President Barack Obama is starting a huge media push to gain support for a limited attack on Syria, but he faces a skeptical public and a divided Congress.
The President took the unusual step of deferring to Congress, at least for now, under the War Powers Resolution of 1973- an act passed by lawmakers in the wake of Vietnam. Most Presidents since then have said the Resolution was unconstitutional, or they took military action first and then explained it to Congress.
But in this case, Congress returns from a long recess today seemingly split on the issue, while public polls show most Americans opposed to the strike.
On Friday, President Obama told reporters that some actions, taken by a President without public approval, proved wise in the past.
“I’m not drawing an analogy to World War II, other than to say when London was getting bombed, it was profoundly unpopular, both in Congress and around the country, to help the British,” he said.
The President also made it clear he wanted to make his case directly to the people.
“But for the American people at least, the concern really has to do with understanding that what we’re describing here would be limited and proportionate and designed to address this problem of chemical weapons use and upholding a norm that helps keep all of us safe,” he said.
That is looking like a tough argument as of Monday morning. Polling data from CNN show that among respondents, 71 percent were against strikes on Syria, and even if Congress authorized them, 55 percent said they would still be against them.
About 70 percent of those surveyed said it’s wasn’t in the national interest to get involved in Syria, even though 82 percent believes Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on Syrians.
A Gallup poll on Friday said that the only 36 percent of Americans would support a limited military strike on Syria.
Also in the Gallup poll, a majority of people who describe themselves as liberal and as conservative objected to military action in Syria – a pattern that also exists in Congress.
On Monday, President Obama will give direct interviews to all of the major national TV networks, and on Tuesday night, the President will address the nation from the White House to make his case.
A vote in Congress is expected as soon as this week, and President Obama faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled House.
And even Senator Rand Paul is considering at least the possibility of the filibuster in the Senate, according to Fox News, as a sign of protest.
For now, President Obama’s next big move will be the national address at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday. A groundswell of public support could push Congress towards approving a resolution.
Then the fight would be gathering enough of an international consensus on an attack to prevent a backlash against the United States. Russia is strongly against any action and wants the issue decided by the United Nations.
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