White House Talks Strategy for Confronting Congress on Syria

With his credibility on the line, President Barack Obama has turned to an unlikely ally — the U.S. Congress — to worm his way out of his Syria conundrum, betting on browbeating Congress to support intervention.

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Charles Dharapak / AP

President Barack Obama makes a statement about the crisis in Syria in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on Aug. 31, 2013

With his credibility on the line, President Barack Obama has turned to an unlikely ally — the U.S. Congress — to worm his way out of his Syria conundrum, betting on browbeating Congress to support intervention.

“[The use of chemical weapons] endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq,” Obama said Saturday in the Rose Garden at the White House, referring to the Syrian chemical attack on Aug. 21. “It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.”

Senior Administration officials plainly described the politics of Obama’s decision Saturday to seek congressional approval for a military strike, saying it shifts the burden to an unpopular Congress to make a decision about intervention in Syria, after more than a week of congressional lawmakers dominating the airwaves and newsprint with calls for a vote. In the Administration’s view, most of these lawmakers are simply taking advantage of the situation to score political points on the President and don’t actually want to go on the record on such an unpopular issue.

(MORE: Unwilling to Act Alone, Obama Pulls Back From Brink of War)

The choice for lawmakers is between going against the will of the majority of Americans and bombing Syria or refusing to use force against a dictator whose regime has killed tens of thousands of civilians and who appears to have deployed weapons of mass destruction in full view of the international community.

But Obama is not content to let lawmakers decide alone. He plans to put his finger on the scale. Officials said Saturday that rejecting the use of military force would send the wrong signal to Assad, Iran, and terrorist groups — and increase the specter of chemical weapons proliferation — a weight that the White House intends to place on an already unpopular Congress if they vote down the resolution.

“Politically smart,” assessed one senior GOP aide. “It gets everyone into the pool despite the increasingly cold water.”

Additionally, the Administration officials emphasized the risk to Israel, support for whom lawmakers often trip over themselves to demonstrate, from Iran if Assad goes unpunished and a precedent is set. If Congress shoots it down, a hypothetical that Administration officials won’t yet address, then Obama will hope to use that vote to bash lawmakers through the midterms.

(MORE: Three Reasons Congress May Not Approve War in Syria)

Some Democrats, meanwhile, are flabbergasted by the decision for Obama to throw his lot in with Congress, a body that has burned him at every turn throughout his Administration.

“I am dumbfounded that he has decided to ask Congress for support,” said Jim Manley, a former longtime aide of Senate majority leader Harry Reid. “After all, implicit is the idea that House Republicans will give such a request the due consideration it deserves, and I don’t believe the House, dominated by the Tea Party, is capable of that. As long as the request has been made, I hope that leaders of both bodies will call their members back as quickly as possible.”

Manley was not alone. “After watching a month of Republican town-hall discussions on impeachment, defunding the government, the unemployed as drug users etc., I’m not confident there are enough members of Congress left to make a rational decision,” Rodell Mollineau, another former Reid aide and the president of American Bridge 21st Century, tells TIME.

On Saturday, Obama formally requested an Authorization for Use of Military Force to deploy American forces as he sees fit in Syria with the aim of preventing the use or proliferation of chemical weapons. “We don’t have good options, great options, for the region,” Obama told PBS NewsHour on Aug. 28. “But what I am clear about is that if the United States stands by its core values and its core interests.”

In the meantime, the Obama Administration is in a familiar role — that of Salesman in Chief. In the coming days, officials will hold both classified and unclassified briefings for lawmakers on Capitol Hill. But Obama will also try to sell the American people on the effort. “We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us,” Obama said.

While the Administration is convinced that a vote against intervention will blowback on Congress, Obama’s fortunes would be no rosier, even if he decided to strike anyway as aides refuse to rule out. After redlines and near action, Obama is risking being publicly rebuked by Congress, a development that would make him look like a lame duck not just at home, but on the international stage as well.

MORE: Twitter Reacts to Obama’s Syria Decision

50 comments
jmac
jmac

Zeke Miller - Obama "worming his way out of conundrum" by "browbeating Congress."

Did Bush Jr worm and browbeat?   Maybe he should have tried that instead of lying.  Maybe history would have treated him a little better than it's going to - unless, of course, Zeke's writing the book.   

jamesbrue8
jamesbrue8

I agree with Obama 100% that we need to say what we mean and mean what we say. If we don't do that we are already done. This is a bad situation to be in at any time, but of course it's a little bit worse for us at this point because of Obama's who 'red line' statement awhile back. However, no one should be surprised that we going to take military action against another country. We have been involved in some sort of military action, consistently, for decades. Military spending is a major part of our economy and without it we would see and even bigger drop in our overall GDP.

