September 10th, 2013
07:41 PM ET
1 year ago

Obama’s Syria address a speechwriter’s tall order

Washington (CNN) – The hardest job in Washington today belongs to President Barack Obama’s speechwriters - they have to craft an address calling for a vote in Congress that Obama may or may not abide by, over a military strike the president may or may not need, for a war he’s said he prefers not to wage.

So how do you make that one sing?

The Obama administration hasn't been clear in describing what they want the military action to be.

Over the last days various administration officials have described the mission as “a shot across the bow” designed to “send a pretty strong signal." Obama said it was an effort to “deter the regime from using chemical weapons and degrade their ability to do so again” but “not aim to topple Assad.”

Of the strike itself, Secretary of State John Kerry said it will be “unbelievably small” but the president says it’s “not a pinprick." Kerry later agreed with his boss, saying, "We don't do pinpricks."

To date the president has defined the threat more clearly than the mission.

Still he wants wavering, worried, and downright hostile members of Congress to take a tough vote. But he won’t say he’ll abide by that vote – he’s still undecided. And until now he’s hardly been shy about hiding his disdain for the legislative branch. He recently described one group of congressional Republicans as politicians organizing efforts that will “be sticking it to you.” He told a crowd in Binghamton, New York, less than three weeks ago that congressional Republicans are “less interested in actual governing” than in “scoring political points."

Tonight, he’ll be asking for their vote as a means to pose a threat to the Assad regime to boot.

The latest wrinkle: The diplomatic development.

Kerry, who has been out ahead of the president on rhetoric, pulled a Joe Biden and appeared to get ahead of Obama on policy, too. After Kerry threw out the suggestion that Assad turn over his chemical weapons, the Russians and Syrians bit, and now Washington is locked into a period of negotiating to see if this is even feasible.

While the Obama administration tries to “trust but verify” the President has asked to put the Senate vote on hold because of what he called a “potential breakthrough” but what the rest of Washington is calling an escape hatch or fire exit.

If you’re not sure why the president’s still giving a speech asking for a strike against Syria, you’re not alone. Administration officials explain that’s because the threat to use force is essential.

As the President told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “It's unlikely that we would have arrived at that point where there were even public statements like that without a credible military threat to deal with the chemical weapons use inside of Syria.”

So what could possibly say to bring it all together?

It goes back to something he said in the Rose Garden two weekends ago when he unexpectedly announced he was turning to Congress for its authority - “It’s about who we are as a country.”

In other words, he’s making the case that America should be prepared to use military might to enforce our values halfway around the world.

At the G20 Summit he put it this way: “That’s not a responsibility that we always enjoy…. the question for the American people is, is that a responsibility that we’re willing to bear?”

To Congress - including many who have for years accused him of apologizing for America’s actions rather than projecting American power - somehow the president has become the leading voice for American exceptionalism.


Filed under: Obama address • President Obama • Syria
soundoff (85 Responses)
  1. Tdog

    Hilarious, no plan, no goal, no exit strategy if we strike. Obama would be better off just shutting up and letting Putin run the show. Obama's disaster control isn't working and that egg on his face is getting bigger

    September 10, 2013 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  2. Btut

    What Part of the word NO Mr. President do you not understand? YOU have embarrassed our country many times and now you will still start a war we have no reason to be in. You have let our men and women die on the battlefields because of your ignorance. You have turned your back on the Seal team who gave you the one thing no one else could and they have all gone now. Your ignorance to the people who put you in office appalls us and you want us to say yes to a CIVIL war? Why worry now? 100,000 other people have died before there was a chemical attack. A BOMB IS A BOMB. It still Kills. You make a big deal over this but you still support the faction who BOMBED and Killed over 3000 AMERICANS on our soil. You do all this on the eve of the worst attack in US history? How dare you. I say you should be held for High treason. If you attack Syria you should also be held for MURDER. You are now the lowest rated President in history. I hope you feel good about trying to divide this once great country. Impeachment is the only thing Congress should have to vote on.

    September 10, 2013 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  3. liberal disease

    Barry we have a lot of problems in this country created by you and by others, including our children dying every day on the streets, get back to work and forget about Syria, you are out of your league!

    September 10, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  4. dudley

    Back-pedaling for some credibility. He's been thoroughly out-classed in the diplomacy field, and a foreign power is the one to orchestrate a peaceful solution that rids the battlefield of the weapons in question, not just blows them up.

    September 10, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  5. David

    I will listen to the presidents own(ed) words. Make my choice and write to my congress people. Without any regard to any media spin.

    September 10, 2013 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  6. joe

    i am totally convinced that if we had a republican in the white house the GOP members in the house and senate would be lining up behind the president and calling all those who oppose military strikes weak and not american. these chicken hawks who supported a full scale war in iraq cannot even bring themselves to support limited air strikes against a madman who used chemical weapons against CHILDREN. how patriotic is that?

