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tv   CNN Newsroom  CNN  September 6, 2013 6:00am-8:01am PDT

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contractor who sold secrets to the russians. cnn sat down with him for the first time, first on-camera interview in 28 years. that's this weekend right here on cnn. >> and that is it. it will be. that's it for us here on "new day." thanks for joining us. it's time for "cnn newsroom" with the one and only carol costello beginning right now. >> have a fantastic weekend. "newsroom" starts right now. happening now in "newsroom" -- >> sent you to stop the war. >> we cannot afford to turn syria into another iraq. john mccain gets blasted. >> how much is the life of american servicemen worth? >> war wary and done with conflicts. town halls becoming staging grounds. >> why are you not listening to the people and staying out of syria. >> voters voice opposition and their absolute mistrust of congress. >> this is what i think of
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congress. they are a bunch of marshmallows. also, evidence growing at opposition building. president obama losing support in congress for a strike. >> i'm still a no at this point. >> the case has not been made to me that this war has anything to do with us. and breaking overnight. new details on the scope of american involvement. a special edition of "newsroom" starts now. goodern moi morning, i'm ca costello. breaking news here at home. 169,000 jobs added last month to our economy, which brings the unemployment rate down just a notch to 7.3%. that is the lowest level since december of 2008. alison kosik live in new york to tell us about this friday's jobs
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report. good morning, alison. >> good morning, carol. this jobs report was a miss. what was expected was 185,000 positions were added in the month of august. instead, we got 169,000 and, worse, you look at the revisions for june and july. july was revised from 162,000 all the way down to 104,000. and then fewer jobs added in june, as well then first thought. a second point to make. 7.3%. that dip in the unemployment rate to 7.3% not really for the reason you want to see. the reason that happened is because 312,000 people dropped out of the labor force. they stopped looking for work altogether, either out of frustration or the fact that they just couldn't get a job. that's not the reason you want to see as behind, you know, pushing that unemployment rate lower. carol? >> alison kosik reporting live from new york for us. later this morning, president obama will hold an overseas news conference and much of the world will be waiting for comments on military
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action on syria. the issue has largely overshadowed the g-20 economic summit now wrapping up in st. petersburg, russia. this is the so-called class photo taken just a few hours ago. look at all those leaders. obama has used this meeting to rally international support for the strikes. jim acosta is traveling with the president. he joins us live now from st. petersburg. good morning, jim. >> goodern moing, carol. that's right, president obama going through the motions of this final day of the g-20 summit. you saw there just a few moments ago. he did pose for that class photo with the rest of the leaders here at the summit and he is also meeting with a variety of foreign leaders. he's having a bilateral meeting right now with the france president earlier this morning. but, carol, obviously, you do get the sense from hearing from top administration officials that he is not quite lining up all of the support that he is, he was hoping to get here in st.
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petersburg. deputy national security adviser ben rhodes held a gaggle earlier this morning and walk out with majority of the leaders supporting them for a strike against syria and they will go along with the united states in terms of supporting this notion that chemical weapons should not be used. but they're not really saying which countries are with them. which countries are against them. we might get that after the summit is over. that's an indication there that perhaps they don't have all the support that they would like to have. one thing we should poin out, though, this news conference that president obama is scheduled to have at 9:50 this morning that could move around depending on how the bilateral meeting that is hapwing the french president is going and whether or not that runs late. questi carol, the big question opposed to the president is if he will take military action if he does not get congressional authorization? you played some of the sound from the town hall meeting with john mccain and some other lawmakers who say they're not convinced. listen to what a deputy national
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security adviser tony blinken said earlier on npr. he said it is neither the president's desire nor his intention to move forward with the military strike without congressional authorization. that is a comment that i think is going to be posed to the president at this news conference, if a reporter gets an opportunity and our brianna keilar, my colleague, will be there at the news conference. >> she will be front and center. i understand she's ready and willing to ask that question. jim acosta reporting live. if the united states does, indeed, launch military strikes against syria, new talk that long-range bombers could take part in the mission. this is a b-2 stealth bomber returning. the bombers would be outfitted with missiles so they wouldn't have to enter syrian air space and air defenses. a u.s. official tells cnn that no decision has been made on which assets would be deployed. in the meantime, military action in syria is proving to be a very tough sell for a lot of
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americans. polls this week show more people oppose military action than support it. lawmakers now asking for insight at town hall meetings across the country. and in some cases, these town hall meetings are getting ugly. like this town hall with senator john mccain. from cnn affiliate knxv in phoenix has more for you. >> i understand your skepticism. >> reporter: senator john mccain trying to make the hard sell. >> i am opposed to having a single american boot on the ground. >> reporter: this is one of three town hall meetings the senator has to get voter insight on u.s. involvement in syria. >> i really want to hear from you, rather than you hearing from me. >> reporter: for a whole hour, voters didn't hold back. >> how much is the life of american servicemen worth? to me, it's worth a whole lot more in the situation. >> no contemplation of putting a
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serviceman or woman -- i'm telling you there's not, sir. so, that is not, that is not an argument we can have. it's not going to happen. >> we cannot afford to turn syria into another iraq. or afghanistan. i beg you. >> reporter: even syrian americans who were split on the issue hashed it out at the meeting. >> it's not true. you are lying. >> you cannot shut me up here like you did in syria. this is the united states. >> reporter: this navy veteran told mccain he felt there were better ways the government could spend money. >> i would much rather use our taxpayers' money to take care of our vets that are coming home from the two conflicts we have already been in. >> i appreciate your service very much and i appreciate your opinion. i don't think i need to be l lectu lectured, too, about veterans. >> reporter: some supported a u.s. attack. a majority were against any involvement. >> sounds like a lot of people are posing this. you sound like you have your mind made up. >> you think i would be having a
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town hall meeting if i had my mind totally made up? do you? >> no, i'm just asking. the prior statements you made. >> ask a -- >> is there a chance you would vote no on syria? >> thank you. so, let's bring in our chief congressional correspondent dana bash live on capitol hill. dana, john mccain stood there and told the local reporter that he doesn't have his mind made up, but he did vote for a resolution authorizing some sort of military strike against syria. >> he did. and he got some changes made to the point where he felt comfortable enough to vote for authorization. i should say, one of only three republicans who did so in the foreign relations ch s committe earlier this week. john mccain is probably one of the politicians most comfortable with that kind of town hall setting. the most experienced with tough questions, but even for him, wow. that was really rough. i want to play even a little bit
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more of the kind of questions that he got about syria. >> do you really realize what you're getting, what you're getting our country into with this war in syria? if you attack the syrians, who do you think they're going to take it out on? israel. why are you not supporting israel on this one? we should be backing israel, not turning away from them. and, second of all, this is what i think of congress. they are a bunch of marshmallows. that's what they are. >> well, sir, i'll be glad to get you information about the exact position of israel on this issue. you may be surprised. >> now for the record, i think it's fair to say that john mccain doesn't disagree with the fact that most of his colleagues or congress in general is perceived as a bag of marshmallows. more specifically, more importantly, just to the point that the voter that john mccain was making about israel, he's right. the state of israel does support
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this idea. they're not publicly talking about it. they're not beating the drums publicly because they understand the way that they're perceived in that region, particularly by arab countries and they know that wouldn't do any good. i can tell you that the american/israelis public affairs committee here in the united states, very powerful pro-israel lobbying group is being very proactive about trying to get members of congress who are undecided to vote for this. i talked to several of them who said they're getting calls from all kinds of people who are affiliated with apac and absolutely they are supported. but i just have to tell you that the fact that we ran so much of this john mccain town hall isn't so much because it was fascinating to watch, but it is very much because this is what we're hearing from republicans and democrats that they are getting from their constituents back home. the phone calls, the conversations at gas stations and super markets. this is what they're hearing and it is very much a big part of why the momentum that the president had earlier this week
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appears to have stalled. >> well, john mccain certainly has his own mind. do you think that if he experiences more like this, which he will, i'm sure his office is getting hundreds of calls, too. is it possible that he could change his mind and, if he does, that would really hurt the president's effort, wouldn't it? >> anything is possible. you heard what he said to that reporter there. i'm not going to second guess that. but what i can say is that there are few members of congress in eager party who have been more outfrund front and more aggressive in trying to get the president to be more aggressive himself with the foreign policy towards syria and with regard to military involvement in syria. he made very clear that does not include boots on the ground from his point of view. but he is one of the people who have been urging the president to get out there. i think it will be very hard for him to vote no and he has said many times over the past week that he thought that congress voting against the president after he already made this