ThomasMcKeddie
ThomasMcKeddie

what Steven implied I cant believe that any body can profit $8807 in one month on the internet. more w­w­w.B­a­y­9­3.ℂ­o­m

paul.abbotson
paul.abbotson

The late popular American master of historical analysis Barbara Tuchman published a book in in 1984, ‘The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam’.Her brief definition offolly is the pursuit of a policy contrary to the self-interest of those concerned when the facts pointing to a violation of self-interest are evident and available. It is still not too late for the White House to avoid committing an act of folly at the expense of some humiliation. Barak Obama has committed the crass mistake of ignoring the adage ‘look before you leap’ by drawing a red line on Assad’s use of chemical weapons simply to appear tough. (Alas weak leaders often try to act tough and end up looking indecisive). Obama had failed to exam all the ramifications including the unwanted boost to the position of Islamic extremists among the rebels, and the possible inability making the red line effective.

The US Vice President hasan appalling act of follyby recently stating that notall theinformation the White House claims to have will be released to the public. Considering that the White House has - unlike in February 2007- as to deal with a highly sceptical war wearyAmerican and less trusting publicand a hostile Republican dominated Congress as well as the ability to convince potential allies *(thedoubts of the most valuable allyGreat Britain despite David Cameron personal position are now well known).Therefore, the declared lack of full transparency is deplorable, particularly as the evidence is as flimsy and uncertain to be no more useful for a rational President-Congress decision than a hill of beans.

The VP also foolishly stated that the White House cannot learn anything from the pending UN inspector’s tests and final report it does not already know. This statement came well before the UN team returned home last week end. They will need a further two weeks before they have completed all the tests. The Assad government did not allow the UN teams near the site of the atrocity until five days elapsed, which creates suspicions against them. Pride may have been involved, or it was the deed of a rogue officer, or the rebels?Either way the evidence may well have been compromised. The VP has since mentioned that as a nerve gas Sarin was used which can only be based on an intelligent guess by one of the experts available to the White House on the basis of the evidence taken by the rebels, possibly a well-orchestrated propaganda piece. .

The only source of ’hard’ evidence so far claimedto be in possession of the White House is an incriminating tape recording supposedly of twoseniorSyrian military officers as a result of Israeli secret service eavesdropping

jhonflin
jhonflin

Lapdog Regime Journalists versus a Bona Fide Expert: Watch the Sparks Fly! RPI Academic Board Member Hillary Mann Leverett absolutely destroys the conventional wisdom-mongering and regime lapdog "journalists" on Obama's march to war on Syria. Watch the smug bootlickers discount the sole voice of reason -- an expert on the region rather than a  talking head: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2013/september/01/lapdog-regime-journalists-versus-a-bona-fide-expert-watch-the-sparks-fly!.aspx

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

Forget it Obama is not Commander in Chief material. The media tried to build him up as the one who killed bin Laden. But it is not in the man`s psyche. Obama is an indecisive, dithering spineless man. No amount of image building can hide that. Perid.

jmac
jmac

Rand Paul:     "I think the failure of the Obama administration has been we haven't engaged the Russians enough or the Chinese enough on this,"    Oh, and he thinks Assad has been great for Christians.  

Please run for President Mr. Paul.  We need all the laughs we can get.  

fluffybunnypuff
fluffybunnypuff

problem: innocent forigners being killed. solution is NOT FOR US TO GO IN TO BOMB/KILL INNOCENTS UNDER THE GUISE OF KILLING INSURGANTS/TERRORISTS.

permantly ban gov from giving $ or weapons to forign govs.

you must allow the people to be healthy and produce so their will be something to steal and something to buy to become wealthier. exsessivly punishing people for mere speach or small things that shouldnt be punished, is a waste of time and resources that could be better spent produceing wealth. happy healthy workers are more productive.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPbFzb7eYgU why are these us murderers free and the whistlblower in jail?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06EiFutO4og

fluffybunnypuff
fluffybunnypuff

-murder and severe physical abuse/neglect is punishable by life in prison.
-all prisons should be under 24-7live public video surveillance if its an affordable option.
-individuals must be read Miranda rights, tried, go through due process, speedy public trail by jury, have physical evidence(words aren't evidence) that's shows a 99%+chance of committal of a crime, and convicted, (as long as its an option) before you can detain them for a long duration of time.

-assume everyone innocent until proven guilty. every must be protected = under the law.

2. evacuate willing uncoerced poor people from the war/desert zones into safer zones and send in food water shelter to poor people in war/desert zones.

3. continue 1 and 2. consider giving weapons, and training of proper use, to poor non gov members for defense(starting with the poorest), being very careful that offenses doesn't result from your attempts.

fluffybunnypuff
fluffybunnypuff

1. talk to the gov, military, police, and fighters of the area and encourage them to talk to each other, to try to agree on a set of non hypocritical laws/rules for them to follow, and to try to find a peaceful solution, ask each party involved what it wants.

