Live Blog: President Obama's national address
September 10th, 2013
04:08 PM ET
7 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. Name S.D.

    I agree with the President. Why can't we stand together?

    September 10, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  2. Peshwar

    I am not convinced- NO military strike on Syria! Why did we have to wait until the Russians thought of a diplomatic solution? Why did we not think of it? Maybe we think too much about making war and not peace!

    September 10, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  3. Ryker

    If Syria does not have the capability of harming our military then how do they pose a national security threat?

    September 10, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  4. ExArmyVet

    Send only bombs.

    September 10, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  5. rissa

    So we go and fight to avenge SYRIA"S children that were killed however we have thousands of kids right here in the us that starve to death or freeze to death every day, and yet OUR government does nothing! smh

    September 10, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  6. Name

    Great speech we cannot have mass destructions in the hands of radicals. Remember 911. The president. Stands his ground. Everybody is in danger with these weapons in extremeists. Mass destruction. Who dont get it. No mass destruction weapons. Love pres. Obama.

    September 10, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  7. seif

    President Obama must wait and see the conclusion of UN observers than he could mske a real and conscious decision. I allways remember M Powell lying in in the UN council of security showin in his hand a fake prouve...what a shame

    September 10, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  8. Daron Norris

    The comment "save our children" ticks me off! 400 Syrian children lets fire rockets! Over 1 million abortions in the US per year is ok? Why don't other countrys fire targeted rockets at planned parenthood!

    September 10, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  9. Name

    Obama we support you........we are safer because of your leadership.........if Syria keeps playing games do what you have to do

    September 10, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  10. Emily G

    I agree with the President, a limited strike would be the start of something good. My husband is in the military and when he signed up he knew America doesn't just stand up for ourselves but also other countries. We do NOT want babies and children gased anymore. We as Americans shouldn't turn a blind eye to this.

    September 10, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  11. American for the Long Haul

    I appreciated the President's address tonight. However, the leader of Syria approved the killing of innocent lives men, women, and children. Yes, I'm weary of war, Yes, I am concerned for the National Security and Yes, we need to move slow. Where did I miss that Syria would be reprimanded for this act. How did Russia become the saving grace when a week or so ago they sided with Syria and issued warnings against the US. Where is the dignity of this country, I would rather punish Syria for the attrocities against their own people, than sit back and wait for the unkown of the future. I do not trust countries who condone this type of behavior? I am extremely dissapointed with the entire process. The only good thing that came out of this is knowing where Russia, China and other countries stand with this type of behavior. Do we really want those countries as our allies and partners? Are those countries forthcoming for the greater good of the world, I am hesitant to even think about it.

    September 10, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  12. tyler

    Congrats President Obama. You just made us loo as soft as wet bread to the rest of the world. U seem scared of Russian/ China. We lose tonite. Sad

    September 10, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  13. Scottish Mama

    If congress gives President Obama the choice, just the choice to use force, it sends a clear message we are united. If just the mention has Al Assad saying he will turn them over we can expect him to definately turn them over. Otherwise we are just giving him time to hide them. I also expect the American people to trust the president to guide us thru this. He has told us everything he can. If we would have nipped Kosovo in the bud we may have saved many many lives. We have this chance again and should embrace the fact we could save people from a horrible death. It is different to have a civil war and to chemically gas innocent children. If Russia knows we are serious there may be no use for force. The congress needs to get their heads out of destroying President Obama and back him with confidence. If we do not and Al Assad does it again, the blame will rest squarely on their shoulders. If it happens I hope all republicans and democrats will pay in the next election.

    September 10, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  14. Stephen

    I'm sorry but Washington is disconnected from modern living. Wasn't it Washington that approved of slavery in the 1700s? The idea of choosing a career of riches & privilege where you make decisions and policy for so many others – is dysfunctional. Our government's lack of vision in so many areas is a direct result of this life of privilege. THINK – what would Jesus do?

    September 10, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  15. just saying

    15 more minutes of o-blabba-blabba and nothing new was said, just the same old tired bs this incompetent monkey has been flinging at the american people for 5 years. so now american policy is syria is being driven by a joke that kerry made in a news conference and derided as improbable. his office even hastily dismissed it after he stupidly said it. and to make o-blabba-blabba a bigger liar, he now claims it was his idea! so when was the last timea secretary of state publicly dismissed and derided a proposal by the president?!! seriously, the planet is starting to wobble from all the nutty spin o-blabba-blabba and his looney lefties are putting on their parade of follies in syria. is it any wonder that the middle east is in flames because of this incompetent nincompoop? and now he wants to force us into a war in syria because he shot his mouth off. syria never signed the treaty about using gas. so now obama is going to force them to abide by a treay they never signed? insane. but this is what we have cometo expect of o-blabba-blabba.

    September 10, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    President is a WARMONGER just like Bush I, Clinton, Bush II. They are all controlled by the BLACK POPE. WE the people have no say in the matter. Our cherry picked VIP's have been servants since the inception of our country.

    September 10, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  17. JH

    Benghazi benghazi benghazi-–this keystone cop running our country has lost the ability to ask the American people to believe him.

    September 10, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    So the president delays the vote in order to sway the congress in favor of a strike on Syria. But the people have spoken, 'No war in Syria'.

    September 10, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  19. R.Z.

    Why is the President supporting the Syrian rebels/terrorists ? Al Quaida is apart of this group – why would America side with Al Quaida ? Why did the President give them $12Million American tax dollars ?

    September 10, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  20. Bill Weaver

    Tonight he abrogated his responsibility and handed the decision to Congress only because he cannot make the decison on his own this time.. He should have consulted congress months ago and he should have taken action months ago. Now he is in a spot all non leaders eventually drop to – admission of the reality he is not fit for the job. He has just admited he carries water for Putin and is best suited to be an administrator not a leader. Truman was really an administrator but he could rise to the occasion when decisons needed to be made. Would you go into the field for this president and actualy expect he might be there when you needed to get picked up? You better plan on fighting your way out alone.

    September 10, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  21. Elie khalil

    Glad too see he will be waiting for efforts on the syrian and russia side , with non hard proof Assad used these weapons it wouldnt be a smart idea to launch a strike, war is good for no one and i truely beleve this could escalate to the point that World War 4 would be fought with stick and stones. @ac360

    September 10, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  22. Rwkenned

    This is the most ignorant and arrogant president we have ever elected. His own hubris will lead us into a global conflict that in our current state we can ill afford to enter into let alone fight.

    September 10, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  23. Harry Tosado Jr.

    It angers me about all of the talk about Bush leading us into a false war. Every one knew that there were WMD's, everyone voted to go to war,and everyone suspected those weapons were moved to Syria before we attacked. Now we are complaining about chemical weapons being used there? I bet money these are thr same weapons we went into Iraq for.

    September 10, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  24. Freedom Storm

    Did I hear correctly ?!?! He actually pulled "the children" trick? Unmitigated insult to the American people AGAIN ?

    September 10, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  25. Loyal

    President Obama did a very good job tonight and we are a more safer nation because he is our leader.

    September 10, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
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