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decision would be catastrophic. i'm just quoting his own words back it him. if he changed his mind, carol, yes, that would be a huge and surprising and detrimental to the president. >> catastrophic to the president. dana bash, thanks so much. cnn has been tallying how congress will vote and based on our figures, the president still has a long way to go to get the support he needs and in the house, 15 democrats and 8 republicans are backing the president. 23 democrats and 86 republicans are against president obama. and more than 300 lawmakers undecided in the senate 17 democrats and 7 republicans support a strike against syria and four democrats and 14 republicans do not with 58 senators still undecided. the president has a long, long way to go. you can see, by the way, how your lawmaker plans to vote on a strike against syria. go to and click on counting votes. you can click through the interactive tally by state, name
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and comments. the running tally based on public statements, press releases and interviews from lawmakers. still to come in "newsroom" lobbying lawmakers and world leaders. president obama makes his case against syria. so, what should he do if he doesn't get the support? ♪ ♪ ♪
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well, we just showed you that raucous town hall meeting held in arizona by john mccain who was supporting president obama's effort for some sort of military action in syria and you can see how angry john mccain's constituents were. joining me now by phone is another lawmaker who says he will support president obama on syria. he's a republican congressman, his name is luke messer and he's nomindiana. good morning, sir. >> good morning. >> what are you hearing from your constituents? >> i'm hearing a lot of concern. what i'm hearing from my constituents is the same thing that i believe. i'm no fan of this president's foreign policy, but the bottom line to me after seeing the facts and the evidence is this. we don't have the luxury of taking a 3 1/2 year break on being america just because we
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have a commander in chief. when you look at the facts and evidence presented, it is clear that a strong, targeted military action is warranted. and that's how i intend to vote. >> so, i know you hold town halls and i know that you held a town hall, but this was before the president spoke out about syria. will you hold a town hall in the next few days? >> i think it's important that we continue to receive impact or to receive information and feedback from our constituents. i actually sent out an e-mail survey yesterday. i participated in multiple town halls through august that included conversations about syria and i expressed in those town halls that based on the facts as i understood them i would support a strike. this is a matter of conscious. i understand the concern here and the misgivings about this president's leadership.
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i agree that mismanagement by this administration has compounded the problems there, but i also think that we have to look at the bigger picture and the bigger picture is this. it's clear that assad bombed his own people and it's clear that those bombings including chemical weapons on innocent women and children. allies in the region like israel are asking for us to act in and it's clear that evil dictators in iran, north korea and else where are watching and will be undoubtedly emboldened if we don't ask. >> you say a matter of conscious. i'll lay this one on you. one of your congressman tweeted this out yesterday. if you're voting yes, might as well start cleaning out your office. do you think your vote could cost you your office? >> listen, i think when we're talking about as important as a decision about whether or not to go to war that talk of the
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political considerations is frankly inappropriate. i'm going to do my best based on the fact to make the best judgment i can for the future of this country and we'll let the political chips fall where they may. >> thank you for joining me congressman luke messer of indiana. we sure appreciate it. >> thank you. quite lonely being the president, even at the g-20 summit even where he is surro d surrounded by 19 other world leaders. a large portion were spotted heading to dinner together. missing was president obama. he later headed to the formal dinner alone. he does look lonely. professor of science jason joins me now. welcome back, jason. >> good to be here. >> the president, he doesn't have support in congress right now. far, far from it. a lot of people are saying, hey, president obama, you need to address the american people and lay out a plan.
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>> he has no plan that people want to hear. and that is the problem. look, degrading the weapons of mass destruction and degrading the gas, the ability for assad to gas people, nobody wants to hear that. americans are thinking about iraq. even though this is a situation much more similar to kosovo. that's not a case that obama will be able to make effectively. >> nothing he should say to the american people. >> i don't think it will matter. i think the president will go ahead with this anyway. bill clinton did the same thing with kosovo. as long as one house of congress votes in his favor and that will probably be the senate because the democrats have the majority, barack obama will begin the bombing. he doesn't want to -- >> a lot of liberal democrats against going taking military action in syria. >> they say that really strongly now. >> they're going to do some horse training because eventually the concern is going to be what this does to iran. if we, if the president draws a line and then ends up being cut off at the knees by his own senate, then iran is going to be laughing and assad is going to
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be laughing and that is something that even people who disagree with obama, they'll probably vote in favor because they're concerned about how america will look overall. >> you saw our story on the town hall meeting in arizona. you saw how angry people were at john mccain and you also listened to the congressman from indiana and he said i have to vote my conscious. but he's in the house of representatives. can he convince other house memb membe members -- >> i don't think a chance the house will pass this. a perfect example is joe wilson who said this is to avoid benghazi and the president was trying to hide from all these other issues. you still have members of the house of representatives who think the president is a secret muslim and wasn't born here and some massive conspiracy. i don't think much of a chance in the house. if you look at it historically, bill clinton started dropping bombs even though the house didn't vote for a month later. i think that's what the president will try to do. >> if the president does that, i mean, it will make a lot of voters mad, really angry. >> extremely angry. >> does the president care at
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this point? he's not running for re-election but could hurt his fellow democrats. >> i don't think much that could help the democrats next year outside of the economy anyway. and this is, this is legacy building. okay, this is something that the president thinks has to happen in order for the united states to stay safe and has to happen in order to stabilize the region and i don't think he's thinking in terms of elections next year. if you look at most of the senators on the foreign relations committee, they're not really worried about their jobs. the only people worried ted cruz, marco rubio, everybody else knows it is the economy next year. they'll be fine. >> jason johnson, thank you for your insights. always appreciate it. we're waiting for president obama to speak, possibly in less than half an hour. we'll look at the day's other top stories. including new trouble for george zimmerman and his wife and that legal fund you may have contributed to.
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checking our top stories at 25 minutes past. shellie zimmerman filed for divorce. she is the wife of george
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zimmerman found not guilty in june in the shooting death of trayvon martin. her attorney spoke with reporters last week after shellie zimmerman pleaded guilty to lying in 2012 about the couple's finances. >> she stood by her man, like tammy wynette says. she probably shouldn't have. she did what was right for her. >> shellie zimmerman said publicly last week that her marriage was in jeopardy. health officials in texas urging people to get vaccinated against what they're calling an epidemic of whooping cough. the disease also known as pertussis has killed two people this year. 2,000 cases have been reported and the number of people infected could be ten times higher. a 19-year-old man is dead after the remote control helicopter he was flying struck him in the head. happened in new york city. friends say they're in shock. >> disbelief is what's in my heart right now. and i'll miss him. i really will.
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>> it's just an unreal eventhat someone that young, that full of life enjoying something is gone. just unbelievable tragedy. >> wabc is reporting that this man enjoyed flying gas-powered turbine helicopters with two foot-long carbon blades. he was quite experienced at it. just some sort of freak accident. let's talk about the weather. it's still summer, but, boy, doesn't feel that way in parts of the northeast. frost advisories out this morning and high temperatures are five to ten degrees cooler than average. another cold front will push through this weekend. the nfl regular season open with a bang. we'll make that an explosion from peyton manning. the broncos quarterback threw for seven, count them seven record touchdowns in denver's 49-27 win over the baltimore ravens. manning tied that nfl record for the most td passes in a game. it was last done in 1969. and check out this mock up of
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what the olympic park will look like at the 2016rio de janeiro the flowing pathways modeled after the amazon river and the night clubs will resemble the olympic flag. thank you for joining me this morning, i'm carol costello. we are expecting president obama to speak in about 20 minutes. cnn's jake tapper picks it up from here. man: sometimes it's like we're still in college. but with a mortgage. and the furniture's a lot nicer. and suddenly, the most important person in my life is someone i haven't even met yet. who matters most to you says the most about you. at massmutual we're owned by our policyowners, and they matter most to us. as you plan your next step, we'll help you get there.
