Live Blog: President Obama's national address
September 10th, 2013
04:08 PM ET
1 year 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. Name Nick

    Lies and more lies. There is no proof Assad did it there is proof the rebels did it to provoke us action

    September 10, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  2. Denese

    The President had some nice talking points and did mention diplomatic talks to get Assad to give up any chemical weapons he has, but the speech still not persuade me that the U.S. needs to get any more involved in Syria than other country. Lead the charge and keep the pressure on Assad by all means, but the U.S. does not need another war...not even a "limited strike". It will not make us any safer. It will not make the world a better place. Kids are dying in America from violence. One year old babies have been shot and killed last week alone in California, New Orleans and Brooklyn. No one in Washington gets worked up over that. No "red lines" crossed there I guess.

    September 10, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  3. Ronnie

    The president addressed specific concerns in his speech and this made me chose to trust the president.

    September 10, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  4. Name

    If Syria does not have the capability to harm our military, then how does Syria pose a threat to our national security?

    September 10, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  5. Mikw

    Nothing could could put our children in more danger than angering Russia. When are we done with this clown.

    September 10, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  6. David H.

    I did not see a president on TV speaking from the heart, I saw a puppet reading from a teleprompter off screen. The message was real but I did not feel those were his words but someone else's which he simply just read!

    September 10, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  7. Benny Hill

    I hope Russia and China jump in to defend Syria.. That would be quite the War.. Stop being stupid Obama, fix your own country first idiot..

    September 10, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  8. Awesome

    Obamas speech was well thought out and well presented. Looked like Putin gave him a great international relations lesson that helped him make this speech to win back his public support.

    September 10, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  9. MarkW

    It sure would be nice if Republicans cared half as much about the real use of chemical weapons as they did about the imaginary storage of them ten years ago. But then, I've given up on trying to understand Republicans in a rational framework.

    September 10, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  10. Varun

    As usual, the buffoon took 20 minutes screen time and conveyed 0 information. He's asking us to see the videos of children suffering to let him strike Syria. If that is his version of evidence, then bush's evidence was more valid.

    September 10, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  11. Stephen

    Military warfare, as we know it, is a primitive solution to modern day conflicts. Just as parents, teachers, police, and others no longer BEAT submission into those they oversee, U.S. foreign too must modernize. We are too interconnected to just use force as a solution..

    September 10, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  12. U.S. Citizen

    What a novel idea. Diplomacy before War.

    It's about time the State Department stops deferring to the Military to 'Win the Hearts and Minds' of those who need to change their hearts and minds.

    The military should only be used to provide security for Diplomatic efforts and programs and to neutralize any threats to them.

    September 10, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  13. SpgfldTom

    Still not clear as to why the President is so hell bent to attack Syria. The civil war in Syria has been going on for 2 years with 100,000 dead (on both sides) and chemical weapons have been used before (supposedly when rebels mishandled chemical weapons they had received from Saudi Arabia). I am not convinced this is anything more than a distraction from Obama's failed poicies (foreign and domestic). The Obama administration lied about events in Benghazi, why should I believe they are telling the truth now? It is sad and embarrassing when the Russians have to intervene with a non-violent diplomatic suggestion to defuse Obama's War.

    September 10, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  14. Thomas Francis

    Republican from NJ. DO it Pres. Obama! WE as American's, are the Leaders & Heroes of Human Rights! Why didn't you do it, and explain later! 100 percent support!!!! Get the job done!!

    September 10, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  15. Tim

    Help me understand. Why wouldn't we just nuke the entire Middle East (except for those cool indoor ski facilities in Dubai)?

    September 10, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  16. AlwyQGov

    I didn't want them in battle since my neighbors daughter is on the Nimitz but I know the crew of the NImitz and the other 5 Navy ships will make us proud.

    September 10, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  17. LW

    We need to focus on us. The people of this country are tired and exhausted trying to get by day to day. All the money given to the world, if kept in the USA would secure social security and mountains of other issue facing our country. America do your homework and find out how much of OUR money is given to help other counties instead of helping us.
    Stay out of other counties issues and focus on the issues at home!

    September 10, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  18. Lisa Thompson

    Don't always support the president but great speech tonight. Moral responsibility is dead on.

    September 10, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  19. skyler

    why has syria become so important all of a sudden? putin has caused a big debacle by introducing the diplomacy! obama a faied president has achieved nothing of any long-term significance. the ruckus about syria is just to distract americans from thinking/talking about the obamacare that is coming on october first. this is the stark difference between bush and obama. bush when faced with multiple issues of equal importance, dealt with them at the same time. obama on the other hand plays politics by taking sides. the bigger question at this point is how the obamacare will be successful and how to implement it without shooting up the unemployment numbers or reducing the working hours of working american? instead of facing the questions and bringing out solutions to this, obama is simply ignoring it and creating a war sentiment in a war torned, debt ridden america. shame shame obama is lame!

    September 10, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  20. John

    Let's hope tomorrow is calm and that this is a real peaceful option.

    September 10, 2013 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  21. blakenaustin

    This president loves the sound of his own voice and is firmly convinced that he is the source of all wisdom. His arrogance is nauseating. Wish he would learn to listen to the American people. And place himself under the authority of the constitution and Congress.

    September 10, 2013 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  22. Aviv haver

    great speech i hope president obama does the right thing and protects international law the proper way

    September 10, 2013 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  23. unjust

    We push to bomb for using chemical weapons killing the young people of Syria yet we allow abortion of our nations unborn children. Who is moral???

    September 10, 2013 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  24. Carol

    I feel good about the diplomacy going into action with Russia, and Syria, not so with any attack that would hurt the innocent. The President mentioned the left and the right, but forgot about the people who are the moderates.

    September 10, 2013 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  25. Me

    He made the call on OBL...nuff said

    September 10, 2013 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
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