Syria Drumbeat Grows Louder
PHOTO: Chuck Hagel

Credit: Kamarul Akhir/AFP/Getty Images

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone)

NOTABLES

  • HAGEL - U.S. IS 'READY TO GO': Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the BBC that the U.S. is "ready to go" if the decision comes for military action against Syria, ABC's JEAN-NICHOLAS FIEVET notes. "We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfil and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take," Hagel said in the interview. "He has seen them, we are prepared. I think it's pretty clear that chemical weapons were used against people in Syria. I think the intelligence will conclude that it wasn't the rebels who used it, and there'll probably be pretty good intelligence to show is that the Syria government was responsible. But we'll wait and determine what the facts and the intelligence bear out." And ABC's MARTHA RADDATZ reported from Amman, Jordan this morning that the region is bracing for a possible attack on Syria: http://abcn.ws/15sSC3r
  • WORD FROM THE WHITE HOUSE - 'A CLEAR VIOLATION': President Obama "has not made a decision about a response" to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday, according to ABC's MARY BRUCE. "We are continuing to review potential responses, to consult with our allies and partners and with Congress, as we make that review," he said. "What we are talking about here, as Secretary Kerry made clear, is a response to the clear violation of an international norm. And it is profoundly in the interest of the United States and of the international community that that violation of an international norm be responded to." Carney declined to comment further on what that response might look like or to discuss the timing of an administration response or decision. "I'm not going to, you know, engage in hypotheticals about potential responses or what might occur after any response or any decision is made about a response," he said.
  • NOTED: President Obama is spending the day behind closed doors at the White House. This afternoon he meets with mayors from around the country to discuss reducing youth violence. In the evening, the president and first lady host a reception for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington in the East Room.
  • SYRIA PUSHES BACK: The Associated Press' Albert Aji reports: "Syria's foreign minister says his country will defend itself using 'all means available' in case of a U.S. strike. Walid al-Moallem says Syria has two choices, either to surrender or fight back, and it will choose the latter. He declined to elaborate or say to what specific means he was referring. Al-Moallem spoke at a press conference in the Syrian capital Tuesday amid growing international support for military action against Syria in response to what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said was 'undeniable' evidence of a large-scale chemical attack likely launched by Damascus. Al-Moallem challenged anyone accusing the Syrian regime of using chemical weapons to provide proof." http://abcn.ws/1dh8db9

THE ROUNDTABLE

ABC's RICK KLEIN: A quiet letter to Congress tells the story of the months to come. It's been a while since we've had to worry about the debt ceiling debate, which, by mutual agreement and a revenue uptick, will need to resume by early October. But a letter from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, yesterday warns of a mid-October deadline before the country hits its borrowing limit. That means an even tighter timeframe for the debt limit, with funding for the full federal government likely to get wrapped up in that argument. And an argument it will be: Notwithstanding President Obama's vow not to negotiate over the debt ceiling, it's the main item on Republicans' side of the table, at least at this stage. There is no dynamic that argues against less confrontation, not more, on fiscal matters. Get ready for a hot fall.

ABC's DANA HUGHES: Secretary of State John Kerry has been burning up the phones lines lately. The State Department released a list of diplomatic phone calls he made yesterday on Syria, including to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, British Foreign Secretary Hague, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal. Worth noting: He spoke twice to Jordan's Foreign Minister Judeh and Arab League Secretary General Al-Araby. And that he spoke with the NATO Secretary General Rasmussen (Remember, NATO could provide a way for the U.S. to take action with an international body behind it, going around the United Nations). Also worth noting Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was not on the list. A Senior State Department official confirmed that the additional "evidence" Kerry mentioned in his statement would be presented "soon," likely before the end of the week. http://abcn.ws/18hQOrD

ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ: The pot debate is officially coming to Capitol Hill. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on federal and state marijuana laws as soon as Congress returns from recess next month. The committee is even calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to weigh in on the debate. This comes as Colorado and Washington voted earlier this year to legalize pot. Just last week, the White House said the president "does not at this point advocate a change" in marijuana laws but he also doesn't think cracking down on individual pot users is the best use of federal resources. "While the prosecution of drug traffickers remains an important priority, the President and the administration believe that targeting individual marijuana users, especially those with serious illnesses and their caregivers, is not the best allocation of federal law enforcement resources," Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday. "The priority in terms of the dedication of law enforcement resources should be targeted toward drug kingpins, drug traffickers and others who perpetrate violence in the conduct of the drug trade; that that is the best use of our law enforcement resources."