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starts with freshly-made pasta, and 100% real cheddar cheese. but what makes stouffer's mac n' cheese best of all. that moment you enjoy it at home. stouffer's. made with care for you or your family. good afternoon. i'm jake tapper in washington. this is a special edition of "cnn newsroom." just minutes from now we'll hear from president obama holding a news conference at the site of the g-20 economic summit as it wraps up. he's been meeting with world leaders on the sidelines trying to rally support for military action against syria. he's due to speak in about to
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minutes or so. he may give us a better idea or so where other countries stand on the matter. our troops are fanned out across the world covering this morning's developments from the pentagon to st. petersburg, from capitol hill to cambridge, massachusetts. let's begin with senior white house correspondent jim acosta. he's traveling with the president and joins us from st. petersburg. >> hi, jake. well, what we can tell you right now is that president putin is sort of jumping the gun a little bit, getting ahead of president obama. he's holding his own news conference right now and made a little bit of news there, jake. he said that he and president obama had a 20-minute meeting. don't have an exact time as to when that happened, but white house official is now confirming to cnn that that meeting did occur. president putin said in his own news conference when asked by a reporter that he and the president met for about 20 minutes. they talked about the situation in syria and, according to the russian president both men basically stuck to their grounds
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that they understood where they stand on that issue. the other thing that president putin said during that news conference is that he basically laid out who's with the united states and who's with him when it comes to syria. he said basically the united states that wants to do this. wants to have military intervention and syria and he said the united states is taking its friends along with them. naming france, canada and some other countries and then president putin talked about all the countries that he said are with him. so, interesting to see whether or not the president gets asked about that. but, jake, one thing that does seem to be clear from this g-20 summit is that our president, president obama is walking away from the summit maybe with not all the support that he expected to have when he got here. aides to the president who talked to reporters earlier this morning wouldn't list which countries were with the president. they said that might happen after this summit is wrapped up. you do get the sense that the president is trying to make a case here for military action. he's just not getting as much support as perhaps he would have
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liked. jake? >> jim acosta with the president in st. petersburg. a tough sell for president obama abroad. also a tough sell here at home. lawmakers have expressed to many reporters that it's difficult to vote for something when more than 90% of the constituents they're hearing from are opposed. lawmakers across the country, of course, are meeting with constituents this week to get their views on syria. sometimes getting a lot of blow back. take one town hall meeting with senator john mccain. in phoenix just yesterday. >> i am unalterably opposed to having a single american boot on the ground in syria. what you're doing is not just disrespectful, what you're doing, sir, is not just disrepectful to me, but disrespectful to others who would like their opinion and their views heard. i would appreciate it -- >> first of all, senator mccain. thank you for being here. i have to wonder, do you really
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realize what you're getting, what you're getting our country into with this war in syria. if you attack the syrians, who coo do you think they'll take it out on? syria. we should be backing israel. not turning away from them. second of all, this, this is what i think of congress. they are a bunch of marshmallows. that's what they are. that's what they have become. why are you not listening to the people and staying out of syria? it's not our fight. back israel! >> i've always been a loyal supporter of you and, anyway, the point is right now that no one is denying a lot of atrocities being denied in syria whether on the rebel side or on the other side, as well. the point is, there is a good option to what could happen in syria for me to listen to you saying there is no good option, i refuse to believe that.
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the good option right now is to take saudi arabia and iran and force them to stop supporting the two sides in syria. and you can do it. you can do it by diplomacy. and negotiation. not bombs, senator mccain. we cannot afford, we cannot afford to shed more syrian blood. >> my question to you, if this is 1,400 people children and women die, they were jews. let them go, we're not going to fight them? this is a human being. we have to get rid of whoever did this crime. this is a crime against humanity. assad is a criminal. and everybody you know, how can we support him? hezbollah is a criminal organization and they supported
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him. iran supported him. we have to stop this madness. we have to stop assad at any price. i'm still an american and i'm proud of it. my family in syria and i want to protect them. if he will stay there. he will kill half the nation. he already did. >> take time out of their lives and prevent what i feel is a tragedy. the tragedy would be to have our military forces strike syria. i want to tell you, it does not seem to be good rationale for the attack. >> senator john mccain getting an earful from constituents yesterday in phoenix, arizona. both senators from arizona, mccain and senator jeff lake voted in the senate foreign relations committee to pursue to support president obama's authorization for use of force in syria against bashar al assad. but that kind of unanimity is
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far from widespread in the senate and the house. let's go to dana bash now, our chief congressional correspondent on capitol hill. dana, lawmakers seem to be getting even supporters of the president's resolution seem to be getting an earful from constituents to not get involved any further in this conflict. how are they handling it? >> well, you know, just saw, i thought that was absolutely fascinating with john mccain. jake, you have probably been to as many john mccain town hall meetings as i have. he knows how to handle tough questions but even for him, that was unbelievable the opposition that he's getting. someone like him, you know, he did vote in the committee for the authorization. he got some changes that made him happier and even so at the end of this town hall he kind of lashed out at a reporter there who asked, how are you going to vote? he said, why would i have a town hall if i'm decided. having said that, hard to see john mccain at this point voting against it. but you have seen some lawmakers change their tune, even in the
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past week. michael graham from new york, for example, sounded very much in favor of voting for authorization earlier in the week and as the week is coming to a close, he's sounding undecided. the key thing what the administration has been banking on, lawmakers going into the classified briefings and getting reassuring this is the right way to go. instead seeing them come out and having more questions than answers. specifically not so much on the intelligence and whether bashar al assad used chemical weapons, but on the military plans. a lot of people are very concerned that the contingency plans just aren't there. if they're there not getting shared with members of congress about what ifs. what if he uses chemical weapons, even after this. will he strike again? what if this escalates broader conflict in the region. so many questions like that that people are just not comfortable with. never mind what they're hearing from their constituents back
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home, as you just heard, don't do this. >> as you say, i don't hear a lot of people questioning the intelligence, although certainly recent history would suggest that the intelligence should never be taken at face value, especially when all the details are not made at least as public as possible. but the questions are about how this nation is being led into this conflict and what happens next. i want to read to you from a rather devastating piece in the "washington post" today from retired manager general scales who said many people planning this and i can share the sentiments inside the pentagon and else where that write the plans and develop strategies for fighting our wars. they're embarrassed to be associated with the amateurism of the obama administration plans to craft a plan that makes strategic sense. they're outraged by the fact that what may happen is an act
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of war and risk american lives to make up for a slip of the tongue about red lines. dana, in your off the record conversations with democrats on capitol hill, because we expect, obviously, high degree of skepticism and, in fact, some knee jerk opposition from republicans, are they concerned about the way that this is happening and what the military thinks behind the scenes? >> absolutely. i mean, that is a big part of this. you know, kind of the internal conflict of many of these democrats, as we have been talking about, is whether to support the president or to support something that they inherently have doubts about. the doubts are really magnified by the fact that they, as you said, aren't getting the questions answered that they have on the military issues and these aren't just rank and file democrats with no military experience. people like tulsi gabbard freshman democrat from hawaii combat veteran from iraq. she understands war, she explains that. and she is taking a lot of time to ask questions, not just in
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these classified briefings, but on her own time to call the pentagon and to call generals, retired and current and so forth and she is not comfortable with this. she made pretty clear she even can't support this right now. she's undecided. so, that just gives you an example of how difficult this is. just like you said, even and maybe even especially for the president's biggest allies here on capitol hill. >> thank you, dana bash on capitol hill. we'll come back to you periodically throughout this special. just minutes ago we heard from russian president vladimir putin. his country is just finished hosting the g-20 economic summit but most of the gathering focused unofficially on the possibility of military strikes against syria by the u.s. president obama has rallied support for military action. he's trying to, at least, but president putin, of course, has been doing the other thing. he has rallied against any attack on his allies. discussion of russian officials trying to meet with u.s. lawmakers on capitol hill. putin spoke moments ago about how he did sit down with
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president obama. >> translator: we actually met with mr. obama, not on feet but we were sitting. the conversation lasted for probably 20 minutes. it was a very friendly conversation. we stick to our guns. everybody remained with his position. we understand each other. we hear, we listen to each other and we understand arguments. we do not agree with those arguments, but, still, we can hear them. we try to find an agreement towards this whole settlement of this crisis. >> russian president vladimir putin speaking in st. petersburg moments ago. we are expecting president obama
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to come out and talk about the g-20 economic summit and more to the point about his plans for u.s. military action in syria. we're going to bring you those comments live. we'll be right back after this. ready to run your lines? okay, who helps you focus on your recovery? yo, yo, yo. aflac. wow. [ under his breath ] that was horrible. pays you cash when you're sick or hurt? [ japanese accent ] aflac. love it. [ under his breath ] hate it.
