Obama Seeks a Coalition of the Willing In Congress

Credit: PBS NewsHour

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • OBAMA HAS 'NOT MADE A DECISION' ABOUT SYRIA: President Obama last night said his administration has concluded that the regime of Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the recent chemical attack against Syrian civilians and that there "needs to be international consequences," as he outlined the case for a "limited" U.S. response, ABC's MARY BRUCE notes. In an interview with PBS' "NewsHour," the president said he has not made a decision about how to respond, but that he has "no interest in any kind of open-ended conflict" in Syria. "But we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable," he said, in his most extensive comments since the Aug. 21 attack. "If, in fact, we can take limited, tailored approaches, not getting drawn into a long conflict, not a repetition of, you know, Iraq, which I know a lot of people are worried about - but if we are saying in a clear and decisive but very limited way, we send a shot across the bow saying, 'Stop doing this,' that can have a positive impact on our national security over the long term … and may have a positive impact in the sense that chemical weapons are not used again on innocent civilians," he said. http://abcn.ws/18lR1dq
  • ASSAD SPEAKS: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says Syria will defend itself against any attack by the United States, ABC's JON WILLIAMS reports. "The threats of direct aggression against Syria will only increase our commitment to our deep-rooted principles and the independent will of our people. Syria will defend itself in the face of any aggression," state television quotes Assad telling a delegation of Yemeni politicians.
  • WHITE HOUSE TO BRIEF KEY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS: The White House is set to provide a briefing for bipartisan members of congressional leadership as well as the top ranking members of national security committees today, multiple congressional sources confirmed to ABC News. Lawmakers will call in to the evening telephone briefing because most members of Congress are traveling throughout the country and abroad during the summer recess, which does not end until Sept. 9, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON reports. It is not immediately clear which administration officials will conduct the briefing, or whether President Obama will participate in the discussion. http://abcn.ws/149mb6E
  • FROM THE SPEAKER'S DESK: Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon, House Speaker John Boehner fired off a letter to the president to complain that initial outreach by the administration to members of Congress in the last several days has "not reached the level of substantive consultation." "I respectfully request that you, as our country's commander-in-chief, personally make the case to the American people and Congress for how potential military action will secure American national security interests, preserve America's credibility, deter the future use of chemical weapons, and, critically, be a part of our broader policy and strategy," Boehner, R-Ohio, wrote in the letter. "It is essential you address on what basis any use of force would be legally justified and how the justification comports with the exclusive authority of Congressional authorization under Article I of the Constitution."


ABC's RICK KLEIN: So crossing a presidential red line earns a rogue leader… "a shot across the bow," and a "stop doing that"? War isn't parenting, and neither is it easy. President Obama is positioning himself against not only other world leaders and the Assad regime himself but also his long-ago words on warfare and the limits of presidential power. The candidate who once said a president couldn't go to war without congressional authorization except in "stopping an actual or imminent threat" is now sounding like he's redefining the current threat to meet the standard. To a growing number of members of Congress, in both parties, this Obama doctrine sounds familiar enough that they want the president to bring his case to Congress.

ABC's DEVIN DWYER: President Obama made a striking claim for why a possible unilateral military strike against Syria, without congressional authorization, would be constitutionally legit. In an interview Wednesday with PBS, Obama said Assad's chemical weapons "could be directed at us" - an ominous warning for national security. It's quite the statement, considering that up to this point most of the official rhetoric has focused on the U.S. assuming a policeman role toward Syira, acting to preserve "international norms," hold Assad accountable and prevent other attacks on his own people. "When you start talking about chemical weapons in a country that has the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world, where over time their control over chemical weapons may erode, where they're allied to known terrorist organizations that in the past have targeted the United States," Obama said, "then there is a prospect, a possibility in which chemical weapons that can have devastating effects could be directed at us. We want to make sure that that does not happen." It also seems remarkable given that the US may not actually target the chemical weapon stockpiles themselves, either for fear of spreading toxic fallout over the area or because we simply don't know where they are. Perhaps Obama is keenly aware of his own position from 2007 when he stated unequivocally that "the president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."


COALITION URGES OBAMA TO SEEK CONGRESSIONAL AUTHORIZATION FOR SYRIAN STRIKE. A growing bipartisan coalition in Congress came together yesterday to "strongly urge" President Obama "to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria," according to ABC's JOHN PARKINSON. In a letter sent to the president this evening, Rep. Scott Rigell, a second-term Republican from Virginia, joined 97 of his Republican and 18 of his Democratic colleagues in demanding that the president first acquire consent from Congress, citing the War Powers Resolution of 1973, before responding militarily to the Syrian government's purported use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21. "While the Founders wisely gave the Office of the President the authority to act in emergencies, they foresaw the need to ensure public debate - and the active engagement of Congress - prior to committing U.S. military assets," the group wrote. "Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution." Here is a full copy of the letter, followed by the 116 signatures (Democrats in italics): http://abcn.ws/17jUwEf

