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White House Officials Keep Up Pressure For Syria Resolution

By Renee Montagne | NPR
Monday, September 9, 2013

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

President Obama is set to address the nation about Syria on Tuesday night. Will the president be able to sway public opinion on limited strikes in Syria?



And we turn now, as we do most Mondays, to Cokie Roberts. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: So you've just heard the ambassador to the UN make the president's case. Samantha Power follows on the heels of White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Secretary of State John Kerry, who have both been publicly pushing President Obama's arguments as well. How persuasive are they being or have they been able to be, especially with Congress?

ROBERTS: So far, not very persuasive at all. The polls that are out, that the various news organizations are taking, show no more than 20-some members of the House and Senate each saying they would definitely vote to support the president here. Now, the administration has been showing them declassified CIA pictures of dead children and talking about the consequences if we don't act, and that, Secretary Kerry as he tries to build international support, has been comparing this to the Holocaust, to Rwanda.

And President Bush's national security advisor, Stephen Hadley, has an op-ed today in The Washington Post talking about how Iran will see this consequence of not acting as a green light to go ahead and make mischief and perhaps use chemical weapons itself. So it is - they have raised the stakes considerably, but so far apparently not to much avail.

MONTAGNE: There is also a parallel track here, and that's reaching out to the American public, and the president is addressing the public mostly these day on TV anchors, today I think making quite the round. Is that likely to work?

ROBERTS: TV anchors today and tomorrow night, of course, an address to the American public, and he's making personal calls to members of Congress. He dropped by Vice President Biden's last night when the vice president had some Republican senators over for dinner. The president's expected personally on Capitol Hill. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was going to be at the White House for something else today and she is going to apparently make a statement supporting the president, which could affect her own chances in 2016 with liberal Democrats.

Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel is apparently making calls at the president's request. And look, normally, Renee, what I would say is, of course he would win on a vote like this. The Democrats would decide that the fate of the presidency for the next couple of years is crucial to their own interests, to the bills that they want to get through. But this is a very different Congress and all of the lobbying is coming from the other side, particularly from those grassroots Democrats that the president had come to rely on.

They're against him on this.

MONTAGNE: And just very briefly, the stakes are very high now. What if he loses?

ROBERTS: If he loses, it's devastating for the rest of his term. But the flipside of that, Renee, is if he wins, given how tough this is, then that is a very, very big deal for this president with this Congress, and it puts him in quite a good position.

MONTAGNE: Cokie, thanks very much. Cokie Roberts.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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