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welcome back to cnn. we are expecting president obama at the end of the g-20 economic summit in st. petersburg,
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russia, to come out and talk to reporters, specifically we're waiting for his remarks about his plans for a u.s. military assault on bashar al assad's forces in syria. there's been a lot of discussion in st. petersburg about the president trying to rally support for these military strikes. given the fact that assad allegedly used chemical weapons, which is a violation of all sorts of international laws. but he is, apparently, having a difficult time rallying any type of public support, especially when it comes to demonstrable actions from other countries. pentagon correspondent chris lawrence joins us now. chris, there's now new talk about the possibility of long-range bombers being used for strikes against assad's forces in syria. tell us about that. >> i was talking to some sources here who say they have been fielding calls from the white house daily. multiple many, many calls asking them for different options. one of the things under
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discussion is the use of long-range bombers. be flown directly from the united states. but the official that i spoke with said, look, it doesn't change the overall parameters of the mission. he said we'd still be looking at what's called a standoff capability. in other words, when you think of american pilots, he said, don't think of them buzzing over syrian air space. these bombers still likely kept out of syrian air space and using these long-range missiles to strike from a distance out of the range of those syrian air defenses. much the way that the submarines and the ships that are already positioned in the mediterranean can do right now. >> chris, i want to get your response or ask you about the pentagon's response to the opinion piece that was in "washington post" today. the military who are planning these strikes says that they are "embarrassed to be associated
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with the amateurism of the obama administration's attempts to craft a plan that makes strategic sense." is there a response from the pentagon? >> i can tell you this. i spoke with a source who is deployed in that region. and he told me, point plank, we all thought this was going to happen last weekend. he said we were standing extra watches and the readiness level. everything was pointing to the fact that this was about to happen and then all of sudden, he said the tempo went from so it was a shock i think to a lot of those who are deployed. i'm not getting the sense of embarrassment from pentagon officials. i think they have continued to sort of refine a lot of these options. obviously they have told us that there has been a lot of movement on the ground over the last week with the syrian forces. that the target list has had to be updated. they have changed targets, adjusted targets.
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and one official told me last night, that's likely to continue to change. by the time congress votes on this and any decision is taken, he said likely these targets are going to have to be changed again. >> all right, pentagon correspondent chris lawrence. i want to bring in gloria borger right now. gloria, we're told that there's about a minute until president obama comes on stage, so obviously if i abruptly cut you off -- >> sure. >> -- you'll forgive me, but your thoughts as to president obama's challenge right now. what does he need to do? >> well, he's got to convince the american public, he's got to convince the congress, he's got to convince reluctant allies as you were talking about before. i think it's very difficult when the definition of the mission isn't very clear and that's the problem he's having in congress because he's trying to thread the needle between liberals who want a very defined and narrow mission. >> if even that, by the way. a lot of liberals don't even want that. >> want any measures. and some conservatives who said, do you know what, we'd be with you if we could have a muscular
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mission that won't embarrass the united states like the generally you just spoke about, a more muscular, robust mission, that will actually degrade assad's capability from using chemical weapons and deter him from doing it in the future. they're afraid that a shot across the bow just won't be enough and will do nothing and will then send a signal to iran, sure, you can buildimpunity, go ahead. >> president obama obviously at the g-20 summit at st. pete yoursburg, russia, but there's a huge lobbying effort going on sind the scenes here in washington, d.c.? even in his absence vice president biden, others, laying out the case. tell us about it. >> the white house put out sort of a note that said we've spoken to 60 senators, 125 house members, we are reaching out and i don't know if you can recall, you just covered the white house, i don't remember this kind of an outreach on any domestic program. >> well, health care.
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towards the end of health care. >> towards the end of health care. but obviously now, look, the white house has a very small window. the president's going to come back. he's going to go before the american people and make his case. they understand in the white house that if he were to lose this vote, the rest of his agenda hangs in the balance. what will this do to embolden republicans in the congress who are not likely to support him on a lot of things including the debt ceiling and everything and -- immigration and everything else he's got coming up. this will sort of really expedite a lame duck status for him. so, they really understands who at stake here domestically as well as on the international stage. >> we're waiting for president obama to speak in st. petersburg, russia, and we'll go live as soon as he comes out. before we do, we want to go to austin, and bring in douglas brinkley from rice university. how difficult is this situation for president obama meeting overseas with world leaders, holding a news conference to
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address these issues, but really speaking to the american people? >> well, and speaking to the world right now. this is all everybody's talking about. barack obama is in a very difficult situation. i think we have to see whether he believes his own show, his own war strategy here today. how much passion will he have in this presser. is he backing off a little bit. so far john kerry's been the prosecutor of the assad regime. barack obama's kind of middle-lined it a little bit. he's been at times passionate and at other times saying, look it, it's up to congress. so, i think it's very important that he sends a forceful message that he wants to go forward with this at the press conference. then come home and quickly address a national prime-time audience. we need to know more. we need to hear more of barack obama, not just his surrogates. >> how have previous presidents, douglas, how have they made the case -- here's president obama. we'll go to him and come back to you in a second. >> thank you to the people of
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st. petersburg and the people of russia for hosting this g-20. this city has a long and storied history including its historic resistance and extraordinary sacrifices during the second world war. so, i want to take this opportunity to salute the people of st. petersburg and express our gratitude for their outstanding hospitality. this summit marks another milestone in the world's recovery from the financial crisis that erupted five years ago this month. instead of the looming threat of another financial meltdown, we're focused for the first time in many years on building upon the gains that we've made. for the first time in three years, instead of an urgent discussion to address the european financial crisis, we see a europe that has emerged from recession. moreover, the united states is a source of strength in the global economy. our manufacturing sector is rebounding. new rules have strengthened our
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banks and reduced the chance of another crisis. we're reducing our addiction to foreign oil and producing more clean energy. and as we learn today over the past 3 1/2 years our businesses have created 7.5 million new jobs, a pace of more than 2 million jobs each year. we put more people back to work, but we've also cleared away the rubble of crisis and laid the foundation for a stronger and more durable economic growth. we're also making progress in putting our fiscal house in order. our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years. and as congress takes up important decisions in the coming month, i'm going to keep making the case for the smart inve investments and fiscal responsibility that keeps our economy growing, creates jobs, and keeps the u.s. competitive. that includes making sure we don't risk a u.s. default over paying bills we've already racked up. i'm determined that the world has confidence in the full faith and credit of the united states.
