President in primetime


From NBC’s Political Unit:

Syrian President Bashar al Assad said to  CBS’s Charlie Rose that if the U.S. attacks Syria, “you should expect everything.” Asked if that could include chemical weapons, Assad said, “It could happen, I don’t know. I am not fortune teller.” But he intimated that it would be the rebels or terrorists that would if they have them.

“We know that his regime gave orders to prepare for a chemical attack. We know they deployed forces. What does he offer? Words that are contradicted by fact,” John Kerry said in response to the interview.

The challenge facing Obama when he addresses the nation Tuesday (ahead of a cloture vote in the Senate Wednesday) was highlighted Monday morning with this: “The CNN/ORC International poll released Monday shows that even though eight in 10 Americans believe that Bashar al-Assad’s regime gassed its own people, a strong majority doesn’t want Congress to pass a resolution authorizing a military strike against it.” By a 59%-39% margin, Americans don’t want Congress to pass the resolution authorizing a strike in Syria. Just 29% of independents and 36% of Republicans want Congress to pass the resolution, while 56% of Democrats do; 55% say they’d be against air strikes even if Congress approves; 71% would be against Obama acting if Congress votes against it. All this even though 82% of Americans say the Syrian government likely or certainly used chemical weapons against its own people. Why? That could be explained in 69% saying that the U.S. does not have a national interest in Syria.

From Paris, Kerry said Saudi Arabia is supportive of a U.S. strike on Syria. “They have supported the strike, and they support taking action—they believe that it’s very important to do that,” Kerry said.  The secretary of state said that Assad could prevent a strike by handing over his chemical weapons, USA Today reported. is airing a new TV ad opposing U.S. strikes in Syria. (The buy is five-figure cable buy.)

The New York Times looks at the White House’s intense lobbying effort on Syria, including using Hillary Clinton: “Among the most visible surrogates could be Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Obama’s former secretary of state, who aides say is likely to address Syria at one or both of two events this week: a previously scheduled visit to the White House on Monday to promote wildlife conservation, and a speech the next day in Philadelphia. The White House is also putting officials, including the president, before audiences and television cameras. Mr. Obama will tape interviews on Monday with ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS and CNN.”

Maggie Haberman: “Hillary Clinton will make her first public remarks about Syria on Monday when she makes a visit to the White House for an unrelated event. … The comments, the first since an unidentified aide said last week that the former secretary of state supports President Barack Obama in going before Congress to get support for a limited strike against Syria, will come after she meets privately with Obama at the White House, the aide said.” Her remarks are expected to be “fairly brief.”

Politico: “With remarkably little to show for a week of intensive lobbying, the last bit of leverage that Democrats expect the White House to use is this: Barack Obama’s presidency depends on it.”

President Obama stopped by Vice President Joe Biden’s dinner with GOP senators over Syria. The guest list: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Republican Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska.

And the president will head to Capitol Hill Tuesday to meet with Senate Democrats.

The Washington Post: “The White House is considering nominating a top female official at the Treasury Department to fill one of the vacant seats at the Federal Reserve, according to two people familiar with the process, amid criticism over the role of women in the Obama administration. As undersecretary for international affairs, Lael Brainard is one of the most highly ranked — and most visible — female members of President Obama’s economic team. Her name has long been circulated in the insular world of Fed watchers as a potential candidate to sit on the central bank’s influential board of governors. But her conversations with the administration have ramped up recently, and she is seriously considering accepting the nomination, according to the two people, who requested anonymity to discuss personnel issues.”

NBC’s Carrie Dann: “American Christian organizations across the political spectrum are mobilizing their networks nationwide to urge Congress to oppose authorization for a U.S. strike in Syria. … The civil war in Syria poses a dilemma for people of faith; after the killing of women and children, reportedly at the order of Syrian President Bashar Assad, could intervention be justified to prevent more death – either by further chemical attacks inside Syria or by a spreading regional conflict? Or would the violence of such a strike backfire by sparking more violence in Syria against minority faith groups – particularly Christians - who are more fearful of persecution under anti-Assad forces than under the current regime?”

President in primetime