Live Blog: President Obama's national address
September 10th, 2013
04:08 PM ET
11 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. jack

    I just watch a man who has overseen the killing of women and children with drone strikes try to rationalize an attack on another country because they are killing women and children. Oh the irony.

    September 10, 2013 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  2. WarCriminal4President

    This fool wants world war three. And he is siding with AlQuaida infiltrated rebels so any of you supporting this pig are also supporting AlQuaida traitors

    September 10, 2013 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  3. Bill Smells

    Obama is a jellyfish. No spine.

    September 10, 2013 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  4. Name gd41594134

    Still No involvement in Syria,No missles,No Boots, No troops, just No.

    September 10, 2013 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  5. Vicki Lucey

    Stop we can't save the whole world.Bring our troops home this is God's war.He told us this would happen in his written word the Bible he also said his kingdom was not of this world that this is Satan's world.Don't you see.Stop trying to fight gods war only he can Win against satan not you not us

    September 10, 2013 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  6. isabellemcfadden

    Mr. President,

    I know you are stuck in a hard place, but you are seriously making the American very doubtful of your competence.

    September 10, 2013 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  7. Miguel

    I thing that was a great speech!....

    September 10, 2013 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  8. JohnParry

    We seem to have a very confused president at the moment. No coherent Syria strategy. But he honestly doesn't realize it. This is what we get for electing a young, inexperienced and elitist candidate. All of this is our mistake, not really his. The presidency is actually beyond him.

    September 10, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  9. thetruth shall set you free

    How many atrocities are happening around the world in African countries, in Asian countries, the drug war in the Americas. In each of these regions there are horrific crimes being committed, thousands dying. I do not see Obama sending troops or striking. why? I thought that human dignity and freedom was meant for all mankind. Also, will not innocent children die when "guided missiles" strike a sovereign country such as Syria? I remember the movie from michael moore showed dead children burned crisp from the US bombings. I guess thats justified huh.

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

    Obama seems weak... why does he feel the need to ask permission from the legislative bodies for action?

    September 10, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    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."

    So, lets attack a country without UN approval and violate international law.

    September 10, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  12. JCDavis

    A sad speech by a neocon.

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

    The President needs to heed the advise of those more, much more, experienced 1 ) than he at foreign relations 2) at waging war, or threatening to wage war and 3) who have a better relationship with the warring factions. He should defer to the Russian-led initiative and realize that he has been trumped. I hate to see a U.S. President so soundly trounced, but such is the case. He does not yet understand that the civil war in Syria is not our business or a political opportunity for him to solidify his and his party's dominance, but that it is an internal strife between warring factions within the Muslim religion.

    September 10, 2013 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  14. jesus-saves

    well first Obama needs to turn to GOD almighty and bring GOD back into everything schools and the ten commandments back on the court house lawns and also we are one nation under GOD, start there Obama and everyone in congress!!!!!!!!!!! read your holy bible kjv

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

    Syria just scored big time against the USA. The world is laughing at the USA. Putin just scored big time against the USA too. So, with no credibility left, where is the USA to go? White did it again, big time screw up. They cannot do anything right.

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

    Lets wait and let things unfold, if they don't do as there told. Military strike is needed

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

    Syria is a complex situation and I see strong arguments both for and against intervention. However, regardless of which side you are on regarding Syria, whenever I hear Obama speak I feel somewhat reassured that at least we have a grownup in the room. Obama is both intelligent and thoughtful, unlike Bush. That alone makes me feel better!

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

    Our President is Brilliant and I trust Him 100%

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

    OK, let's get something straight here. Obama didn't bomb anything, and Obama hasn't done anything in direct relation to anything. There's a whole lot of people involved in military decisions. You all act like Obama did it all by himself. If this were the case he's one busy man!!

    However, in this case he does not have public or political support to do anything and I don't think he will any time in the near future. Here's to hoping diplomacy wins out over a targeted strike.

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

    Obama needs to focus on the USA and stop trying to police the world. He is wasting so much taxpayer money with this bs.

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

    Gingrich was not 100% correct about Roosevelt going to war, we had been ramping up for the war for over a year and that is why we had all those ships in Hawaii in the first place – that is why Japan struck us in the first place – it is not like we weren't already preparing with huge amounts of resources to get into battle.

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

    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."

    So, lets attack a country without UN approval, and violate international law.
    Sounds good.

    September 10, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  23. Name

    Isnt it ironic, wen Bush went to war for nothing you supported him, now, a man obviously wrong, u want to stand by and do nothing ,typical.

    September 10, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  24. Imminent

    Anyone, any human being, that thinks this is a political party (dem or rep) or conservative and liberal issue is completely inept. Neither side is free of corruption. Neither side has honor. The Syrian issue comes down to individual Americans telling Congress and the President what WE THE PEOPLE want to happen.

    Has the Syrian people (general public) come asking for help? No.
    Should both the rebels and Assad administration be put down? Yes. (Both have proven they will hurt innocence to achieve their goal. Sounds familiar here in America.)
    Why haven't we seen solid visible evidence who used chemical weapons? Because neither side is honorable.
    Should America police other countries? No.
    Why isn't the all powerful and fierce U.N. not taking action? They are like the meter maids of any military – look tough in uniform but never achieve anything.

    We shouldn't be in the middle and that's exactly what our government wants. The answer is no.

    September 10, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  25. David

    That wasnt great I feel as if he wasn't reading the TelePrompTer

    September 10, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
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