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as the world's largest economy, our recovery is helping to drive global growth, and in the emerging markets in particular there's a recognition that a strong u.s. economy is good for their economies, too. yet we came to st. petersburg mindful of the challenges that remain. as it emerges from recession, europe has an opportunity to focus on boosting demand and reducing unemployment. as well as making some of the structural changes that can increase long-term growth. growth in emerging economies has slowed. so, we need to make sure that we are working with them in managing this process. and i'm pleased that over the past two days we reached a consensus on how to proceed. we agreed that our focus needs to be on creating jobs and growth that put people back to work. we agreed on ways to encourage the investments in infrastructure to keep economies
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competitive. nass agr nations agreed to cont to pursue financial reforms and to address tax avoidance which undermines budgets and unfairly shifts the tax burden to other taxpayers. we're moving ahead with our development agenda with a focus on issues like food security and combatting corruption, and i'm very pleased that the g-20 nations agreed to make faster progress on phasing down certain greenhouse gases a priority. that's an important step in our fight against climate change. during my trip we also continued our efforts to advance two key trade initiatives -- the transatlantic trade and investment partnership and the trans-pacific partnership. and i believe that if we continue to move forward on all the fronts that i've described, we can keep the global economy growing and keep creating jobs for our people. of course, even as we focused on our shared prosperity, and although the primary task of the g-20 is to focus on our joint
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efforts to boost the global economy, we did also discuss a grave threat to our shared security, and that's the syrian regime's use of chemical weapons. and what i've been emphasizing and will continue to stress is that the assad regime's brazen use of chemical weapons isn't just a syrian tragedy, it's a threat to global peace and security. syria's escalating use of chemical weapons threatens its neighbors, turkey, jordan, lebanon, iraq, israel. it threatens to further destabilize the middle east. it increases the risk that these weapons will fall into the hands of terrorist groups. but more broadly, it threatens to unravel the international norm against chemical weapons embraced by 189 nations, and those nations represent 98% of the world's people. failing to respond to this
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breach of this international norm would send a signal to rogue nations, authoritarian regimes and terrorist organizations, that they can develop and use weapons of mass destruction and not pay a consequence. and that's not the world that we want to live in. this is why nations around the world have condemned syria for this attack and called for action. i've been encouraged by discussions with my fellow leaders this week. there is a growing recognition that the world cannot stand idly by. here in st. petersburg leaders from europe, asia and the middle east have come together to say the international norm of the use against chemical weapons must be upheld and that the assad regime used these weapons on its own people, and in consequence there needs to be a strong response. the arab league foreign ministers said the assad regime's responsible and called for deterrent and necessary measures against the culprits of this crime. the organization of islamic
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cooperation, its jen secretariat has called the attack a blatant affront to all religious and moral values and a deliberate disregard of international laws and norms which requires a decisive action. so, in the coming days i'll continue to consult with my fellow leaders around the world, and i will continue to consult with congress. and i will make best case that i can to the american people as well as to the international community for taking necessary and appropriate action. and i intend to address the american people from the white house on tuesday. the kind of world we live in and our ability to deter this kind of outrageous behavior is going to depend on the decisions that we make in the days ahead. and i'm confident that if we deliberate carefully and we choose wisely, and embrace our responsibilities, we can meet the challenges of this moment as well as those in the days ahead. so, with that, let me take some questions. i've got my handy list, and i
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will start with julie pace from a.p. >> thank you, mr. president. you mentioned the number of countries that have condemned the use of chemical weapons, but your advisers also say you are leaving this summit with a strong number of countries backing your call for military action. president putin just a short time ago indicated it may only be a handful of countries including france, turkey and saudi arabia. can you tell us publicly what countries are backing your call for military action? and did you change any minds here? president putin also mentioned your meeting with him earlier today. can you tell us how that came about, and did you discuss both syria and edward snowden? thank you. >> i believe that there will be a statement issued later this evening. although hopefully in time for you guys to file back home, that indicates some of the additional countries that are making public statements. last night we had a good discussion. and i want to give president putin credit that he facilitated i think a full airing of views
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on the issue. and here's how i would describe it. without giving the details or betraying the confidence of those who were speaking within the confines of the dinner. it was unanimous that chemical weapons were used, a unanimous conclusion that chemical weapons were used in syria. there was a unanimous view that the norm against using chemical weapons has to be maintained. that these weapons were banned for a reason and that the international community has to take those norms seriously. i would say that the majority of the room is comfortable with our conclusion that assad, the assad
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government, was responsible for their use. obviously, this is disputed by president putin, but if you polled the leaders last night, i'm confident that you'd get a majority who said it is most likely, we are pretty confident, that the assad regime used it. where there is a division, it has to do with the united nations. you know, there are number a of countries that just as a matter of principle believe that if military action is to be taken, it needs to go through the u.n. security council. there are others, and i put myself in this camp, as somebody who is a strong supporter of the united nations, who very much appreciates the courage of the investigators who have gone in and looks forward to seeing the
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u.n. report. because i think we should try to get more information, not less, in this situation. it is my view and a view that was shared by a number of people in the room that given security council paralysis on this issue, if we are serious about upholding a ban on chemical weapons use, then an international response is required and that will not come through security council action. and that's where i think the division comes from. and i respect those who are concerned about setting precedents of action outside of a u.n. security council resolution. i would greatly prefer working through multilateral channels and through the united nations
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to get this done. but ultimately what i believe in even more deeply because i think that the security of the world and my particular task looking out for the national security of the united states requires that when there's a breach this brazen of a norm this important and the international community is paralyzed and frozen and doesn't act, then that norm begins to unravel. and if that norm unravels, then other norms and prohibitions start unraveling. and that makes for a more dangerous world. and that, then, requires even more difficult choices and more difficult responses in the future.
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you know, over 1,400 people were gassed. over 400 of them were children. this is not something we've fabricated. this is not something that we are looking -- are using as an excuse for military action. as i said last night, i was elected to end wars and not start them. i've spent the last 4 1/2 years doing everything i can to reduce our reliance on military power as a means of meeting our international obligations and protecting the american people. but what i also know is, is that
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there are times where we have to make hard choices if we're going to stand up for the things that we care about. and i believe that this is one of those times. and if we end up using the u.n. security council not as a means of enforcing international norms and international law but, rather, as a barrier to acting on behalf of international norms and international law, then i think people rightly are going to be pretty skeptical about the system. and whether it can work to protect those chern. protect those children that we saw on those videos. and sometimes the further we get from the horrors of that the easier it is to rationalize not making tough choices. and i understand that. this is not convenient.
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this is not something that i think a lot of folks around the world, you know, find an appetizing set of choices. but the question is, do these norms mean something. and if we're not acting, what does that say? you know, if we're just issuing another statement of condemnation for passing resolutions saying wasn't that terrible, you know, if people who, you know, decry international inaction in rwanda and, you know, say how terrible it is that there are these human rights violations that take place around the world, then why aren't we doing something about it, and they always look to the united states.
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why isn't the united states doing something about this. the most powerful nation on earth. why are you allowing these terrible things to happen. and then if the international community turns around when we're saying it's time to take some responsibility and says, well, hold on a second, we're not sure. that erodes our ability to maintain the kind of norms that we're looking at. now, i know that was a lengthy answer and you had a second part of your question. the conversation i had with president putin was on the margins of the plenary session. and, you know, it was a candid and constructive conversation. which characterizes my relationship with him. i know, as i've said before, everybody's always trying to
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look for body language and all that, but the truth of the matter is that my interactions with him tend to be very straightforward. we discussed syria, and that was primarily the topic of conversation. mr. snowden did not come up beyond me saying that -- re-emphasizing that where we have common interests, i think it's important for the two of us to work together. and on syria, i said, listen, i don't expect us to agree on this issue of chemical weapons use. although it is possible that after the u.n. inspectors' report it may be more difficult for mr. putin to maintain his current position about the evidence. but what i did say is that we both agree that the underlying conflict can only be resolved
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through a political transition as envisioned by the geneva 1 and geneva 2 process. so, we need to move forward together, even if the u.s. and russia and other countries disagree on this specific issue of how to respond to chemical weapons use, it remains important for us to work together to try to urge all parties in the conflict to try to resolve it. because we've got 4 million people internally displaced. we've got millions of people in turkey, jordan, lebanon who are desperate, and the situation's only getting worse. and that's not in anybody's interests. it's not in america's interest. it's not in russia's interest. it's not in the interests of the people in the region, and obviously it's not in the
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interest of syrians who have seen their lives completely disrupted and their country shattered. so, that is going to continue to be a project of ours. and that does speak, you know, to an issue that has been raised back home around this whole issue. you've heard some people say, well, you know, we think if you're going to do something, you got to do something big, and maybe this isn't big enough or maybe it's too late or, you know, other responses like that. you know, what i've tried to explain is, look, we may not solve the whole problem, but this particular problem of using chemical weapons on children, this one we might have an impact on and that's worth acting on. that's important to us. and what i've also said is, is that as far as the underlying conflict's concerned, unless the international community is willing to put massive numbers
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of troops on the ground -- and i know nobody's signing up for that -- we're not going to get a long-term military solution for the country. and that is something that can only come about i think if, as different as our perspectives may be, myself, mr. putin, and others, are willing to set aside those differences and put some pressure on the parties on the ground. okay? brianna? >> on the resolution to authorize the use of force, one of the big challenges right now isn't just republicans, but it's from some of your loyal democrats. it seems that the more they hear from classified briefings that the less likely they are to support you. if the full congress doesn't pass this, will you go ahead with the strike? and also, senator susan collins,
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one of the few republicans who breaks with her party to give you support at times, she says, what if we execute this strike and then assad decides to use chemical weapons again, do we strike again? and many democrats are asking that as well. how do you answer her question? >> well, first of all, in terms of the votes and the process in congress, i knew this was going to be a heavy lift. i said that on saturday when i said we're going to take it to congress. you know, our polling operations are pretty good, you know, i tend to have a pretty good sense of what current popular opinion is. and for the american people who have been through over a decade of war now with enormous sacrifice of blood and treasure, any hint of further military
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entanglements in the middle east are going to be viewed with suspicion, and that suspicion will probably be even stronger in my party than in the republican party. you know, since a lot of the people who supported me remember that i opposed the war in iraq. and what's also true, is that experience with the war in iraq colors how people view this situation. not just back home in america, but also here in europe and around the world. you know, that's the prism through which a lot of people are analyzing the situation. so, i understand the skepticism. i think it is very important, therefore, for us to work through systematically making the case to every senator and every member of congress. and that's what we're doing. i dispute a little bit, brianna, the notion that people come out of classified briefings and they're less in favor of it. i think that when they go
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through the classified briefings, they feel pretty confident that, in fact, chemical weapons were used and that the assad regime used them. where you will see resistance is people being worried about a slippery slope and how effective a limited action might be. and our response, based on my discussions with our military, is that we can have a response that is limited, that is proportional, that -- when i say limited, it's both in time and in scope, but that is meaningful and that degrades assad's capacity to deliver chemical weapons. not just this time but also in the future. and serves as a strong deterrent. now, is it possible that assad doubles down in the face of our action and uses chemical weapons more widely?
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i suppose anything's possible. but it wouldn't be wise. i think at that point mobilizing the international community would be easier, not harder. i think it would be pretty hard for the u.n. security council at that point to continue to resist the requirement for action. and we would gladly join with an international coalition to make sure that it stops. so, you know, one of the biggest concerns of the american people, you know, certain members of congress may have different concerns, there may be certain members of congress who say we got to do even more or claim to have previously criticized me for not hitting assad and now
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we're saying they're going to vote no. you'll have to ask them exactly how they square that circle. 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. and that is going to be the case that i try to make, not just to congress but to the american people, over the coming days. okay? >> just a follow-up. do you have full congressional approval? what did you say in the house [ inaudible ] would you go ahead and strike? >> you know, brianna, i think it would be a mistake for me to jump the gun and speculate because right now i'm working to get as much support as possible out of congress.
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but i'll repeat something that i said in sweden when i was asked a similar question. i did not put this before congress, you know, just as a political ploy or as symbolism. i put it before congress because i could not honestly claim that the threat posed by assad's use of chemical weapons on innocent civilians and women and children posed an imminent, direct threat to the united states. in that situation obviously, i don't worry about congress. we do what we have to do to keep the american people safe. i could not say that it was immediately, directly going to have an impact on our allies. again, in those situations, i would act right away. this wasn't even a situation like libya where, you know, you've got troops rolling
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towards benghazi and you have a concern about time in terms of saving somebody right away. this was an event that happened. my military assured me that we could act today, tomorrow, a month from now, that we could do so proportionally but meaningfully. and in that situation, i think it is important for us to have a serious debate in the united states about -- about these issues. because these are going to be the kinds of national security threats that are most likely to recur over the next five, ten years. they're very few countries who are going to go at us directly. i mean, we have to be vigilant, but our military is unmatched.
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those country that are large and powerful like russia or china, you know, we have the kind of relationship with them where we're not getting in conflicts of that sort, at least, you know, over the last several decades there's been a rec ness that neither country benefits from that kind of great power conflict. so, the kinds of national security threats that we're going to confront, they're terrorist threats, they're failed states, they are the proliferation of deadly weapons. and in those circumstances, you know, a president's going to have to make a series of decisions about which one of these threats over the long term starts making us less and less safe and where we can work internationally, we should. they're going to be times, though, where, as is true here, the international community is
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stuck for a whole variety of political reasons. and if that's the case, people are going to look to the united states and say, what are you going to do about it. and that's not a responsibility that we always enjoy, you know, there was a leader of a smaller country who i've spoken to over the last several days who said, you know, i don't envy you, because i'm a small country and nobody expects me to do anything about chemical weapons around the world. they know i have no capacity to do something. and it's tough because people do look to the united states. and the question for the american people is, is that responsibility that we're willing to bear. and i believe that when you have a limited, proportional strike like this, not iraq, not putting boots on the ground, not some long, drawn-out affair, not
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without any risks but with manageable risks, that we should be willing to bear that responsibility. chuck todd? >> thank you, mr. president. good morning or good evening. i think it's still good morning back home. >> by tonight it will be tonight. when we get back home. >> i think we're all relieved. >> yeah. >> i want to follow-up on brianna's questions because it seems these members of congress are simply responding to their constituents. >> yeah. >> and you're seeing a lot of these town halls and it seems as if the more you press your case, the more john kerry presses the case on your behalf, the more the opposition grows. and maybe it's just or the more the opposition becomes vocal. why do you think you've struggled with that? and you keep talk about a limited mission. we have a report that indicates you've actually asked for an expanded list of targets in syria and one military official told nbc news, character izized as mission creep. can you respond to that report?
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>> that report is inaccurate. i'm not going to comment on operational issues that, you know, are sourced by some military official. one thing i've got a pretty clear idea about is what i talk with the chairmen of the joint chiefs of staff about and what we have sently talked about is something limited and proportion na proportional that would degrade mr. assad's cape ats. in terms of opposition, chuck, i expected this. this is hard. and i was under no illusions when i embarked on this path. but i theferiink it's the rightg to do.
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i think it's good for our democracy. we will be more effective if we are unified going forward. and, you know, part of what we knew would be there would be some politic s interjecting -- [ inaudible question ] -- no i said some. but what i also said is that the american people have gone through a lot when it comes to the military over the last decade or so. and so i understand that. and when you start talking about chemical weapons and their proliferation, you know, those images of those bodies can sometimes be forgotten pretty quickly. the news cycle moves on. frankly if we weren't talking about the need for an international response right now, this wouldn't be what everybody would be asking about.
