Like presidents before him, Obama must make case to America for military action


President Obama will address the American people on Tuesday about Syria, and attempt to persuade the public of the need for limited air strikes in order to punish the Assad regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons.

Obama’s speech follows a long tradition of American presidents who’ve asked the nation for support as the United States prepares for military action abroad. But The Chicago Tribune’s Clarence Page told MSNBC Monday that he didn’t think the president was entering his upcoming speech to a war-weary nation on favorable footing.

“I have a personal, visceral sense of déjà vu when I hear presidents [say] ‘we must act because the risk of inaction is much greater,‘ “ Page, who was drafted in 1969 just six months after he was hired by the Tribune, told Martin Bashir. “The case I hear being made over and over again by President Obama and the rest of his team is that we need to go in there and stop the atrocities that Assad has been committing with chemical weapons and send a message to the rest of the world.”

Page added, “He has to make the case that this will be a limited strike and that it’s really going to do some good. That I haven’t heard yet.”

The majority of Americans appear to share Page’s views: a recent USA TODAY/Pew poll found that Americans are in large part opposed to U.S. airstrikes against Syria.

So what’s the president to do?

“I suspect he has to have an approach somewhat like President Clinton going into Kosovo, or himself going into Libya,” Page said. “We were talking here in both cases about limited strikes in the air, no boots on the ground that are involved in changing the equation in favor of the people, if you will, and against the tyrants.”

Watch the full interview, including footage from four past presidents who had to state their cases for military action, above.