Public Opposition Grows to U.S. Strike on Syria

Citizens in town halls across U.S. tell lawmakers they won't support military intervention in Syria.
11:45 | 09/06/13

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Transcript for Public Opposition Grows to U.S. Strike on Syria
This is a special -- Report from ABC news. I'm -- company or with the CBC news digital special report President Obama is pushing hard to congressional and international approval for a strike on Syria. And he is having a tough time selling it to the American public even his supporters like Senator John McCain. Are hitting a wall things in fact got testy during a town hall the McCain held yesterday. About Iraq we -- into Iraq Iraq is bigger house now. It was -- -- That was the scene from yesterday and of course the president's supporters dealing with that today I want to bring an ABC news political director Rick -- for more on public opinion on Syria and Rick. It sounds as if the American public is very war weary and not shy about letting their representatives now. That's exactly right -- our poll on this earlier in the week -- 59%. Opposition to Syria but judging it to judging by what's going on of these town halls by what the phone calls in the tweets and -- FaceBook messages and emails and members of congress are getting. That number is low -- we've had member of the congress reporting 9599%. Of those of the -- that they're getting into their offices being against action in Syria is very clear right now President Obama does not have the public on his side he does not have the congress on his side. And that is going to be a major obstacle for him in the week ahead. In this is a very and -- their position and particularly when you look at Senator John McCain and support that he has earned over the years. But to be put in this kind of position on knowledge to be a supporter of the president but also this military action to a public that is not eager to take this time. Bill let's be clear the president needs John McCain's support on this and John McCain. Knows that he is in any case of unusual bedfellows here in helping President Obama but he is taking heat for the way the president has handled as he's taking heat. For a decade's worth of memories over the Iraq War the problem is really the -- the legacy of the last decade has fractured both parties when it comes to issues of war and peace you have. Democrats who were war weary and wary of intelligence failures and still upset about. That feels like any use of of US tax dollars and of resources abroad. -- should be something that needs a lot of skepticism plus your -- and on top of that their natural antithesis for anything Obama. He is is part of and you have these party lines that have become jagged edges and -- very hard for the president -- -- that up. Stay with -- -- -- -- because -- money -- your reaction to this at another town hall meeting in Missouri with representative Emanuel -- some Americans there. -- said that there is no international support for the president's push. My short answer to this is not know what. Hell. -- Syrian wanting the US to bomb my country. That's a big deal. -- -- -- -- -- I want to bring into the discussion on this and -- -- -- or -- that town hall yesterday is that the majority of the sentiment that you heard from those people. -- to and the majority in the -- at this Kansas City at town meeting with represented Emanuel Cleaver was decidedly against. -- strikes on -- Syria and it really. Ran the gamut from the liberal. Is on the left to oppose it four. Peace reasons too conservative Tea Party. Supporters on the right to oppose it for a fiscal reasons but there was and deep opposition across the board but surprisingly the sound we just heard there there were also some Syrian Americans who live in Kansas City. Including that young woman we just saw she is 24 years old she's a nursing student. I talked with -- after the meeting she's lived in the United States all her life and she believes that it is the responsibility of the United States. She's basically pleading with a member of congress that are too. Approve this strike so that was a bit of an interesting dynamic in the meeting but by and large overall. Strong and deep opposition and the reason we went to Kansas City. Two. -- what was going on in this town meeting this is one of the president's closest allies this member of congress representative Emanuel Cleaver was a national co chairman on the Obama presidential campaign. In 2008. He admires the president in every way but he said he cannot support this strike against Syria at least as of now he said he would have to have a lot of about convincing over the next a week or so but it shows you even if the president's allies and friends and supporters cannot back this that the White House is potentially in real. Trouble Dardenne Jeff is congress and entire -- were representative clear there. When they're going to these town hall meetings are they going and they're already have a good idea for how the public is feeling -- with any kind of predisposition for how in fact they would vote if a vote is held. Sure I mean we talk to the congressman before he was already deeply skeptical of this. And he is he's generally described as anti war and he thinks that the United States should do something humanitarian related. In Syria and elsewhere but he is pre disposed to not. Be supportive of military strikes -- said and he has looked at the intelligence he has attended briefings. He said he just simply hasn't been persuaded by the administration and he's not alone in his -- just mention. So many. Numbers in congress so many members of the president's own party. Our. Opposed to this I asked him last night -- -- -- -- -- the president's prestige on the line here around the world his credibility. Doesn't that sort of influence your decision and he said it doesn't matter who sleeps in the White House. I have to treat this exactly the same as if it was George W. Bush. War president Obama's some pretty tough. And blunt to language and that is exactly -- some of these congressional Democrats are coming from. -- -- I -- bring you in that kind of piggybacking on that point that Jeff just made there what does the White House do now to make a