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you know, there would be some resolutions that were being proffered in the united nations and the usual hocus-pocus. but the world and the country would have moved on. so, trying to impart a sense of urgency about this, why we can't have an environment in which over time people start thinking we can get away with chemical weapons use, it's a hard sell, but it's something i believe in. and as i explained to brianna, in this context, me making sure that the american people understand it i think is important before i take action. john karl? >> thank you, mr. president. one of your closest allies in
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the house said yesterday when you've got 97% of your constituents saying no, it's kind of hard to say yes. why should members of congress go against the will of their constituents and support your decision on this? and i still haven't heard a direct response to brianna's question. if congress fails to authorize this, will you go forward with an attack on syria? >> right. and you're not getting a direct response. brianna asked the question very well, you know -- >> it's a pretty basic question. >> you know, i was going to give you a different answer? no. what i have said -- and i will repeat -- is that i put this before congress for a reason. i think we will be more effective and stronger if, in fact, congress authorizes this action. i'm not going to engage in parlor games now, jonathan, about whether or not it's going
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to pass when i'm talking substantively to congress about why this is important. and talking to the american people about why this is important. now, with respect to congress and how they should respond to constituency concerns, you know, i do consider it part of my job to help make the case and to explain to the american people exactly why i think this is the right thing to do. and it's conceivable that at the end of the day i don't persuade a majority of the american people that it's the right thing to do. and then each member of congress is going to have to decide if i think it's the right thing to do for america's national security and the world's national security, then how do i vote. and, you know, that's what you're supposed to do as a member of congress.
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ultimately you listen to your constituents, but you've also got to make some decisions about what you believe is right for america. and that's the same for me as president of the united states. there are a whole bunch of decisions that i make that are unpopular, as you well know. but i do so because i think they're the right thing to do. and i trust my constituents want me to offer my best judgment, that's why they elected me. that's-elected me even after there were some decisions i made that they disagreed with, and i would hope members of congress would end up feeling the same way. last point i would make, you know, these kind of interventions, these kinds of actions, are always unpopular. because they seem distant and removed. and i want to make sure i'm being clear.
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i'm not drawing an analogy to world war ii. other than to say, you know, when london was getting bombed, it was profoundly unpopular both in congress and around the country to help the british. it doesn't mean it wasn't the right thing to do. just means people, you know, are struggling with jobs and bills to pay and they don't want their sons or daughters put in harm's way. these entanglements far away are dangerous and different. you know, to bring the analogy closer to home, you know, the intervention in kosovo, very unpopular. but ultimately i think it was the right thing to do.
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and the international community should be glad that it came together to do it. when people say that it is a terrible stain on all of us that hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered in rwanda, well, imagine if rwanda was going on right now and we asked should we intervene in rwanda. i think it's fair to say that it probably wouldn't poll real well. so, you know, typically when any kind of military action is popular, it's because either there's been a very clear, direct threat to us, 9/11, or an administration uses various
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hooks to suggest that american interests were directly threatened like in panama or grenada. and sometimes those hooks are more persuasive than others, but typically they're not put before congress. and, again, we just went through something pretty tough with respect to iraq. so, all that i guess provides some context for why you might expect people to be resistant here. >> but your deputy national security adviser said it's not your intention to attack if congress doesn't approve it. is he right? >> i don't think that's exactly what he said, but i think i've answered -- i've answered the question. major garrett? >> thank you, mr. president. those of us who remember covering your campaign remember can you saying that militarily when the united states acts, it's not just important what it does but how it goes about doing it and that even when america sets its course it's important
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to engage international community and listen to different ideas even as it's pursuing that action. i wonder if you leave here and returning to washington and seeing the skepticism there and hearing it here with any different ideas that might delay military action. for example, some in congress have suggested giving the syrian regime 45 days to sign the chemical weapons conves, get rid of its chemical stockpiles, do something that would enhance international sense of accountability for syria but delay military action. are you, mr. president, looking at any of these ideas, or are we on a fast track for military action as soon as congress renders its judgment one way or the other? >> i am listening to all these ideas. and some of them are constructive. and i'm listening to ideas in congress and i'm listening to ideas here. look, i want to repeat here -- my goal is to maintain the international norm on banning chemical weapons.
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i want that enforcement to be real. i want it to be serious. i want people to understand that gassing innocent people, you know, delivering chemical weapons against children is not something we do. it's prohibited in active wars between countries. we certainly don't do it against kids. and we've got to stand up for that principle. if there are tools that we can use to ensure that, obviously my preference would be, again, to act internationally in a serious way and to make sure that mr. assad gets the message. i'm not itching for a military action. recall, major, that i have been
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criticized for the last couple of years by some of the folks who are now saying they would oppose these strikes, for not striking. and i think that i have a we well-deserved reputation for taking very seriously and soberly the idea of military engagement. so, we will look at these ideas. so far at least i have not seen ideas presented that as a practical matter i think would do the job. but, you know, this is a situation where part of the reason i wanted to foster a debate was to make sure that, you know, everybody thought about both the ramifications of action and inaction. >> so, currently the only way to enforce this international norm is militarily and even giving the assad regime extra time would not achieve your goals? >> what i'm saying, major, is that so far what we've seen is a
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escalation by the assad regime of chemical weapons use. you'll recall that several months ago i said, we now say with some confidence that at a small level assad has used chemical weapons. we not only sent warnings to assad, but we demarched, meaning we sent a strong message through countries that have relationships with assad, that he should not be doing this. and rather than hold the line, we ended up with what we saw on august 21st. so, this is not as if we haven't tested the proposition that the guy or at least generals under his charge can show restraint when it comes to this stuff. and they've got one of the
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largest stockpiles in the world. but, i want to emphasize, that we continue to consult with our international partners. i'm listening to congress. i'm not just doing the talking. and if there are good ideas that are worth pursuing, then i'm going to be open to them. i will take, last question, tangy, afp. >> thank you, mr. president. yesterday night you had two unscheduled bilateral meetings with your brazilian and mexican counterparts after they voiced very strong concerns about being allegedly targeted by the nsa. what was your message to them and the relations, the constant stream of relations, this summer, make it harder for you to build confidence with your partners in international forums such as this one? >> good.
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i did meet with president rousef as well as the presidents of brazil and mexico respectively to discuss the allegations made in the press about the nsa. i won't share with you all the details of the conversation. but what i said to them is consistent with what i've said publicly -- the united states has an intelligence agency. and our intelligence agency's job is to gather information that's not available through public sources. if they were available through public sources, then they wouldn't be an intelligence agency. in that sense what we do is similar to what countries around the world do. with their intelligence services. but what is true is that, you
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know, we are bigger, we have greater capabilities, you know, the difference between our capabilities and other countries probably tracks the differences in military capabilities between countries. and what i've said is that because technology's changing so rapidly, because these capabilities are growing, it is important for us to step back and review what it is that we're doing. because just because we can get information doesn't necessarily always mean that we should. there may be costs and benefits to doing certain things, and we've got to weigh those. i think that traditionally what's happened over decades is the general assumption was, well, you know, whatever you can get, you just kind of pull in
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and then you kind of sift through later and try to figure out what's useful. the nature of technology and the legitimate concerns around privacy and civil liberties means that it's important for us on the front end to say, all right, are we actually going to get useful information here. and if not, or how useful is it, if it's not that important, should we be more constrained in how we use certain technical capabilities. now, just more specifically, then, on brazil and mexico. i said that i would look in to the allegations. part of the problem is we get these through the press and then i've got to go back and find out what's going on. with respect to these particular allegations. i don't subscribe to all these newspapers. although i think the nsa does, now at least.
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and then what i assured president rousef is that they should take -- that i take these allegations very seriously. i understand their concerns. i understand the concerns of the mexican and brazilian people. and that we will work with their teams to resolve what is a source of tension. now, the last thing i'd say about this, though, is just because they're tensions doesn't mean that it overrides all the, you know, incredibly wide-ranging interests that we share with so many of these countries. and, you know, there's a reason why i went to brazil.
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and there's a reason why i invited president rousef to come to the united states. brazil is an incredibly important country. it is an amazing success story in terms of a transition from authoritarianism to democracy. it is one of the most dynamic economies in the world. and obviously for the two largest nations in the hemisphere to have a strong relationship, that can only be good for the people of our two countries as well as the region. same is true with mexico, one of our closest friends, allies and neighbors. and so, you know, we will work through this particular issue. it does not detract from the larger concerns that we have and the opportunities that we both want to take advantage of. all right? thank you very much, everybody. thank you, st. petersburg.
