalter) September 11, 2013
Does it bother anyone else that the basic Obama message to dictators is: When you slaughter your people, don't use gas.
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) September 11, 2013
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) September 11, 2013
Despite the party not having an official position, RNC hits Obama for Syria policy http://t.co/X1UotgXFyz
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) September 11, 2013
One thing was clear: Obama is highly skeptical the Russia-Syria deal is going to work. The US military isn't standing down.
— Charles Johnson (@Green_Footballs) September 11, 2013
Doesn't everyone realize America deserves Obama? He IS us. He perfectly mirrors our confusion and division. In the end, it wasn't about him.
— MATT DRUDGE (@DRUDGE) September 11, 2013
The "Worst" of Obama via Syria: Naive about levers of power, spin over substance and no friends. http://t.co/tOy6orpqar
— Ron Fournier (@ron_fournier) September 11, 2013
Not that my take is so important but I thought Obama's speech was good. Stuck to chem weapons, international norms, avoided threat inflation
— Max Fisher (@Max_Fisher) September 11, 2013
Obama had 2 separate lunches with Republicans & Democrats today. Then Chris Christie said, “Maybe I DO want to be president.” #fallonmono
— jimmy fallon (@jimmyfallon) September 11, 2013
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich feels the speech was a mistake: