Live Blog: President Obama's national address
September 10th, 2013
04:08 PM ET
12 months ago

Live Blog: President Obama's national address

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama addressed the nation Tuesday night on the crisis in Syria from the East Room of the White House. Below is reaction and reporting from Capitol Hill and the White House, providing analysis from our correspondents and contributors.

Read more about the president's speech here.

11:06 p.m. ET - Tonight the president "stopped some Democratic bleeding" of votes in Congress, Sen. Graham said. When asked if it would lead to enough votes, he said "maybe." Personally, Graham said he "likes the president," but also said he'll "continue to trash him."

11:04 p.m. ET - Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham on CNN said the president has "painted himself in a corner," adding that if diplomacy he will have to act militarily.


10:44 p.m. ET - House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers in a statement said he's "hopeful a diplomatic solution can be reached, however, I am skeptical of any proposal proffered by the Russians and doubt Assad’s motives for agreeing to this plan ... the President still urgently needs to develop and execute a coherent strategy to address all of those threats."

10:34 p.m. ET - 6 in 10 Americans who watched the president's speech tonight said they favor his approach, according to CNN's instant poll taken after Obama spoke. Sixty-one percent said they support the president's position in Syria and 37% said they oppose his response. The poll indicated that nearly two-thirds of those who watched the speech think the situation in Syria is likely to be resolved through diplomatic efforts, with 35% disagreeing. Speech-watchers were divided on whether Obama made a convincing case in his speech for U.S. military action in Syria, with 47% saying he did and 50% saying no. Read more here.

10:03 p.m. ET - Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain issued a joint statement saying, "We appreciate the President speaking directly to the American people about the conflict in Syria. We regret, however, that he did not speak more forcefully about the need to increase our military assistance to moderate opposition forces in Syria, such as the Free Syrian Army. We also regret that he did not lay out a clearer plan to test the seriousness of the Russian and Syrian proposal to transfer the Assad regime’s chemical weapons to international custody."

10:01 p.m. ET - Reacting to the speech, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, who met with Vice President Joe Biden yesterday and with the president today on Capitol Hill said, "I don't think the case for military action has been made ... I’m still leaning against the authorization for the use of force that’s been presented."

9:58 p.m. ET - Democratic Sen. Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in a statement said "I believe Congress can best support the goal of a diplomatic solution by approving a resolution that authorizes the use of force if Syria refuses to give up its chemical weapons."

9:54 p.m. ET - Republican Sen. Rand Paul on CNN said he hopes the Russia/diplomatic option works because if we attack, Syria will be more unstable. Paul said the chance al Qaeda gains traction in the region increases if the United States attacks.

9:45 p.m. ET - The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a left-leaning advocacy group that has been opposed to military action in Syria, responded to the address saying "public pressure worked."

"The American people knew that diplomacy was a credible and strategic option, and this great news from President Obama will be better for America and his presidency than dropping bombs on Syria," the group said in a statement.

9:43 p.m. ET - Republicans National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus responded to the president's address by saying, “The administration’s handling of the U.S. response to Syria has been so haphazard it’s disappointed even the president’s most ardent supporters."

“This rudderless diplomacy has embarrassed America on the world stage. For a president who campaigned on building American credibility abroad, the lack of leadership coming from the Oval Office is astounding," Priebus added.

9:36 p.m. ET - Full transcript of the president's remarks here.

9:24 p.m. ET - Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who is still undecided on a military strike, said the president made a "great moral argument," especially when he said U.S. troops could be gassed. But he still has to make it clear that this will not "mushroom into something else."

9:15 p.m. ET - "Sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough," Obama said.

9:15 p.m. ET - Obama asks what kind of world we would live in if we watch a leader violate international law with poison gas and "look the other way."

9:14 p.m. ET - Obama said it's too early to tell if the latest diplomatic efforts will succeed, but there is now the possibility that Syria will be rid of chemical weapons "without force." As part of those efforts, he said he asked Congress to put off any votes on action and will send Kerry to meet with Lavrov this week.

9:13 p.m. ET - "It's true that some of Assad's opponents are extremists. But al Qaeda will only draw strength in a more chaotic Syria if people there see the world doing nothing to prevent innocent civilians from being gassed to death," Obama said.

9:12 p.m. ET - Obama said he agrees the US should not be the world's policeman and said he has a "deeply held preference for peaceful solutions." But the United States "does not do pinpriks."

"Now, some members of Congress have said there's no point in simply doing a pinprick strike in Syria," Obama said. "Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn't do pinpricks. Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver."

9:09 p.m. ET – Addressing criticism of a potential strike, including one veteran that wrote to the president saying "this nation is sick and tired of war," Obama said he will "not put American boots on the ground," "not pursue an open ended action" and "not pursue a prolonged air campaign." Instead, it would be a "targeted strike."

9:07 p.m. ET - Obama said he determined the US should respond militarily to Assad to deter future action, degrade his ability and make clear the US will not tolerate their use. "That's my judgment as commander of chief," he said. But as president of the world's oldest constitutional democracy, he also felt it was right to bring the decision to Congress.

9:05 p.m. ET - Obama outlined the evidence that led to the conclusion that Assad used chemical. "These things happened. The facts cannot be denied." Now he said, the question is what the US and the international community is "prepared to do about it."

9:02 p.m. ET - Obama said he resisted calls for military action in Syria "because we cannot solve someone else's civil war through force." But the situation "profoundly changed on August 21st." He said the images were "sickening."

9:01 p.m. ET - Obama, standing in the East Room, says he will talk about Syria tonight "why it matters and where we go from here." over the past 2 years.

8:40 p.m. ET - The White House said today the president met with “national security principles on our preparedness and security posture on the eve of the twelfth anniversary of September 11th.”

“The President’s National Security team is taking measures to prevent 9/11 related attacks and to ensure the protection of U.S. persons and facilities abroad. The President reiterated that protecting the American people, both at home and abroad, is the Administration’s top national security priority,” read a statement from the White House. "We remain committed to bringing the perpetrators of the Benghazi attacks to justice and to ensuring the safety of our brave personnel serving overseas."

8:19 p.m. ET - @killoughcnn with the @CrossfireCNN highlights: Santorum: The U.S. has no national security interest in Syria

8:05 p.m. ET - @JohnKingCNN reports the president will not lay out a timetable for diplomacy or potential military action in his address tonight, according to a senior administration official involved in the speech process. The administration believes it can't make those calculations until the Kerry-Lavrov meeting Thursday, the initial eye-to-eye test of whether Russia and the Syrians are serious. Any discussion of when to schedule votes, this official said, should wait until the Kerry-Lavrov meeting, "which will give us a sense of what those alternative resolutions should look like."

The president, in his meeting with lawmakers today, said they should not do anything to take the credible military threat off the table.

7:58 p.m. ET
- @JessicaYellin: Obama’s Syria address, a speechwriter’s tall order

7:45 p.m. ET - Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the National Constitution Center Tuesday night, said Assad's use of chemical weapons violates a universal norm at the heart of our global order that requires a "response from the international community led by the U.S."

"This debate is good for our Democracy," Clinton said in Philadelphia. "Fervent arguments are the lifeblood of self government."

7:38 p.m. ET - Sen. Manchin on @OutFrontCNN said there is less of a risk now from inaction than there would have been from a U.S. military strike on Syria. The moderate Democratic senator said he has always believed the U.S. should go down a "diplomatic course."

7:30 p.m. ET - @eliselabottcnn reports that when Secretary Kerry meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, he will begin to discuss a possible deal on Syria's chemical weapons, according to senior state department officials. Kerry will bring a team of experts with him for the talks, which begin Thursday and are expected to take place in several sessions over two days, the officials said. The officials cautioned the negotiations may not be concluded in Geneva during the first set of talks. The officials said a final deal, whenever it is reached, would then be taken to the United Nations to be enshrined in a Security Council resolution.

7:13 p.m ET - @barbarastarrcnn reports the Defense Department has not yet been involved in the turnover of chemical weapons by Syria, according to a senior US military official. However, military and civilian experts are informally looking at what they might do.

7:01 p.m. ET - Reports @JimAcostaCNN: In his speech tonight the president will address why the situation in Syria is in the US' national interests, why it is in the US' interests that Syrian President Assad be be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons, that the military response would be limited in duration and scope and that the White House sees a "diplomatic opportunity" in the recent Russian proposal for Syria to rid itself of its chemical weapons.

6:49 p.m. ET
- @RickSantorum on @CrossfireCNN said the US has no national security interests in Syria. "There's a big difference between action and military action," Santorum said. "I'm for action, I'm just not for a military strike."

6:32 p.m. ET - Former Sen. Joe Lieberman on @CrossfireCNN said he wished the US "were not pausing" in Syria. He said the president made the right decision to draw the red line and was "disappointed when he decided to toss it to Congress."

6:28 p.m. ET - On @CNNSitRoom @jonfavs said Obama will be "firm" tonight in his remarks. "He'll make the case ... be passionate about what's at stake here."

6:25 p.m. ET @jonfavs, Obama's former speechwriter, told @wolfblitzercnn tonight's speech is "just about ready" and that the president often stays up "very late at night" making corrections himself.

6:23 p.m. ET - @LisaDCNN reports Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, on the Senate floor, said he’s canceling the planned the planned briefings for senators Wednesday. “There are too many things moving,” the Nevada Democrat said.

6:07 p.m. ET - @deirdrewalshcnn asked Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, if the president gave a timeline for the diplomatic efforts under consideration. "I don’t know he put a specified period on it. He thought it could be fairly short, that it would be obvious. Fairly short period of time where it would be clear whether Russia is going to come through as they said they would, and whether Syria was going to get rid of their chemical weapons." When asked about the timeline at a Google hangout earlier in the day, Secretary of State John Kerry said "it's up to the president."

“Well it’s up to the president to how long we wait, I mean the president makes that decision," Kerry said.

5:43 p.m. ET - @JimAcostaCNN reports on the president's meetings with Republican and Democratic senators today: "The President said his administration would spend the days ahead pursuing this diplomatic option with the Russians and our allies at the United Nations. In the meantime, the President said his administration would work with members of Congress on authorizing language," according to a White House official.

5:33 p.m. ET - Sen. Paul told @wolfblitzer "there's a potential" for these negotiations to have an impact on the chemical weapons in Syria, whereas military action would not.

5:29 p.m. ET - On @CNNSitRoom: Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul said one of the reasons diplomatic avenues are now being persued is because "people like me prevented the use of force."

5:05 p.m. ET - The latest from @JimAcostaCNN: Obama administration offers timeline for new Syria diplomacy

4:56 p.m. ET - Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, was one of the senators who met with the president today. Responding to reporters on Capitol Hill, Manchin, who opposes the president's plan, said Obama wants to "keep his finger on the pulse if you will and on the trigger if needed."

4:40 p.m. ET - On @TheLeadCNN: Obama's task tonight, according to @David_Gergen: "easy speech to write" and a "hard speech to sell."

4:39 p.m. ET - On @TheLeadCNN: Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, said President Obama needs to "establish his resolve" with tonight's speech and "hold out the possibility that things can get better through negotiation."

4:31 p.m. ET - On @TheLeadCNN: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii, who does not support the president's plan, said she supports the delay in the Senate vote and called today's diplomatic developments a "positive development."

4:29 p.m. ET - On @TheLeadCNN: Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, who supports the president's plan for intervention in Syria, said there should be a timetable associated with diplomatic steps to ensure stall tactics are not being used.

4:18 p.m. ET - Eight additional countries signed on to the joint statement condemning the use of chemical weapons released during last week's G-20 conference in Russia, according to the White House. The addition of Georgia, Guatemala, Kuwait, Malta, Montenegro, Panama, Poland and Portugal brings the total to 33 countries. Read the full statement here.

4:10 p.m. ET
– Tonight will be President Obama's 9th address to the nation and the 4th delivered from the East Room. Previous East Room addresses: after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden (5/1/11), to address the draw down of forces in Afghanistan (6/22/11) and to speak about the national deficit and the debt limit (7/25/11).

3:58 p.m. ET - @eliselabottcnn: Secretary of State Kerry will travel to Geneva on Thursday to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov to discuss Syria, according to a senior State Department official.


Filed under: Congress • President Obama • Syria
soundoff (257 Responses)
  1. Gurgyl

    I told long time ago, Obama is a shrewd president. Haters are idiots, they are GOP thugs. Period. I am confident of Obama.

    September 10, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  2. What's in that tea anyway?

    This folks is called Political Jui Jitsu! LOL the GOP/Conserva-dummies/Tea troll bunglers are so far behind the curve, their actions mirror the three stooges follies.They break their necks and soil themselves with all efforts being to make the president look bad. its becoming a re-occurring theme. Popcorn please

    September 10, 2013 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  3. steve-0

    I know this is serious business but it's funny how the tea party twits are against this war even though they backed the War in Iraq for the exact same reasons Obama wants to go after Syria–madman, WMD, WMD against his own people. How these twits sleep at night is amazing. It is also funny how a number of lib-tards are for this war with Syria but were against the War in Iraq. Me–I'm ok–I am against both–no blood for arabs

    September 10, 2013 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  4. Isis

    there are those of Power that have shown the path to those in Power for ages – what you see and hear is but a small moment in the great plan of a future decided long ago.
    Enjoy the show – your theatre seat is always warm.

