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. Deb Ed

    Absolutely nothing new was said that has not already been said on the news.

    September 10, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  2. ronvan

    OK, I just listened to this "speech"! Here is what I got out of it. BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, national seurity, BLAH, BLAH, people, "children gased", BLAH BLAH, limitied strike, BLAH BLAH, and on & on! The answer, for me, is NO!!!! IF OUR "elected children" vote NO, then hopefully, we will not hear this political, sympathy laden, babbling anymore?
    And, if NO, that means IF "asshat" uses CW's again then WE just sit back and let other countries do something!

    September 10, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  3. AlwyQGov

    We have no choice but to act, the use of chemical weapons has been a direct threat to the U.S.

    September 10, 2013 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  4. Scottish Mama

    @ Tom Paine- It was the republicans that were telling the president to put boots on the ground, namely McConnel and McCain. So now the president wants support, McCain and McConnel cannot get support from your teaparty buddies.

    September 10, 2013 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  5. voiceinthewind

    Some say the rebels pulled the trigger, some say the Jews pulled the trigger and some say Assad pulled the trigger, don't you think we need to find out who did.

    September 10, 2013 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  6. Calif US Patriot

    So, bombing innocent women and children in Syria is ok for Hussein Obama....but chemical weapons is a no no?? This pres has no idea what he's doing.

    September 10, 2013 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  7. Linda

    I'm totally behind the President's plan. Another attempt at diplomacy with Syria giving up their chemical weapons and a fall back plan to take out Syria's ability to deliver chemical weapons if that avenue fails.

    September 10, 2013 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  8. Calif US Patriot

    I want to hear another 'gem of a statement' from Hillary 'What Difference Does It Make' Clinton. I need a good laugh.

    September 10, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  9. AlwyQGov

    I thought the President speech was one of his best yet if not the best.

    September 10, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  10. Voice from the US

    President shouldn't have dragged WWI and WWII as an example. We killed around 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000–80,000 in Nagasaki by use of nuclear bombs. We didn't set a good example to the world. After that being said, we all should condemn Al Assad's use of chemical weapon to his own people killing around 1,400. Finding a diplomatic solution is better since most of us are sick of these wars. We need to build our nation with good economy and education for everyone.

    September 10, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  11. Textdoc

    CNN monitoring any and all bad reflections on Obama. Still covering for their guy in the White House and we thought CNN had turned the corner when it came to being the administrations propaganda arm.

    September 10, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  12. Christian

    since when did the most pro abortion president in our history start caring about children. a feww hundred have died in syria. conservatively speaking... 4 to 5 million in our country during hos presidency.

    September 10, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  13. Paul

    To the extent the potential for a diplomatic solution came about because of Obama's threat of military action, great. But he did not make a persuasive case tonight. He and this entire country have no credibility on this issue, and contrary to his assertion, we are not exceptional. We violated many international norms under the Bush administration–torture, extraordinary rendition, warrantless surveillance, etc.–and he refused to investigate or prosecute. He failed to cause this country to account for its horrific behavior. We are war criminals, just like Assad, though thankfully with fewer casualties. Until we make a proper accounting, we have no right to speak about maintaining international norms or anything like that. It was very hard to look at the president on TV tonight speaking falsehoods and manipulations. I get the idea of taking action against chemical weapons, but we have no right to do it unilaterally, because our hands are not clean, despite the lofty words used by the president tonight. If the global community joins together in a military action, fine, but we cannot do it alone.

    September 10, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  14. Donnie

    Didn't watch Hussein's teleprompter moment...and I feel smarter for it. Read some of the blogs tho and I don't believe my negative view of the liar and chief will be published here. First of all prove who did it. Second of all you have no credibility...fess up about what went down in Benghazi and just maybe I would listen. You need impeached.

    September 10, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  15. Scottish Mama

    @ Minnie if Russia is going to pay for it (removal of chemicals), why should we worry?

    September 10, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  16. Name

    The title should read the "President still pushes..."

    September 10, 2013 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  17. Scottish Mama

    A united America is a strong America.

    September 10, 2013 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  18. scott

    NO BOOTS ON THE GROUND! OBAMA CARE WILL NOT RAISE YOUR COST AND YOU CAN KEEP YOUR DOCTOR. OOOOOOOPPPPPSSSSS, Health care went up so did taxes, due to the supreme court saying it was a tax, and my doctor is looking at retiring due to the affordable health care. Guess we should trust him like you all did Pres. Bush. Can't wait till you find out that the death panel is true and all you on the 3rd, 4th, ect.. of welfare get the pill because you are not a productive member of society. Sleep tight. May GOD protect us all.

    September 10, 2013 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  19. Stephanie

    I think President Obama delivered a great speech tonight.

    September 10, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  20. Steve

    We still haven't seen the 'FACTS' that Assad's regime is the culprit! Obama says it's 'common sense' that he's responsible, sorry that's NOT a FACT. I'm still of the opinion that the USA's CIA most likely gave some of these weapons to the US Backed Rebels(Terrorists) to use and make it look like Assad did it – – THEN, the USA can 'get involved' to oust Assad. I still don't get why the USA has a 'hard-on' for Assad?? Just because he's 'friendly' with the Soviets & Iranians/?? OR are the Saudis pulling the 'puppet-strings' AGAIN???

    September 10, 2013 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    Mr. Obama...why wasn't this the first thing out of your mouth two weeks ago instead of now, when We the People have finally been heard and you are forced to switch positions?

    "The U.S. and its military will "be in position to respond if diplomacy fails" to address the crisis in Syria."

    September 10, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  22. lile c richardson

    too me, president obama has just given iran a thumbs up by letting russia and others take control of the syria chemical attack, now they will start building their nukes with the president letting syria get away with it. the U.S. looks weak and scared now after his speech, THE B-52SS SHOULD HAVE DONE BEEN ON THE WAY TO TEACH SYRIA A VITAL LESSON

    September 10, 2013 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  23. LIse

    Why do you want a war President Obama? To satisfy your pride? Syria accepts to put their chemical weapons away and live it to the international force. It is a way for peace. Diplomacy is the way to resolve problems. Why are you acting like that? You're trying to convince yourself about what? You don't have patience. You and your staff don't know what you are doing and what you will bring to the world. We know when a war begins but we never know how it will end and you and your staff don't know how it will turn and what will blow because of that. You and your staff didn't think enough. No, you're just convincing yourself. And you're searching everybody that will sustain your ideas. Not to find the best idea. But to gain your purpose that is WAR, You want the war. There is in the back of your head things.. that we can just imagine.. Your actions, the way that you stand speak. One day we will know the foundation, the true foundation of all of this, even if it is to the other side of the veil. For sure I will know the truth.

    But for now I can just see you and own congregation displaying yourself as a show. I can see that you are thirsty of power, blood and war. I'm sure that the consequences won't just strike Syria. I'm sure that we will feel the effects here in the America. What a leader !

    September 10, 2013 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  24. walter brown

    I read all the comments...Most of you don't approve on anything Obama do or say..Just because of his color....I believe when we think selfishly and say no not. Strike we lose our on humanity!!!!

    September 10, 2013 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  25. Ron

    The genius of President Obama is that he is accomplishing everything without any congressional support. A true leader, unfazed by the negligence and intransigence of the losers that surround him!

    September 10, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
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