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. Don DaMiddle

    Like Roosevelt said...
    Walk softly and carry 11 Aircraft Carrier Battle Groups? (costing 8 Billion a year EACH to operate)
    (No other country in the world has more than 2 Aircraft Carrier Battle Groups)
    Make a deal... enforce the agreement.

    September 10, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  2. mickar

    Obama's speech was full of contradictions and will do little to persuade the American public or lawmakers.

    Obama claims he doesn't want war but wants permission to go to war. C'mon, what is that?

    Obama claims he wants to deter the use of chemical weapons through force while Syria has already agreed to give up its' chemical weapons. There's nothing to deter Mr President.

    Obama claims Assad is this brutal dictator, comparing him to Hitler but only wants limited strikes. What??? If he's a Hitler you should be going in guns blazing.

    Obama is willing to negotiate with Assad, the dictator, on giving up his chemical weapons while at the same time saying Assad needs to go but not now because the other side is full of Al Qaeda but will arm the other side anyway. ??? What the bleep is that?

    Obama has no strategy. He is zigzagging his way through Syria and the American public knows it.

    September 10, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  3. Adriana

    Primarily, I would like to know what are the specific targets the USA would militarily attack and how would that weaken the Syrian government capability to harm it's own people and retaliate?
    Secondly I would like to know to what extent specifically our intelligence agency predicts that Assad could retaliate.
    Thank you

    September 10, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  4. Jessica McGwin

    Alright baby steps. I know it is unpopular. Russia taking the lead is part of team work. I know that Syria can and will surrender the weapons. There are ways even in war to find peace. Russia and the United States both have bad track records. I do not expect all out trust for either Russia or the US. What I do expect is that both will stand fearless for the voiceless. I expect them both to stay focused on the objective stopping the use of weapons of mass destruction. It is a baby step, we will both fumble like babies struggling to gain solid ground. I will be great full to Assad for keeping his end of the deal. God speed to those in the UN fined a way.

    September 10, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  5. Matty13

    Syria has agreed to put their chemical weapons under international control. Why? They said they didn't do it, that the rebels were the ones who did it. Why aren't they insisting that the rebel's chemical weapons be put under international control?
    There is a statement above by the President that we are out of Iraq. No we are not. There is two brigades there still. For a long time.

    September 10, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  6. pkfops

    Assad and Putin are afraid; they are very afraid.

    September 10, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  7. Joe

    Obama’s speech was not authentic at all, maybe because he was trying to spin the facts. For example:

    1. Our president compared the chemical attack in Syria to the Nazis gassing Jews (and some other government) but he forgot to also mention that the United States gassed innocent Vietnam civilians and 400,000 died as a result.

    2. The President, as usual, mentioned Iran’s nuclear weapon threat. Everyone should know that Israel has never confirmed or denied that it too has chemical weapons. Interesting enough, our country never mentions this fact. Why? Shouldn’t both countries be treated equally and have the same rights/restrictions?

    3. The President said that a resolution is being worked out in regards to handing over the chemical weapons, but already today, France had submitted its resolution in which it not only calls for giving up of chemical weapons but has many additional conditions that Syria must accept. Why would France list all these other conditions? Are all the countries involved going to list their own conditions, too? Then they are the ones slowing the process down, not Syria.

    4. The President said that the US has acted “for just causes all over the world” for over 70 years. Yeah, but he forgot to mention we were also unjust, brutal and unwelcome in many cases. We deployed two atomic bombs in those last 70 years and gassed Vietnam civilians for over 10 years. In fact, we were the ones violating international law against chemical weapons. Was that just? Not so much.

    Truth is always the best policy, Mr. President.

    September 10, 2013 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  8. NameDaniel. Salazar

    1st could not find the CNN's poll to vote on president speech.
    2nd, I think the president us doing a good job. Considering, when I turn on the news all I see is these guests/experts bashing the president, we have the republicans not wanting to work with the president. No team work with these politicians. And see nothing wrong with hitting Sryia where we can stop or slow down their chemical usage.

    September 10, 2013 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  9. Sarah Lee

    Funny we went to Iraq telling the world they have WMD when Iraq had none. Now we know Syria has WMD but we are telling the world we are looking for a peaceful solution. We need Bush man and save our face. This is not presidential.

    September 10, 2013 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  10. Government waste rules

    WAY TO PUNT! Obama exhibits his leadership qualities once again.