    September 10, 2013 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  5. Guest

    Here's the 6th question"..

    How our congress talked about this, talked some more, talked a little more.. and talked some more.. days on days.. Russia comes in with the resolution and gets the whole world aboard, and we're still flapping away?

    September 10, 2013 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  6. G

    its 2013 war are a waste of time money blood-talking war is the easy way -

    September 10, 2013 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  7. Geordie

    @ Tampa Tim
    So you think the world is laughing at Republicans , that statement is laughable and shows your stupidity .
    The rest of the world is a lot smarter than you think and is not caught up between two rabid party lines.The recent events have shown us how incompetent your President is and he certainly has lost respect and trust with a lot of the leaders and people around the world.
    As for tonight's speech , it now is irrelevant , a speech put together by a group of writers and read of the Teleprompter.

    September 10, 2013 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  8. ED1

    Our no leader in charge continues somebody to blame tried Congress now Russia who knows I don't trust Obama or anybody else they all lie.

    Term limits, no retirement, and all laws passed should apply to the President on down it's nice to be able to exempt yourself from laws they pass because they know it a crappy law to begin with Obamacare at it's best.

    September 10, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  9. NameTA

    I hate liar Obama

    September 10, 2013 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  10. Will in Atlanta

    Mr. Obama: We do NOT want any new wars, period! And bring our soldiers home from Iraq and Afghanistan. This is ridiculous. Let those people over their in the middle east work out their own problems. We have enough issues here at home that need the attention of the federal government.

    September 10, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  11. dervish

    Nobody wants this war, and nothing Obama can say or do will change that.

    September 10, 2013 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  12. marty

    Think I'll watch Lord of the Rings instead.

    September 10, 2013 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  13. billn

    We are no longer a nation of peace. Obama have to protect the Taliban rebels!

    September 10, 2013 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  14. Firstname Lastname

    The answer is NO. Let Mr. Putin deal with it. THIS country is YOUR job Mr. Obama. I don't care if your limited strike was to kick over his mail box, the answer is NO. Any action by YOU Mr. Obama will lead to your immediate arrest.

    September 10, 2013 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  15. wow

    We have to face the mirror and come to terms with the simple fact that we are a war machine. It is what we do, it is who we are. We are always at war, and when one ends a new one will take its place. If Syria doesn't pan out then North Korea will be next up to bat.

    September 10, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  16. Batman

    Only when it hits home that the people will without any doubt say war war revenge war war... nice people, very nice... Listen..what do you hear? Nothing..? I hear people crying out for help everyday....

    September 10, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  17. bear

    So now we will have a speech that tells congress not to vote now, but when they do vote, if he still wants them to later to vote yes. This sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit..

    September 10, 2013 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  18. Who Knows...?

    President Obama 2 min ago: ".....moderate opposition....." Ha ha ha, almost funny! So, Al Q. affiliated groups are now "MODERATE"?

    Here is my answer: NO times infinity

    September 10, 2013 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  19. Stephen

    The U.S. has to work diplomatically w/ Russia & China, as attacking Syria puts us on opposite sides with these two semi partner nations. When the U.S. entered into deeper financial & trade ties to China & Russia, we effectively aligned future foreign policy with them. This we cannot turn back! Our only out is if WE were attacked!

    September 10, 2013 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  20. peyman

    how come there is no repulican on cnn to qustion the democratic panel.

    September 10, 2013 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  21. adam

    we have a lot of prombles here at home we should mind our businnes why start another war

    September 10, 2013 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  22. A. Person

    God I'm tired of "G.W.B. screwed our country" as an "it's ok" for our president to push us into more pain and anger. I'll say it here and now. The reason why our country is falling apart is because of both the blind republican and democratic party loyalists.

    September 10, 2013 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  23. Chuck

    The War is back on again.............Confusion is the word of the day

    September 10, 2013 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  24. Tony

    Nobel Peace Prize ! Using a podium to convince your country to stand in on another countries civil war, trying to explain how supporting a rebel group which includes a sect who 12 years ago attacked us is a needed agenda

    September 10, 2013 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  25. ironwolf56

    Obama is saying in his address he won't put American boots on the ground in Syria. This won't be like Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo etc. Everybody write this down and let's see a couple months from now if this is still true.

    September 10, 2013 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
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