With Storm Clouds Over Syria, U.S. Weighs Options

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )

NOTABLES

  • U.S HAS 'VERY LITTLE DOUBT' SYRIA USED CHEMICAL WEAPONS: Last night, a senior State Department official issued a read-out of calls Secretary John Kerry made on Sunday regarding the allegations of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime in Syria. ABC's DANA HUGHES reports that Kerry made clear that based on information U.S. allies have shared along with other intelligence and analysis "there is very little doubt that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in this incident." Meanwhile, a United Nations spokesperson confirmed today that a U.N. chemical weapons investigation team in Damascus "was deliberately shot at multiple times" and had to return to a government check-point. ABC's MARTHA RADDATZ reported on "Good Morning America" on possible military options by the U.S. and the international community: http://abcn.ws/16KN3xb
  • OBAMA HUDDLES WITH FOREIGN LEADERS: President Obama spoke by phone on Sunday with French President Francois Hollande about the situation in Syria, a day after a similar phone call with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, ABC's CHRIS GOOD reports. Obama and Hollande discussed "possible responses by the international community" and "expressed their grave concern" about the reported chemical-weapons attack Wednesday outside Damascus, the White House announced. On Saturday, Obama spoke via phone with Cameron, also discussing "possible responses," the White House announced. The White House sounded more certain this morning that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for an attack that reportedly sent thousands to hospitals and killed hundreds. There is "very little doubt" that Assad's regime launched the reported attack, a senior administration official said. http://abcn.ws/18e1Jma
  • A WARNING FROM RUSSIA: Russia issued a stark warning yesterday against renewed calls for foreign military intervention in Syria, ABC's KIRIT RADIA notes. In a pair of statements, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman drew comparisons between the current situation in Syria and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and urged countries "not to repeat the mistakes of the past." Responding directly to comments by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel about military contingency planning, Alexander Lukashevich said such remarks were "alarming." Lukashevich reiterated Russia's position that evidence the Syrian military was responsible for the suspected chemical attack was pre-fabricated in order to frame the government. He said statements by the United States, France, and Britain that blame government forces are "completely ignoring many facts pointing to the fact that this action as a provocation of the irreconcilable opposition." http://abcn.ws/1dgWKta

THE ROUNDTABLE

ABC's RICK KLEIN: Thinking about the Edward Snowden case in terms of domestic politics may be missing the point. Yes, the storyline has made for strange bedfellows back home, and has put fresh pressure on the Obama administration from the president's base. But as the US seeks to rally the international community for a response in Syria, and to hold things together in Egypt, the importance of the NSA leaks in international relations is becoming evident. Russia, the central player in the Snowden legal chase, stands ready to thwart US efforts in the UN security council, with American leverage with that country near a low point. And a fresh leak regarding the UN is rattling relations with stalwart US ally Germany, as The New York Times reports today. Snowden's leaks don't have to chance a single policy for them to be felt for a very long time.

ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told members at their summer meeting in Boston earlier this month to ignore phrases like "civil war," but as the 2014 field is shaking out there are more and more primaries popping up and some pretty serious accusations thrown from both sides. Today, the conservative political action committee, The Madison Project, is out with a radio in Kentucky blasting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The buy is not huge: almost $30,000, but Daniel Horowitz, the policy director of The Madison Project called the ad "just the beginning," stressing they will be in the fight until the primary in May. According to Horowitz, this particular ad will "run for a few weeks statewide" on conservative talk radio because. "We view this race as a marquee race," Horowitz said. "He is the sitting (Senate) minority leader, this is a question of, 'Are we going to be the party of Jim DeMint and Ted Cruz or of Mitch McConnell and Karl Rove?'" McConnell campaign press secretary Allison Moore responded to the radio ad in a statement saying, "All you need to know about this group is that they're supporting a tax delinquent bailout artist who lies on his resume over the most conservative Republican Leader in modern history." "Apparently Matt 'Bailout' Bevin has a small cadre of fringe friends in Washington who have concluded that conservative governance isn't half as important as making money off his quixotic Senate campaign," Moore said. http://abcn.ws/176HhZj