FIVE POSSIBLE REPERCUSSIONS OF A U.S. MILITARY STRIKE ON SYRIA. A U.S. missile strike on Syria could trigger a chain reaction involving from Syria or its allies like Hezbollah and Iran, and the blowback could hit U.S. targets or Israel, experts told ABCNews.com. Or Syria might simply stop using chemical weapons and there is no retaliation at all Gauging the ripple effect of a U.S. strike on Syria is part of the calculations of the Obama administration, but it is an imprecise science. "When you do a military strike it often has ramifications you don't anticipate," said Dan Byman, a senior fellow of foreign policy at Brookings Institute. ABC's COLLEEN CURRY outlines five scenarios the U.S. could face in coming weeks: http://abcn.ws/1fl7jY2

WASHINGTON WATCHDOG: $14M WASTED ON BROADBAND EFFORT IN W.VA. ALONE. To ensure the United States remained competitive economically, the government came up with $7 billion in 2009 to spread broadband across the country and hook up thousands of communities. In March, Larry Strickling, an administrator with the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration, spoke on Capitol Hill, lauding the program for deploying more than 86,000 miles of broadband structure, building 12,000 connections for schools and libraries, and generating more than 500,000 new broadband subscribers. "The vast majority of our projects have performed well," he told ABC News after the hearing. "We are quite happy with the program." But, as ABC's DAVID KERLEY reports, in one West Virginia closet, stacks of high-speed routers sat unused, paid for by U.S. taxpayers at the tune of $20,000 a piece - all because the state bought too many of the wrong routers. In that closet has sat $1.25 million in routers - equal to a year's pay for 30 teachers - gathering dust for nearly three years. "It's the people's dollars that we're dealing with," Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., told ABC News. "None of it should be wasted. And in this case, it's obscene." In West Virginia alone, $14 million has been wasted, according to the state auditor. Critics said they are concerned about where the money was spent. For example, some of the routers were used. But while the small community library in Shepherdstown, W.Va. - which sees fewer than 5,000 annual visitors - got them, two local high schools just a couple of miles away did not. READ MORE: http://abcn.ws/17i1kUM


ALL THE PRESIDENT'S FILMMAKERS: "OUR NIXON" DOCUMENTARY EXPOSES HOME MOVIES OF NIXON'S TOP AIDES. Richard Nixon is viewed historically as one of the nation's most corrupt presidents, but the new documentary "Our Nixon" uses never-before-seen Super 8 home videos shot by Nixon's closest aides-H.R. Haldeman, John D. Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin-to reveal a lighter side of the 37thpresident of the United States. Filmmaker Penny Lane tells "Top Line" she set out to reveal a "nuanced" view of Nixon by pairing the home videos, which were seized by the FBI during the Watergate investigation, with some of the less-heard moments from the Nixon tapes - Nixon's secretly recorded meetings and phone conversations. "There were almost 4,000 hours of tapes, and so even though a lot of people think we've already heard them, we really haven't," Lane tells "Top Line." "With this film, we were really looking to explore less charged and a little bit more nuanced view of the man, but also of his staff." Watch more of Rick Klein and Olivier Knox's interview: http://yhoo.it/17lwGrO


-OBAMA VOWS: 'WE WILL WIN THESE FIGHTS'. Fifty years to the day after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech, President Obama yesterday offered a tribute to his personal hero, while also imploring all Americans to remember that the work of the iconic civil rights leader remains unfinished, ABC's MARY BRUCE reports. "The arc of the moral universe may bend toward justice, but it doesn't bend on its own," Obama said, as he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered his historic remarks. "We'll suffer the occasional setback, but we will win these fights." "Yes, we will stumble, but I know we'll get back up. That's how a movement happens. That's how history bends," Obama added. Obama, who spoke on a muggy, rainy day in Washington to an estimated crowd of 20,000 - far fewer than 200,000-plus who attended the March on Washington and witnessed King's "I Have a Dream" speech 50 years ago - recalled that day in 1963. "On a hot summer day, they assembled here in our nation's capitol, under the shadow of the great emancipator to offer testimony of injustice, to petition their government for redress, to awaken America's long slumbering conscience," he said. "How he gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions, how he offered a salvation path to oppressed and oppressors alike," he added. "We would do well to recall that that day itself also belonged to those ordinary people whose names never appeared in history books." http://abcn.ws/154AXfl