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

BERNICE KING: 'AFRICAN AMERICANS ARE STILL NOT FREE' 150 YEARS AFTER SLAVERY'S END. The Rev. Bernice King says that 50 years after her father, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington, his dream is still a work in progress. "When he framed the speech he said '100 years later the Negro is still not free,'" King tells ABC's BYRON PITTS "I would argue that 150 years later the Negro is still not free, African-Americans are still not free." King, who describes her late father as a prophet, says he foresaw many of the problems that society is confronting today - as well as the progress that has been made. "He knew that if we did not deal with the pressing economic issues, if we did not finish rounding out civil rights issues, the black community, a lot of these things that are visiting us now, would be visiting us," King says. "He also predicted that we would have an African-American president … 25 years from I think it was 1966 or '67, so that would have been in the '90s. So 10 years later it actually happens." King says what her father would be most "troubled" by in today's society is the "great disparities" that still exist, pointing to education and the criminal justice system as specific areas in need of improvement. http://yhoo.it/16IZQN3

MARCH ON WASHINGTON - 50 YEARS LATER

ON RACE, OBAMA TOPS MOUNTAIN BUT BLACKS SEE MORE PEAKS. When Martin Luther King, Jr., shared his dream from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, the president of the United States was not there to bear witness. John F. Kennedy was skeptical of the March on Washington, choosing to watch the event on TV from inside the White House several blocks away. He later clashed with King over the urgency for legislation to match the march's message of "jobs and freedom." But, as ABC's DEVIN DYWER notes, 50 years later, amid renewed calls for urgency to address racial disparities in America, the nation's first black president Barack Obama will add his voice to the campaign. He is the marquee speaker during Wednesday's anniversary at the same steps where King stood. President Obama "is the Jackie Robinson of the highest political circles, the highest practice of politics in American life," said Randall Kennedy, a Harvard University law professor and black historian who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. "The fact that he won [the presidency]…is his great contribution to the civil rights movement, and it's a huge contribution." Organizers say Obama's historic achievement will be celebrated as a fulfillment of part of King's vision of equality, coming five years to the day when Obama broke the race barrier in presidential politics, accepting the Democratic nomination in Denver. http://abcn.ws/17gJwaB

-'THERE'S STILL SO MANY THINGS THAT NEED TO CHANGE': Yet Obama's emerging legacy on the advancement of King's broader vision is more complicated, some black leaders concede, a mixed bag of achievements that has at times fallen short of the super-human expectations many African-Americans had when he first took office. Only one in four African-Americans say the situation of black people has improved during Obama's tenure, according to a new Pew Research Center poll. One in five said things have gotten worse. Half of blacks say things are about the same now compared with five years ago, a view shared by as many whites surveyed in the poll. The findings underscore the stubbornness of socio-economic disparities that have frustrated the African-American community and at times thwarted Obama's attempts to address it. "What's disturbing is to see that even with a black president - not necessarily his fault - but there's still so many things that need to change in this country, we still have a long way to go," said Lynn French, a Washington, D.C., native who helped organize the 1963 march.