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY: ASSAD'S 'MOMENTUM' IN SYRIA CIVIL WAR IS 'UNSUSTAINABLE'. The Syrian government seems to have made gains in the country's civil conflict in recent weeks, taking over more urban areas-and now, new reports point to the use of chemical weapons by the government. But the United States' top general says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's recent "momentum" is unsustainable. "[Assad] appears to be gaining momentum, but I don't think it'll be sustainable," Gen. Martin Dempsey told "On the Radar's" MARTHA RADDATZ in a sit-down interview recorded before the most recent reports of a major chemical attack. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the Syrian war as one that "ebbs and flows" and said that, although Assad may have superior weaponry and has made gains in urban areas, these advantages will not be enough to ultimately defeat the opposing rebels. "I don't think that even were [Assad] to take control of all the urban areas that he would ever be able to completely reduce the opposition, because of the way he's treated it," Dempsey said. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/17XQHCI

MARCH ON WASHINGTON - 50 YEARS LATER

-JOHN LEWIS REMEMBERS THAT HISTORIC DAY. Nearly 50 years after the March on Washington, the sole surviving speaker from that day, Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, spoke with ABC's BYRON PITTS about the pivotal event, recalling the moment he knew the day would live forever in American history. "When I…stepped to the podium I saw hundreds and hundreds of young people," Lewis recalled during an interview for "This Week." "And I said to myself, 'this is it,'" he remembered. On that day in 1963 when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream," speech, Lewis described himself as an "old soul" even at the age of 23, having been engaged in the fight for equal rights for African Americans. "When you have been sitting on a lunch counter stool and someone walk up and spit on you, or pour hot water or hot coffee on you…and you said you're committed to non violence…you have to grow up. Or to go on the freedom rides in 1961, the same year that President Barack Obama was born, and to be beaten…you had to grow up," Lewis said. http://abcn.ws/15mR8YA

-WHAT WOULD YOU MARCH FOR? On Aug. 28, 1963, nearly 250,000 Americans descended on the nation's capital for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of this march where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech, we're reminded once again of the power of a peaceful protest, and the ability of Americans to come together to enact change. ABC News wants to know: What are the causes that you care most about today? What issue would get you marching? Share with us on Twitter using the hashtag #IMarchFor or tell us here: http://abcn.ws/1dcgJJD

BUZZ

TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: A MEDAL OF HONOR. President Obama awards staff Sergeant Ty M. Carter the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions during an ambush in Afghanistan, ABC's MARY BRUCE notes. On October 3, 2009, Carter fought back Taliban fighters, supplied aid to his fellow Americans, and risked his own life to help an injured soldier. Carter will become the fifth living recipient to be awarded the Medal for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. Also today, the president meets privately with faith leaders at the White House to "discuss the Anniversary of the March on Washington and how civil rights and equality are closely tied to voting rights and closing the gap on education, unemployment, and access to health care."

CONSERVATIVE PAC HITS MITCH MCCONNELL FROM THE RIGHT. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is getting some heat today from the right, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. A conservative political action committee, The Madison Project, will begin airing a radio ad in Kentucky today going after McConnell, something they call the "first of many attempts to unveil the truth about Mitch McConnell's failed leadership in Washington." The Madison Project, led by former GOP Rep. Jim Ryun, was an early endorser of McConnell's Republican challenger, businessman Matt Bevin. "Career Washington politician Mitch McConnell claims to be a conservative," the narrator of the ad says before unleashing a series of assaults on McConnell, including asking if a "conservative" would support issues including immigration reform, citing McConnell's votes for immigration reform in 1986 and 2006. "No, but Mitch McConnell did," the narrator repeats throughout the ad. McConnell voted against the most recent comprehensive immigration bill, which passed the Senate in June. The one minute ad, titled "Would a Conservative," has an almost $30,000 buy and also hits McConnell on his 2008 vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program or TARP, which the narrator describes as McConnell "bail(ing) out his Wall Street friends with over $700 billion of your taxpayer dollars." http://abcn.ws/176HhZj