-ANALYSIS: 'FLAME REMAINS': PRESIDENT OBAMA SEEKS NEW START IN REMEMBERING MARCH. ABC's RICK KLEIN: In a day brimming with historical significance, the president reached to the past to frame the choices ahead. He started with the fading but still living history of Martin Luther King Jr., and no person alive could stand as the embodiment of King's famous dream better than the first African-American president. More significantly, there's Obama's own political past - as the vessel through which so many Americans channeled their own hopes and expectations when he burst onto the scene. The "promise of this nation will only be kept when we work together," Obama declared, sounding very much like a candidate who wasn't seasoned by Washington realities. "We'll have to reignite the embers of empathy and fellow feeling, the coalition of conscience that found expression in this place 50 years ago." In a tidy piece of historical significance, yesterday marked both the 50th anniversary of King's speech and the fifth anniversary of Obama's accepting the Democratic nomination for president. Obama's speech recalled his moment in history perhaps more than it did King's. http://abcn.ws/140ffxX

-NO REPUBLICANS ONSTAGE FOR MARCH ANNIVERSARY? IT'S COMPLICATED. When it comes to GOP elected officials, at least four Republicans who were invited to yesterday's March on Washington commemoration declined the invitation, for differing reasons, ABC's RICK KLEIN notes. Former Presidents Bush both were invited but cited health concerns in declining. Former President George W. Bush released a written statement this morning applauding Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy. The top two Republicans in the House were also invited, but neither is attending the ceremonies, their offices have confirmed to ABC News. The only African American serving in the Senate, Republican Tim Scott, wasn't invited to partake in the festivities, a spokesman confirmed to ABC News. Scott was appointed to the U.S. Senate seat representing South Carolina earlier this year after Sen. Jim Demint left to head the Heritage Foundation. House Speaker John Boehner was invited to participate, but with Congress - and Boehner - out of town on recess this week, he chose to speak at the congressional ceremony marking the 50thanniversary last month. Boehner's office also points out that House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also spoke at that ceremony but weren't in attendance yesterday. http://abcn.ws/19ZYDZU

-#IMARCHFOR Yesterday, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP and SHUSHANNAH WALSHE spent the day on the National Mall asking participants what they were marching for. John Arnold, 78, was in Washington 50 years ago and yesterday he came full circle. In 1963 he had a front row seat, standing just yards away from Dr. King and right next to entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. "Oh golly it's still very exciting, not the same as it was 50 years ago," Arnold said, noting he got to the front then by "worming my way up there." "He was really a hoot," Arnold said of Sammy Davis Jr. "It was incredible to be part of a quarter of a million people all who had a dream and have Dr. King express it in a way they had never heard before or since." Arnold was teaching at a school in Washington in 1963, but traveled from Pinehurst, North Carolina to be there yesterday. "It just felt like it was something I wanted to do and needed to do," he said. Arnold first heard King speak not in 1963 but four years earlier in 1959 as a Yale Divinity School student when he met the civil rights leader and shook his hand. Here are more of their interviews and scenes from yesterday's event: http://abcn.ws/13ZmRAT


"KEN CUCCINELLI'S FAMILY LAW STANCE WON HIM SUPPORT OF FATHERS' RIGHTS MOVEMENT," by the Washington Post's Ben Pershing. "Two weeks after he was sworn in as Virginia attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli II went to court one last time as a private-practice lawyer. Fellow lawyers viewed the appearance at the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in January 2010 as unusual because attorneys general almost never handle private cases. At the time, Cuccinelli's deputy told The Washington Post that the case involved 'some sensitive issues and some child witnesses, and the client wanted some sensitivity, and he wanted Ken Cuccinelli, so he finished out that matter.' Cuccinelli's office didn't say so then, but the client was Ron M. Grignol Jr., a former House of Delegates candidate embroiled in a custody dispute with his ex-wife. Grignol is also the former leader of Fathers for Virginia, which seeks to 'empower divorced fathers as equal partners in parenting," and of a second group that contends that men are frequently victimized by false allegations of domestic abuse. … Cuccinelli's legal work for Grignol, whom he also knew from Virginia political circles, is one facet of his relationship with the fathers' rights movement, a loose national network of activists who think the legal system is stacked against men in divorce and custody cases. Cuccinelli's support for aspects of the groups' agenda illustrates how his personal and religious views have helped shape his political career and continue to affect it as he runs for governor against businessman Terry McAuliffe (D)." http://bit.ly/18lTncj


@tnr: Confused about what's happening in #Syria? Here's a primer that will answer all your questions: http://on.tnr.com/17oihct

@tackettdc: Feinstein opposes Verizon, AT&T holding NSA phone records http://bloom.bg/14aFwV7

@ByronYork: Thomas Edsall gives Democrats some painful truth: Republicans could actually win in 2016: http://ow.ly/onmbi

@PatrickRuffini: I spoke with the NYT about how Republicans can beat @HillaryClinton in 2016. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/28/can-republicans-paint-the-white-house-red/?hp&_r=0 …

@AlisaW_: Eight years ago today, Hurricane #Katrina hit New Orleans causing one of the greatest natural disasters in US history.