    September 10, 2013 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  7. Wesley

    Do you really have to kiss his butt that much? Oh he has a hard job, but he will get it done... Wow.. It's not that hard to follow the constitution, it really isn't. He is a constitutional lawyer after all, he should know it. If he wasn't trying to curtail it and convince his mindless zombies what he says is true, not what the document that built this country is, then it wouldn't be so hard of a job. And if this decision is so hard, maybe he shouldn't of armed our enemy to topple a govt that has nothing to do with us. Or how about, not allowed Saudia Arabia to give the rebels chemical weapons to set Assad up with. Or I know, how about this one, How about we pull all our troops out of the middle east, start worrying about America and getting AMERICA energy dependent. Let them have that part of the world, we do not need it, we have our home turf. Stop trying to take everyone's milk money! We have more then enough resources here in America, we don't have to kill people to get more. We have more then enough technology/money to have alternative sources of energy more readily available. This is a lust for power, by the cold hearted elite, and they will stop at nothing to get it. Stop following blindly to the slaughter, start finding the truth. If this does not wake you up, there really is no hope.

    September 10, 2013 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  8. Lila

    I just hope we stay out of syria, I can see it turning into another 10 years of war that we cant afford.

    September 10, 2013 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  9. Gomab

    I like Pres.Obama but he needs to stop! Putin is making him look bad.Or is this a master plan by so called Illuminati?

    September 10, 2013 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  10. Carmelle

    LMAO at all the speculation about Syria. Facts are that only what's not being revealed/disclosed–aka what's Classified–is where the truth lies.

    September 10, 2013 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  11. snowdog

    This whole thing is a joke. We are going to trust Russia???? OMG this is unbelievable.

    September 10, 2013 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  12. Steve

    If this goofball is still going to push f'or congress to pass the "bombing raid" on Syria after all thats happened..Maybe he should be impreached

    September 10, 2013 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  13. Jay

    "by the people and for the people".... it's seeming more like "paid for by the people for a select group of people"

    September 10, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  14. John J.

    Putin ran roughshod over Obama and completely embarrassed him for a second time (Snowden). Too bad our president is so incompetent...

    September 10, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  15. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    Oh.... Be still my heart !!!
    ONLY 36 min until the next OBAMA speech !!!

    September 10, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  16. april jackson

    I think they should attack its 1 of us against them...

    September 10, 2013 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  17. jay

    LOL Governing is actually hard, we have been punked by Russia and Putin

    September 10, 2013 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  18. concernedGrndma

    Obama is completely divorced from the will of the majority of the American people .He is an embarrassment.

    September 10, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  19. aMom

    "Obama may or may not abide by, over a military strike the president may or may not need, for a war he’s said he prefers not to wage." Oh how Obama is that.

    September 10, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  20. David Z

    Obama's speech should be simple: I admit we made up the 1400 number even though every other country in the world agrees it was 4-500 people who died in the gas attack. I admit we actually knew the rebels used the gas all along but were just looking for a way to help them depose Assad. I realize that by helping the rebels I am committing treason against the soliders in Afghanistan still fighting against Al Qaeda and I want to apologize to everyone in the country for trying to betray them in such a manipulative and deceitful manner.

    September 10, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  21. JD

    I don't think the speech is a tall order at all. I can think of a half dozen approaches that would accomplish effectively the same thing: Which is to posture for Syria and Russia. This is strutting and bravado. Nature documentaries use this as a constant theme: If you swagger, but make no physical contact, the situation is resolved, and nothing much is lost.

    Obama, who is smarter than 99% of the population, and who has the advantage of years of experience as president, has artfully guided what otherwise might have been a catastrophic situation into one that just diplomatic bluster. And that? Is exactly what he should have done.

    September 10, 2013 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  22. JKB

    Heaven forbid he actually speak honestly from his heart or use ideas from his own head. This president is a gifted orator. It's too bad that he seems to only be capable of giving inspiring speeches.

    September 10, 2013 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  23. 7secondmalibu

    I agree with him!! Let's strike!! We can send everyone that voted for him to the front lines.

    September 10, 2013 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  24. bergus

    "hey guys. why don't you try this kool-aid? it's really good. no? alright." (storms off to hire new speechwriters)

    September 10, 2013 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  25. dion

    Am I getting this right? Obama still wants to strike when there is OVERWHELMING notion of the people of America they do NOT want to do so? I mean are we being lead by someone who does NOT know when the HINT is given? I say let him issue the command then impeach him. I am getting to the point we are being lead by a madman who cannot and will not see the reasons why US Citizens do not want further involvement in the Mideast when there is no threat to our nation. I just wonder what is taking place in the mind of a person whose reality is not the same as the commoner here.

    September 10, 2013 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
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