COKIE ROBERTS: CHANGES TO VOTING RIGHTS 'DOWNRIGHT EVIL'. In a roundtable discussion on 'This Week' on Sunday, ABC's COKIE ROBERTS reflected on the progress in our country 50 years after the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I have a Dream' speech. "Growing up in the Deep South in the era of Jim Crow, the difference is dramatic… It's a great testament to the fact that when you do something like pass a voting rights bill. That makes a difference." Still, Robert's expressed concern over recent legislation on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In June the Supreme Court invalidated key parts of this law, which spurred contentious debates on race and equal opportunity. Critics of the ruling call it a regression. Proponents argue that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is outdated. Robert's said, "What's going on about voting rights is downright evil because it is something that really needs to keep going forward not backward." http://abcn.ws/18TGYyq

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

JOE BIDEN BOUNDS BACK INTO THE SPOTLIGHT. Ever since President Obama and Hillary Clinton appeared together for a joint network interview in January, it seemed as if the president had unofficially made the former secretary of state his heir apparent. But last week, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports, Obama stood by Vice President Joe Biden in Biden's hometown of Scranton, Pa., heaping praise on the man who has dutifully been at his side since Obama picked him as his running mate exactly five years ago. "If it weren't for Scranton, I wouldn't have Joe Biden," Obama said at Lackawanna College. "It was the best decision that I ever made politically, because I love this guy. And he's got heart. And he cares about people. And he's willing to fight for what he believes in. And he's got some Scranton in him." Biden, who remained out of the spotlight this week in Houston with his son Beau, re-emerged Friday at Obama's side on the last stop of the president's two-day bus tour highlighting his proposals to make college more affordable. The vice president soaked up the hometown welcome, shaking hands with supporters long after the president left the gymnasium. He talked about the importance of the middle class, access to education and even used one of his favorite words - "malarkey." Biden has been coy about whether or not he'll pursue the presidency for a third time after unsuccessful runs in 1988 and 2008. In his second term as vice president, Biden has signed up to travel to all the early primary states. In September, he will take part in Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry, the same spot where a young Obama made his Iowa debut in 2006. Biden courted South Carolina Democrats in May with a speech at an annual fundraiser followed by the legendary fish fry hosted by Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. And on Election Day 2012, Biden was frank when a reporter asked whether that would be the last ballot he casts for himself. "No, I don't think so," Biden said last November. http://abcn.ws/156ejCb

IN THE NOTE'S INBOX

EMILY'S LIST ENDORSES GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE MICHELLE NUNN. The Democratic group, Emily's List, is throwing its support behind Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn and labeled some of her potential GOP opponents "the next Todd Akin." Here's an excerpt of the message Emily's List President Stephanie Schriock sent to supporters: "Huge news: we're endorsing Michelle Nunn for the U.S. Senate race in Georgia. Not only will she be a great senator for the people of Georgia, but she will also be the first woman senator elected from the Peach State - if we get behind her today. Michelle is the CEO of the Points of Light Foundation, the world's largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. Points of Light engages millions of volunteers each year to help solve their communities' most pressing challenges. … It's important that we elect a Democratic woman like Michelle, but it's just as important that we keep her right-wing, extremist opponents out of the Senate. Think about it this way. If you're looking for the next Todd Akin, Georgia's the place."

WHO'S TWEETING?

@THEHermanCain: Here are my reflections on the 1963 March on Washington: http://bit.ly/14UWKpB #MLK

@PostReid: Chris Christie inducted into Little League World Series hall of fame. Oh, and Obama won't campaign for Dem Buono - http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/08/nj_politics_roundup_christie_enters_little_league_hall_of_fame_obama_wont_stump_for_buono.html …

@DannyKanner: New @DemGovs video lays out the truth about @nikkihaley's incompetence & economic failure on the day of her launch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaArgg9Sue4&feature=share&list=UUt2-C0hqUgOrz3WEATUeDwg …

@KatrinaTrinko: last week, @SenRandPaul did pro-bono cataract surgery for a woman who doesn't have health insurance: http://nationalreview.com/article/356713/doctor-rand-katrina-trinko …

@aterkel: How many abortion clinics have closed since 2010? Great @LEBassett piece with all the data, maps http://huff.to/1diPe0O

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