-no: murder(offensive killing of innocents), physical abuse/neglect, kidnapping, pointing guns at innocent people.
-individuals must be arrested, read Miranda rights, tried, go through due process, charged/convicted, and have physical evidence(words aren't evidence) that's shows a 99.99%+chance of committal of a crime that is legally punishable by death(potentially murder, torture, severe physical abuse or sexual assault, and rape-may be punishable by death, any less severe crimes shouldn't be)(as long as arrest and trail are an option) before legal death penalty can be applied (some areas might ban the death penalty or restrict it to only for murderers so be aware if that is the case in your area)
-anyone who offensively kills someone w/o physical evidence(words aren't evidence) that the person they killed committed murder or severe physical abuse, must be charged w murder.
-death penalty should preferably be done under 24-7live public video surveillance if that's an affordable option.


 

fluffybunnypuff
fluffybunnypuff

dont send us military to forign countries. us gov is illigitimate, gives $billions and military weapons to forign govs while millions of people starve to death as a result of gov useing those weapons to herd and trap people, lets gov members get away w murder and tortures/imprisons whisteblowers/gov critisizers/political oppoents/ideaological dissadents, guards forign poppys, while ignores forigners being tortured/murdered, and is the largest illict drug dealer in the us.

us's last military intervention didnt result in a more peacful country.

its not illegal to have chemical weapons or wmds, us admits it has the most. it doesnt matter the means, it matters the ends when it comes to abuse. killing/injureing someone w nerve gas vrs shooting/bombing them are both about equally painful and severe.

youtube: obama's hypocrisy on mass murder of children

Mickiee
Mickiee

I wanted you to know that I'm against a unilateral U.S. military response to Syria's horrific action this past month.

First, I'm relieved that the president will seek Congresses input, and is listening to the American people.  Something his predecessor, George Bush (and Cheney) failed to do which then led to the "three trillion dollar war" (that Nobel economist, George Stiglitz detailed) and put our country in such terrible debt that will haunt us for decades to come. 


Second, in my opinion, unless the U.S. is attacked, we need to seek the United Nations support before retaliating unilaterally as the "world's policeman" in Syria.  The arrogance and ignorance that Bush/Cheney showed in circumventing Hans Blix, the chief UN arms inspector for Iraq (2000-2003), as Blix pleaded for more time to find WMD's, is possibly about to be repeated again by the Obama administration.  I'm incredibly disappointed that President Obama has taken this long to temper his tongue  and finally enlist the voice & vote of Congress. 


Third, when the British, our staunches ally, voted against (our) military action, that was a loud and stunning defeat for the U.S.'s type of retaliation. 


Get the UN on the side of the U.S. before taking action, and get the input from Congress.


hpgs
hpgs

When we face the problem,we must thinking carefully.

internetfavs
internetfavs

bush, the worst president ever, would have bombed by now. There's something to say about Obama's approach but whats left to bomb if assad has all the time to move his troups and weapons?


internetfavs.com

jmac
jmac

" Do nothing, and Congress complains. Do something half-assed and Congress complains. Do something that by some stroke of luck deposes Assad and turns all of Syria into a Dairy Queen, and Congress complains that you didn't do that a year ago."   Jason Linkins.

Go in unilaterally and they immediately threaten impeachment.  Go to Congress and the War Hawks and neo cons say you lost the element of surprise.

Take it to Congress and watch Fox News go apoplectic.     

JimStarowicz
JimStarowicz

"Why Obama's going to Congress"
Because congress writes letters instead of, if they were really serious about the demands, the leadership of both houses calling the peoples representatives back in session!
Because most of the press and especially talking heads are praising the letter writing and not questioning why the leadership, especially in the House, has yet to call the representatives back into session!
Because the some 80% of the people, as reported, 70%plus were in full support of the bush administration quickly abandoning the missions we sent our military into that region after 9/11, press also, occupation continues but winding down, and cheering on invading Iraq, are against any Syria actions while not demanding the congressional leadership call their representatives back into session while those letters from were written and sent to the White House!!!

Syria Reason Settled on in Escalating GOP Calls to Impeach Obama
Rep Peter T. King Aug. 31 2013: “President Obama is abdicating his responsibility as commander-in-chief and undermining the authority of future presidents. The President does not need Congress to authorize a strike on Syria. If Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians deserves a military response, and I believe it does, and if the President is seeking congressional approval, then he should call Congress back into a special session at the earliest date,” King said in a statement. “The President doesn’t need 535 Members of Congress to enforce his own redline.”
pssst: The other they were working on, while writing letters from vacation time, if he had ordered strikes without congressional approval to be filed away for any future use, with needed wording changes!

jhonflin
jhonflin

   In an interview with Amy Goodman on March 2, 2007, U.S. General Wesley Clark (Ret.), explains that the Bush Administration planned to take out 7 countries in 5 years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Lybia, Somalia, Sudan, Iran: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXS3vW47mOE

John30303
John30303

Mr. Obama, the first step should be to find a way to pay for this "outrage". 

