On Monday night, President Obama flooded the networks to make his case for a strike on Syria, emphasizing its narrowness in diminishing Syria’s suspected use of chemical weapons. Yet, earlier in the day, he conceivably was given an out to the conflict, with Russia offering to broker a deal to put the Syrian government’s stockpile of chemical weapons under “international control.”
The proposition has prompted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to postpone a Senate vote on the authorization of force from Wednesday to Thursday, to allow for a diplomatic way out of the situation. Obama told Diane Sawyer on ABC that the strikes may be less effective if Congress doesn’t back him, but that he hadn’t decided what he would do if the strikes are voted down.
In an interview with Fox News, Chris Wallace asked Obama three times if the president would delay a vote in Congress in the wake of the new information. “I am going to make sure that this does not change the calendar of debate in Congress,” Obama responded. “Clearly it’s going to take more time, partly because the American people aren’t convinced.”
NBC’s Savannah Guthrie asked Obama if he felt confident about getting enough votes to push the resolution authorizing the use of force through Congress. “I wouldn’t say I’m confident. I’m confident that the members of Congress are taking this issue very seriously, and they are doing their homework. At a press conference in Sweden last week, however, the president said he was sure Congress would approve the measure.
But perhaps there is some hope it won’t come to blows. To multiple news outlets, Obama repeated that if the Russian deal can be verified, it could deter a strike. At the same time, he said such a deal would not have come about without the looming threat of U.S. missiles, echoing former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s remarks earlier in the day. Here’s what he told Wolf Blitzer on CNN, a sentiment he shared in all of his interviews:
If we can accomplish this limited goal without taking military action, that would be my preference. On the other hand, if we don’t maybe maintain and move forward with a credible threat of military pressure, I do not think we will get the kind of movement I would like to see.
On Fox, Obama said the next step involves getting “actual language” from the Russians for a proposal that would take chemical weapons out of the Assad regime’s hands. He paraphrased Ronald Reagan’s “trust, but verify,” a line the 40th president spoke in his 1989 farewell address about America’s relationship with the Soviet Union. “We’ll put this on a fast track,” Obama said of determining how “serious” Russia is about pressuring Syria.
Obama also maintained that the United States does not have to fear a retaliation from Assad in the wake of a strike (as Assad had told Charlie Rose in an bizarrely concurrent interview on PBS). Obama told Blitzer:
Assad doesn’t have a lot of capability. He has capability relative to children, he has capability relative to an opposition that is still getting itself organized and are not professionally trained fighters. He doesn’t have a credible means to threaten the United States…. The notion that Mr. Assad could significantly threaten the United States is just not the case.
Obama will continue his press blitz from the White House on Tuesday night, when he addresses a nation that largely disapproves of U.S. military intervention in Syria. In the end, public opinion may carry more weight in the president’s decision than murky proposals from overseas. Obama told NBC, “I will evaluate after that whether or not we feel strongly enough about this that we are willing to move forward.”
What We're Following See More »
Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."