Live Blog: President Obama's national address
September 10th, 2013
04:08 PM ET
9 years 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. vitanreddy

    The fact that a country has chemical weapons implies they intended to use them from the beginning either on their own people or on their enemies. So, they already crossed the red line.
    And can anyone trust Russia ? They have rejected asylum to Edward Snowden but ended up welcoming him. They have not talked to Syria in the last 2 years and yet now they ask them to surrender the weapons.
    And why US ? If not US then who ? Someone needs to take action else every country in the world will harbor chemical weapons just as they are trying to go Nuclear.
    And the diplomacy, does it really work in the world where UN itself is not so pro-active in this situation. If UN was pro-active it wouldn't have let this crisis go on for over 2 years now.

    September 10, 2013 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  2. Common Sense

    Putin & Assad must be ROFL. Common Sense would indicate Assad just traded in CWs he couldn't use for a range of arms he can. Since the CWs are basically only useful as a deterrent against the area's only Nuclear power, Common Sense would suggest Assad also received some sort of 'reassurance' from Putin concerning deterrence. The CW albatross leaves Syria replaced by....who knows. The article doesn't go into much detail, however, one would think S-300 and MIG-29s, see ‘Putin shipping Assad more weapons to crush rebels’ – The Times of Israel

    September 10, 2013 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  3. Scottish Mama

    If we do not show compassion now, then when? Compassion breeds loyalty.

    September 10, 2013 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  4. Marcio

    It was a great speech from president Obama he is very carefull with this crisis because the real real crisis is a conflict even a war with russia and than we all be crying

    September 10, 2013 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  5. Justlistentotruth

    I like what you said SILENCE DOGOOD, where would they bomb to avoid any innocent people. Think about this where in the USA could someone bomb and not get any innocent people injured or killed?? NOWHERE, so why do our presidents always say we will do a PIN POINT STRIKE to avoid ANY innocent people, not going to happen they just say what we want them to say so we can sleep better at night. Just like before we are going into a country and going to BULLY them but this time not force the LEADER out of office but instead keep them in office and just make them do what we tell them to do.

    This entire SYRIA SITUATION is a LOSE LOSE for the USA.

    September 10, 2013 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  6. market7808

    I am sorry President Obama but you are so wrong! Tomorrow is the 12 th anniversary of 911! Why do you think that you can fix this? 911 will happen again to the USA! If the USA plays this game with Syria, we will lose! Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, N. Korea, Saudi Arabia and all of the other Middle East countries will take this as aggession and put our citizens at a grave risk for another 911! Why won't you listen to the American citizens? GOD BLESS those people who have suffered from these chemical weapons! The UN should be taking the lead on this not you!!!! YOU MUST LISTEN! What are you willing to do to protect your children? Then do the same for America's children?

    September 10, 2013 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  7. virginia

    What would have happened to the Jewish population if America had looked the other way during WWII?

    September 10, 2013 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  8. Kikik66

    I thought it was a great speech but I have always been a supporter of the president. He isnt perfect but I believe he has our best interests at heart and makes no decision with a light heart or carefree attitude. He is a father and a husband as well as our Commander-in-Chief and his legacy to them is what helps motivates him. I wish people would stop hating him because he exists.

    September 10, 2013 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  9. Greg Donoghue

    President Obama said nothing new tonight. He also did not convince me that attacking Syria is the right course of action. The President did stretch the War Powers Act when he said that what is happening in Syria is in the nations national interest. What Rubbish! The same could then be argued with regards to North Korea (At least we have 28,000 troops on the Korean peninsula) which would justified it there. But Syria, no way. We can't seem to get it through to this emotional President, that attacking Syria would cause a wider conflict and worsen the all over situation.

    September 10, 2013 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  10. raphael

    Russia Puntin have have allot of interest in Syria survival , So will Puntin trade Syria Chemical weapons for more Conventional weapons .The situation still do no change . Men ,Women and Children are being murder while the world leaders play politics.Will the world will see history repeat its self what is happening in the middle east right now was Germany years ago . and the world said its not my fight why should i intervene.

    September 10, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  11. Have - Canadian

    It is surprising that in 2013 we need to deal with civil wars (for what – somebody wants more of the global world's WEALTH – when all is possible – just participate).
    We all need to stand up for human rights.
    More countries than the US needs to stand up and say – if not me then WHO?

    September 10, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  12. big preacha

    If we are absolutely positive that president assad ordered the use of chemical weapons why are we in the business of punkin other countries yet great britain backs away against military strike. This whole entire notion raises too many questions. Syria actually was sustaining the rebellion and it even appeard that president assad was winning, so why would he use chemical weapons unless conspired by the elite that has an direct interest in regime change and place a puppet president that follows american foreign policy objectives.

    September 10, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  13. ED1

    Full of hot air as always and he knows what he wants will not pass Congress so it's time to pause what a joke of a no leader we have.

    September 10, 2013 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  14. Pinder

    World leaders are saying chemical weapons are horrendous and anyone using them should be punished. Their actions indicate that they are unwilling to do anything beyond lip service.