stronger -- because. As we heard from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi saying this morning that in fact in the White House does have to make a stronger case to the American public. -- hearing that from allies and critics alike that he hasn't made the case and indeed he's lost the first week. He isn't lost ground by most measures in congress the public doesn't seem to have moved. In a substantial correction -- it toward him. So the next move is really the biggest arrow they have in their quiver which is a presidential address the White House announced today it'll be something on Tuesday evening the president. We don't location would presumably something at the White House making the case for Syria and this is so important here -- because these things aren't happening in a vacuum. If members of congress were hearing something different on Syria from their constituents from there the people -- bring them to office they be supporting the president right now they don't want to necessarily. -- -- -- The president of the I some only congressman cleaver he would love to support President Obama if he feels like that is what his constituents want it that's of the intelligence suggested that with what policy suggests is the right thing. So the president is -- are moving. His own supporters into action and they've been notably silent for the most part -- -- liberal groups that are out there are threatening primary challenges against Democrats the president is normal base is in with him he's normal opponents have lined up pretty predictably as they would otherwise so it is now on President -- standing virtually by himself to make this case to the American people. And help that he can convince -- convince congress to move along behind. There also seems to be some things. Learn from the American public about. The composition of the rebels in Syria -- in -- -- -- play via from a -- town halls from a former marine former marine. Time Senator McCain. About some of the the -- that's happening in Syria. I'm no stranger copy -- millions of people reading your Sears. -- here's. Very. -- -- -- -- in good. The people in that region. Here -- people. House. Although there are many good people who really good cultural police. -- yeah. Americans are great for -- In the room. -- it here. But I -- not want to see more brother and sister killed -- people who. Here. Only. Still. There -- well you certainly not. -- -- -- -- So much for his country. Understand the need -- -- So Rick the point of the Marines question there's essentially -- in the US trust if in fact there is military intervention that happens in Syria. And you do continue to support the rebel cause. What kind of what all -- could there a potential backlash. For that same group turning on US forces. And here's where the president is caught between two very different polls that he's gonna have to cater to -- he's gonna try to make this happen. On the one hand he's making the case that this is a one off this is about a shot across about this is a message from the international community. The Sox can't use chemical weapons the future -- -- he doesn't do it again on the other hand you have people like Senator McCain like his like his colleague senator Graham. Coursing disaster part of a larger strategy is has to be about building up the opposition. About weakening the Asad regime. And when you get into that discussion that's what reasonable for you helping exactly because of all you're doing is replacing one set of rogue actors -- another when it may be worse than what exactly are we doing in foreign policy. And again the Iraq experience so much a part of this the fact that. Ten years on we still aren't able to clean -- success of that country it speaks of the skepticism that so many in this country have over war over unintended consequences particularly in this region. What is the next step then for potential senate resolution being put forward to the entire senate. -- -- -- have more details on this with the expectation is that it will come for a vote sometime around the middle of next week maybe in the Wednesday to Thursday -- along that is and sat. -- I think that the picture there are based on our reporting is somewhat more optimistic than in the house. In the house things look bad there's no two ways about it we have counted more than a majority of house members who say they are either oppose or likely to oppose an authorization. For military force it doesn't mean it's over yet. But it does mean that mines have to be changed if the president is gonna get his way. And Rick lesson before we let you -- -- just -- ask you about the White House response this morning the president over there. And Saint Petersburg Russia being asked repeatedly by -- by -- by members of the press and fax three times I believe. Of whether or not the White House would continue to go for with the military action if in fact it doesn't get. The congressional approval let's look. In four it be very very clear what's going on here is is a complex White House strategy. On the one hand the president has said there and said that he retains the power to do this with -- without congress. On the other hand. The only way to get congress to take this -- seriously is it thinks it matters if he signals to them this all matters so -- the White House is saying is that they do not want to make this happen without congress all of the chips. Or on our congress doing this at the same time they can't entirely take off the table the possibility of other options would weaken the president too much to do so. He again has to -- -- to all these different constituencies all the shifting coalitions that cut at each other at odd angles that makes it very difficult for the president. To just focus on the narrow thing of what he needs right now in the house of the senate which is congress to go along with what he wants on Syria. How big fight ahead for the president Rick Klein and Washington DC Rick thank you for that of course have a complete write up on abcnews.com. For now I'm Dan that's -- New York. With this ABC news digital special report. This has been a special report from the.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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