BLACK REPUBLICANS LAMENT PARTY'S FORGOTTEN ROLE IN CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT. When Republicans planned a gathering to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, they weren't initially sure who would show up, notes ABC's ABBY PHILLIP. With most lawmakers out of town and Washington full of Democratic-leaning activists here to mark the historic week at the Lincoln Memorial, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus acknowledged at the luncheon on Capitol Hill yesterday that it was a risk, but they proceeded anyway. "You can't make a sale if you don't show up and ask for an order," said Priebus, who has pushed for the party to reach out more to minority voters, including African-Americans. In the end, dozens of civil rights leaders, African-Americans, Democrats and Republicans gathered at the Capitol Hill Club. For many African-Americans gathered, it was a reminder that the Republican Party - the party of Abraham Lincoln - wasn't as estranged from the civil rights movement as some of the more official commemoration events would make it seem. On Saturday, at a National Action Network rally and march at the Lincoln Memorial, speaker after speaker, nearly all of them Democrats, took to the podium to lay out the unfinished business of King's work. For black Republicans, the merging of the civil rights community with a broader progressive or liberal agenda is a source of frustration. "It's a movement that had its roots in the black community and in the Republican community," Ada Fisher, a Republican National committeewoman from North Carolina, who is African-American, told ABC News. "Most people don't talk about the fact that Martin Luther King was a Republican." http://abcn.ws/1dknngQ

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

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

PRESIDENT OBAMA SALUTES MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT AS 'THE ESSENCE OF TRUE HEROISM'. President Obama yesterday bestowed the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ty Carter, praising his courageous actions during one of the most intense battles in Afghanistan and crediting him with speaking openly about the invisible wounds of war, ABC's MARY BRUCE notes. During an October 2009 ambush on the remote Combat Outpost Keating, Carter risked his life to resupply ammunition to his fellow soldiers and rescue an injured comrade, carrying him to safety through a hailstorm of enemy fire. "It was chaos - a blizzard of bullets and steel into which Ty ran not once or twice or even a few times, but perhaps 10 times and, in doing so, he displayed the essence of true heroism: not the urge to surpass all others at whatever costs, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost," the president said at a White House ceremony. Eight Americans, including Spc. Stephan Mace, whom Carter carried out of harm's way, lost their lives as nearly 300 insurgents attacked the outpost. More than two dozen Americans were wounded. Many of those who survived, including Carter, still struggle with the emotional scars of that day. http://abcn.ws/18ghR6T

IN THE NOTE'S INBOX

-VIRGINIA CONSERVATIVE GROUP GOES ON THE AIR AGAINST MCAULIFFE. Today Women Speak Out-Virginia, an affiliated PAC of the conservative Susan B. Anthony List, announced a week-long, $26,000 radio ad buy in the Richmond and northern Virginia media markets targeting gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. The ad focuses on McAuliffe's ties to the electronic car company GreenTech. "Virginians need to know they cannot trust Terry McAuliffe," Leslie Davis Blackwell, spokeswoman for Women Speak Out-Virginia, said In a statement. "His reckless policies and terrible business ethics are bad for the commonwealth and must be exposed." LISTEN: http://bit.ly/19JZQRz

- SARAH PALIN SIGNS DEFUND OBAMACARE PETITION. The Senate Conservatives Fund announced today that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has signed the group's defund Obamacare petition. "Forced enrollment in Obama's 'Unaffordable Care Act' is weeks away. This beast must be stopped - by not funding it," Palin said in a statement. "Today, Todd and I joined with many of our fellow citizens to urge those in the U.S. Senate to not fund Obamacare." Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said "I'm grateful to have Governor Palin's support as we fight to stop the funding for Obamacare." And Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., called Palin "a tremendous voice for liberty, and her strong support adds to our growing momentum to stop this 'huge train wreck' and help American families restore jobs and opportunity."

WHO'S TWEETING?

@ABCPolitics: . @MarthaRaddatz @GMA: "military commanders await only the green light to launch attacks."

@tedhesson: Conservatives criticize youth jobs program in immigration bill as pork http://fus.in/17jjXEb

@TheFix: When it comes to Americans' views on Syria, it's complicated. http://ow.ly/oiQrp

@jasondhorowitz: Cory Booker is boning up on DC with "This Town" audiobook. Will he be like Senator Teddy? Meet Sen. TED Talk. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/new-jerseys-cory-booker-a-perfect-senator-for-this-town/2013/08/26/ebf3b50a-0e81-11e3-bdf6-e4fc677d94a1_story.html?wpmk=MK0000205 …

@learyreports: . @marcorubio spent lot of time fundraising during break. Yesterday was in Boston with Scott Brown. http://bit.ly/19Wnlui

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