    September 10, 2013 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  15. StormySyndrome

    So...whatever happened to those 500 prisoners that escaped about a month before all of this?? Are they part of the Syrian resistance and all good now or something??? Enquiring minds want to freaking know.......tomorrow is after all...9/11

    September 10, 2013 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  16. penguin

    It would be stupid to attack Syria. The President speech did nothing to change my mind. The US policy toward the middle east has ALWAYS been bad. As badly as Obama has bungled the Syria matter, we are a lot better off under Obama's leadership than we would be with any Republican President

    September 10, 2013 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  17. Nick schimmel

    People we live in a republic we elected this idiot of a man to run our country therefore its our fault. Is it wrong he is stick his nose into other countries business when he should be trying to fix the homefront?? Yes it is but that is our country we think everyone else has to be perfect but when it comes to the U.S. they don't care about "us the people".Other nations frown down upon the u

    September 10, 2013 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  18. chris evans

    thank god that Putin came up with the idea a week ago that Syria should turn over their chemical weapons to an international group. It makes sense that Russia came up with it since they are one of Syria's few allies. Obama doesn't have a chance to strike, we the people won't accept it.

    September 10, 2013 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  19. giggig

    This is a superfoul deal here on the table. Nearly absolute nonsense.How can Obama and the Congress fall into such a raffinized war-trick. Just gaining time and play the show to have the play. The availability of chemial WMD's is endless,
    the hiding capability of chemical WMD is absolutely endless considering Lebanon (which is considered safe from US strikes) and IRAN the size of AZ TX NM CA OK combined !!! Now even to answer such a hat-players (street hat-jigglers)proposal is ridiculous. Endless time extensions can be arranged by Putin, each time to say , this is what we got...but there is more.
    or ....there is not more (because it doesn't count ,it is in control of Putin ,Iran,and/or Hizbollah. Serjio the Russian minister , incapable like most of these dishonest officials, gets his chance of again playing Kerry like a fiddle,last time around, he arranged willfully a delay of 3 hrs to meet up with Mr Putin. And an audacity to ask Obama to take away the threat of strike. Bad to reveal to the world "no boots on the ground" like it would be in ww2 to say to the world, "we dropped 2 A-bombsnow, and we do not have anymore to drop" In this respect,i got news for you: Putin may get boots on the ground , in contrast of Obama. Also Erdogan and BiBi may have boots on the ground. It is not that hard to establish ground security in absolute Airdominant environment. come in until contacts are made with local populations. A ground campaign could be the end resolve of this Syria drama, it is abused by Russia and China to set foot in the ME and turn lose of these Arab Sheiks ,Sultans and Kings.Analyse the speech there this evening , important was one word an "and" when he said "strike Assads regime and degrade his capabilities. My strategy here would be "thanks for the offer,give me LAT/LONG of those sites and i'd have them blown to ashes same 6hrs frame as they would give out LAT/LONGs part of the agreement.Everything else/anything else i would not discuss, I would go after Assad family request Putin to hand them over for triAL.Remember Assad already said, it was hs brother , not him, who gave the order to these chemical attacks. aNY DEPOTS (chemical and artillery)DESCOVERED ABROAD,iRAN lEBANON, ALSO IN THE SAME batch of launches. Just to see to it , that the hiding abroad is ineffective. Airspace Northern IRAq i would close,because thats the
    ramp up to ww3 the airbridge Teheran Damascus /Beirut. Bosporus passages with russian vessels no matter what , i 'd inspect them acruise , both ways nort -and southbound.Else dissable them on the spot.
    I would aso inspect the sibirian railroadline at several points unananounced for traffic with NK.If this is denied, i'd secure the 14 miles borderline NK/Russia.This on the NK side, a strip about 14km wide. Seaportbound vessels to NK inspect them acruise too. Mr Putin is double dealing. They want America weak.If America is weak ,NATO is weaker ,since the Command by NATO constitution must be American anyway at all times.

    September 10, 2013 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  20. Elizabeth Cade

    Why not pour the time and effort into the children who are dieing of neglect, malnutrition and abuse in North America? I don't get the logic. The US can not afford to go to war. The whole world is aware of what is going on.

    September 10, 2013 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  21. gene bals

    "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
    Know when to walk away and know when to run.
    You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
    There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done."
    Don Schlitz

    September 10, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  22. giggig

    the optimal way to handle this offer to surrender chemical stockpiles. Yes , 6 hrs to give out LAT/Longitude of these targets
    check if there are hits if not , they have fooled us and we only lost 6 hrs not 6 month. The speech said..and .. and degrade his capabilities this meant
    airforce and armor and artillery ! Obama should hold up to his initial statement "Assad has to go"
    He can be for5ced to go without US ground troops, But probably with ground forces
    out of turkey,egypt and israel.

    September 10, 2013 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  23. Rev. Brown

    It will cost us 30 million dollars a week, hell no to war. The economy is in bad condition right now. Rev. Brown

    September 10, 2013 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  24. rs

    A True Conservative
    Where are all of the anti-war Hollywood types now that it's a democrat trying to get us into a war? Guess it really was just Bush derangement syndrome!!
    I would love to believe (based upon your comment) that the Right had finally learned about what a foreign affairs disaster Bush really was and now wish to avoid foreign intervention- even when kids are being killed (remember-you are pro-life, right?)- but I know that's not the case. This is another victory for Obama- he's ended one war, closing down another (left behind by the neo-cons), gotten Quadafi out of Libya, and got Osama bin Laden (who Bush "didn't think much about")- and now Syria will soon be rid of WMDs- and not a shot fired. No, you guys don't support the SUCCESS- you'd rather be anti-America and anti-Obama.

    September 10, 2013 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  25. read5

    The duck that quacked surely sounds like a "LAME DUCK"

    September 10, 2013 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
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