    September 10, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  11. NameMaria Martinez

    Congress needs to rally in support of the president. We cannot allow these types of atrocities against civilians. This tyrant needs to know that we are a "United Nation" and we will do whatever it takes!

    September 10, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  12. Ricky Zumbo

    Support President Obama in his decisions to lead this country. He is the President and everyone else is not. He ended Iraq, is ending Afghanistan and is one of the great Presidents of human rights. As one that believes in Unity, sometimes you have to stand up to the big bully. Years ago nobody ever got to put their 2 cents in. Now with all the social networks, internet, and cell phones, most people have lost touch with reality and respect for one another.

    September 10, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  13. Textdoc

    Same ole same ole inept, blame anyone but himself for his ignorance and laziness of office. Of course CNN with the leftwing liberal media will be covering for Obamas incompetence. However, Obamas administration and his lack of leadership on Syria has sure made all those so-called phony IRS, Benghazi, NSA scandal's seem irrelevant when compared to the whole world rolling on the floor laughing their assets off.

    September 10, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  14. Loyal

    POTUS showed the world tonight why we elected him twice........a very clear message to Syria either give up the weapons or we will attack point blank......this is a President who means business.

    September 10, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  15. Name n0ctsavant

    Does anyone remember how the French came to America's rescue like bosses when our country was going through similar tyrannical issues with the British? I hope we haven't gotten too upity to forget. The French paid a high price to help. Just saying..

    September 10, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  16. NC Beach Girl

    I am encouraged by the Presidents speech. He took time to break it down for me and I appreciate being more informed. I do not believe in the use of chemical weapons – I am all for peace – but if you look at parenting verbal communication doesn't always work and punishment is required. If we can stop specifically children getting gassed – even if its not all the children in the world – I think we should. I do not think we should then try to take over and try to help them govern like we do. But punishment for breaking a rule – yes. - If the Russian's can't make a deal.

    September 10, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  17. Jerry Okamura

    Think unintended consequences. No one knows what the unintended consequences will be, if we use military force.

    September 10, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  18. Dennis K. Biby

    Stumbler-in-chief! Regrettably I voted for him. He escalated Afghanistan, cowered behind his shaming of Bush while doing the same, and was blind-sided by Kerry's comment on chemical weapons!

    Perhaps he should return to promoting Obamacare (a reality denying proposal) and promote gun control for Detroit, Philadelphia, and Baltimore failed communities.

    Dennis
    s/v Ferrity

    September 10, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  19. menisino

    Obama is putting his trust in Pukin? Is he that nieve ? There is no hope in hell that Pukin will do anything but lie & delay.

    September 10, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  20. J.Cole

    This is simple. The ones who say we are tired of war have never even been in Combat. If this was happening to us you would want something done. You would pray to God or whom ever you pray to have something to stop it. People get so caught up in Politics that they fail to realize what is right. I agree with President Obama 100%. We need to end this now before this developes into something we can no longer Control. I am a U.S Army Veteran who has been in COMBAT and know what we are fighting for and will always continue to fight for FREEDOM. WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL!

    September 10, 2013 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  21. voiceinthewind

    Stay out of Syria, we still don't know who pulled the trigger and who ordered it and until then no matter what, stay out of Syria. Once it is learned who was responsible for sure then we need to make a decision and give diplomacy a chance at least. I don't think Assad bombed his own people, he had nothing to gain and everything to loose by doing so, he is not stupid. Find out who pulled the trigger.

    September 10, 2013 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  22. Deb Ed

    Nothing new to see or hear. Hurry along. Hurry along.

    September 10, 2013 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  23. Sam

    I totally agree with the President, we can't
    afford to have a dictator using chemicals of mass destruction.
    Any person destroying it's own people are dangerous and unpredictable, and must be handle firmly.
    I also believe we don't need war, I also understand we're in world that we must do what's good for the world. Weather we like it or not someone has to police world.

    September 10, 2013 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  24. Alues

    Many thanks to President Obama for his courage to postpone the vote and wait on President Putin to act as promised.

    Peace is what we seek.

    This is not a shame or let down on President Obama's part. He acted as a man, a father of a nation and a hero.

    Viva President Obama, I salute your courage and peace to the world.

    September 10, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  25. Kim

    This is his pride talking – watch his speech – he is frustrated that things are not going his way and now he will push us to war to prove his point! I say put him on front line without security! When we are attacked just remember O will be flown to safety while we suffer! God help us all!

    September 10, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
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