The US government already borrows 40 cents out of every 100 it spends.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

The Saudis are trying to deflect accusations of itself.
Intelligence officer "one country of the Middle East",  Abu Suleiman, said that the possible chemical weapons, applied in Syria is a vx gas, used  Israeli intelligence. Poisonous substances were transferred from Jordan, where they came from Iraq.
It is worth noting that the vx-gas - British development, which is currently in service with only one country - the United States (Russian similar  - vr).

SuzannaGeens
SuzannaGeens

Do I remember rightly : did the USA not use napalm and agent Orange in Vietnam ? Are they going to bomb themselves firstly ? Since nobody knows clearly who used the chemicals who are they going to bomb. Probably innocent people. Unless of course it is just a try-out for the newest military weapons :(

BillPearlman
BillPearlman

I don't know why this guy thinks that Americans want to get involved in this. Moslems are killing other Moslems. Best case scenario is that Assad kills off the whole country then blows his brains out. 

jmac
jmac

@paul.abbotson Obama drew a red line after 100,000 have been slaughtered already.   

Douthart:  "It's about demonstrating that there are limits to what other governments can choose to do without repercussions, and maintaining our credibility when we threaten to rain those repercussions down. . . . It's not a world free of tyranny . . . It's a world with fewer invasions, fewer war crimes, fewer massacres than in the past.  And if we want to keep it that way, there has to be a price for crossing the line."

jmac
jmac

@ReneDemonteverde   "Obama is not Commander in Chief material" 

  Because he's not lying?  Because he's not outing a CIA agent when her husband calls out the lie?   Because he hasn't made a joke yet about his lying at the Correspondence Dinner in Washington?     Ha Ha.  That's what it apparently takes to be Commander in Chief.  A big blustering bunch of macho lying.    Taking out bin Ladin was macho - lying to revenge Daddy not finishing the job and going after a petty weak tyrant was spineless.

aztecian
aztecian

@ReneDemonteverde no, the obstructionist teapublicans will always be there to block progress, safety and the will of the majority.

aztecian
aztecian

@jmac he's another neo-nazi right wing koo-koo. 

roknsteve
roknsteve

@NYCJon Is the Daily Rash some kind of a joke?  I don't get it? 

manlyman
manlyman

Screw the U.N. and Mickiee you're a pathetic waste of space, and a sorry assed liar, but what should we expect from a liberal?

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@internetfavs Your mantra Bush is the worst president ever is getting lonelier and lonelier. Obama gaffes and mistakes are now being revealed. An incompetent, spineless, corrupt and cowardly {see Benghazi} man. He cannot keep his mouth from running about redlining, Assad called his bluff, now he painted himself in a corner. He is trying to shift the blame on Congress to save his butt. What a Commander in Chief, Ditherer in Chief most likely.

roknsteve
roknsteve

@jmac Not only that the "crazy wingers" are blaming failure in Afghanistan on Pres Obama even though in the history of the world no army has ever accomplished anything there.  2000 to 2008 never happened in Neo-Con Lala Land.   

roknsteve
roknsteve

I wish Pres. Obama would announce he is against all tanning salons so all these phony cons would go get fake tans just to be against him.  Then they would look as stupid on the outside as they are on the inside.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@jhonflin Of all military men you could find you chose the one fired from his job for dishonesty. Try looking for another.

roknsteve
roknsteve

@manlyman I see you had Ex-Lax and corn flakes for breakfast again.  Another brown-out is on it's way.

jmac
jmac

@roknsteve @jmac  We do remember that 29% of conservatives blame Obama for Katrina while only 28% blame Bush.   Fox does it's job well.  

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@roknsteve He is really against tanning salons. Claims they are instruments of racism. Tanning salons make people darker than they are. Google it.

manlyman
manlyman

Dream on roksinhead. This is doing serious damage to your "pres". He wanted distractions from benghazi and such but I don't think this is the distraction he was aiming for. Guess what? Bush ain't president and hasn't been for a long time. Continually bringing his name up may bring comfort to small liberal minds like yours and others, but that's about as far as it goes. Bo was in deep, even before this latest series of events. It can't possibly turn out good for him, and all of your sphincter kissing ain't gonna change it. You need to find a new hobby roks. You just ain't very good at this.