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>> president obama answering questions from reporters in st. petersburg, russia. all of the questions, almost, about possible u.s. intervention militarily in syria. the president making the case action needs to be taken cause because of assad's use of chemical weapons against its own people. most people today believe that action should have been taken in rue wa da, but it would probably not poll well president obama said, noting how difficult it is. he called it a heavy lift to argue with members of congress that this is what their constituents want. he said he would be addressing the nation on this issue on tuesday from the white house. one big issue discussed at this press conference, would the president act even if congress does not give him approval. earlier today the president's deputy national security adviser told national public radio, quote, it's neither his desire nor intention to use that authority absent congress backing him, but the president begged off answering that question directly today, telling
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cnn's brianna keilar and others there that taking the measure to congress was not meant as a mere symbolic measure. take a listen -- >> i think it is very important, therefore, for us to work through systematically making the case to every senator and every member of congress. and that's what we're doing. i dispute a little bit, brianna, the notion that people come out of classified briefings and they're less in favor of it. i think that when they go through the classified briefings, they feel pretty confident that, in fact, chemical weapons were used and that the assad regime used them. where you will see resistance is people being worried about a slippery slope and how effective a limited action might be. and our response, based on my discussions with our military, is that we can have a response that is limited, that is
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proportional, that -- when i say limited it's both in time and in scope, but that is meaningful and that degrades assad's capacity to deliver chemical weapons. >> chief domestic correspondent jessica yellin is in washington. jessica, president obama arguing that when members of congress hear in the classified briefings of the evidence that assad and his regime used chemical weapons against their own people, they do find it compelling. that does square with interviews i've done with members of congress. but he points out the real issue, the roadblock, is what to do about that fact. you've been talking to members of congress. what are you hearing in terms of how much their constituents believe that the case has been made that the u.s. needs to do something about this? >> they're hearing a lot of discontent from their constituents. republicans much more willing to say it's outright resistance to going in and democrats, as you can imagine, saying a lot more
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war weariness. not so much, jake, because they oppose doing something about chemical weapons, but because there's a concern that it's -- not necessarily frankly the u.s.' problem and why is the u.s. doing it alone. and i think you heard that a little bit in the president's remarks. when he sort of almost shrugged his shoulders and expressed a little bit of frustration that, you know, the u.s. as the world's superpower is looked on by these littler countries as having a huge burden, you know, part of his role there was to try to shame other nations to come with us. that's part of the reason he's speaking -- part of the way he's speaking out is to pressure other countries to feel the same obligation. but doing it when, you know, woe is me, we're the world's superpower, isn't necessarily the best way to go. i think he seemed a little bit miserable, too? didn't you see a look on his face, partly exhaustion, but also just unhappiness that he is the guy who said i got us elected to get out of wars, not
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into wars. and he does seem uncomfortable a little bit with being in this position. >> well, i think -- i think without question, jessica, president obama feels as though he is trying to do something that the world agrees needs to be done, action needs to be taken against somebody who uses chemical weapons against his own people, allegedly, and he is finding it very difficult time getting support for that. obviously, the uk, the parliament, voted against it and america's number one ally, great britain, bowing out of this, not taking a role when it comes to sending troops or sending military action. and i know that this has always been, as he described, a heavy lift on congress. it's still very much up in the air whether or not this would pass. what are your sources in the white house telling you, jessica, in terms of how important they feel like this address, that president obama will give on tuesday, to address the nation, to make his case, how important making the
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argument to the american people will be? >> well, they are hearing it from outside, that he needs to do this, and they have been told, you know, he's got to give this address. they know that it's important. i also know, jake, and you do, too, the fact that this white house is being so aggressive in its outreach shows both how crucial this vote is but also how heavy a lift it is. they are not just -- the fact that the president himself is picking up the phone while he is in russia and calling members back in the united states to lobby them. remember, this is the guy that we always say has a hard time reaching out to congress when he's right here on pennsylvania avenue. now, you know, at home where it's easy to do that. it's a little bit of an overstatement but when he's overseas in russia, that is a big lift for him. all of his members, senior officials are really working it. they are reaching out to their former cabinet officials and asking them to get involved. this white house is putting on a full-court press. and now on sunday night i've just learned vice president
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biden is taking a group of republican senators out to dinner, people they think they can turn potentially into yeses. so, they're really trying to win them over. i'm told it's the same message privately that they're saying focusing on iran and hezbollah and if we're going to give a pass to assad, what does that say to the region is a major theme, but also upholding the chemical weapons convention. one person on capitol hill told me they should also add to their message a little bit of begging, it's that hard. >> cnn's chief political analyst gloria borger also joins us. gloria, walk us through the timeline that you see going on here. president obama will address the nation on tuesday. we don't know if it will be prime time. i imagine it will be. >> sure. >> when will congress vote. when would president obama, assuming it passes at least the senate, when would he act? >> you know, that's a big question is brianna asked him and others asked him repeatedly today, the question is would you go it alone if congress voted against you. it's very clear, both from the
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president and i was communicating with a senior administration official today, they don't want to go there, jake. because they don't want to throw in the towel before a vote. they don't want to say what they do, remember rand paul the other day saying at the congressional hearing, why are we here if you're going to go without us anyway. i think you can't consider congress as a whole. you have to look at the senate and you have to look at the house. obviously right now more likely, although certainly not guaranteed by any stretch of the imagination, more likely that authorization for some kind of use of force -- and, again, the language is still not final -- could pass the senate. more likely the senate than the house. well, if it passed the senate, what would happen in the house? would the house not vote? would the president go anyway if the senate passed authorization? would he wait for the house to vote if the house said, oh, well, we're going to wait another couple of weeks. so, all of this is a really fluid situation.
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that has to play out. and i think the presidential address to the nation will be his best opportunity to convince those constituents that are so nervous about this. you saw what john mccain went through at his town hall meeting. you played it earlier. so, he's got to talk to the american people. if he can shift public opinion, then he's got a better shot at the senate, maybe even in the house. but i think right now, the senate is very key to all of this. >> i want to bring in chief congressional correspondent dana bash on capitol hill. dana, the president would not answer the question about if he would act without congress if congress votes against him. but there was a different part of our colleague brianna keilar's question about members of congress, democrats, going into these classified briefings and leaving with more concerns than they went into the briefing with. i know the chairman of the house homeland security committee, republican, michael mccall, he
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said in the hearing earlier this week with secretary of state john kerry, that he has concerns because he goes to these briefings and he hears more and more of the syrian rebels are extremists, are not moderates, the way that secretary kerry has been portraying them. what's your response to that interaction between president obama and brianna about members of congress and these classified briefings? >> reporter: well, as somebody who is part of a team here talking to lots and lots of members of congress coming out of these briefings, i respectfully disagree with the president disagreeing with brianna, because that is absolutely what we're hearing. that to me has really been among the most surprising parts of the narrative that we've seen over the past week and that is the thought was that we're going to have this unprecedented full-court press, flood the zone as the white house said, get members of congress information that they thought would really convince them. as we've talked about the idea of bashar al assad using chemical weapons against his own
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people pretty much across the board people are convinced of that. what people are not convinced of inside -- from these classified briefings and have even more questions about coming out is, again, the military action and the consequences from military action and the fact that they have questions about whether the administration really has a handle on what to do for all kinds of contingencies. the other thing i wanted to point out, jake, you heard major garrett ask the president about an idea that's floating around here on capitol hill to give syria 45 days to be a signatory to the chemical weapons convention, which they're not now. that is something that is being pushed by some moderate democrats in the senate who are very reluctant to go along with military action. senator joe manchin and senator heidi hidecamp and others, something they are quietly moving around here to potentially give the president an out if it looks like he's not going to get the support in
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congress for military action, the idea to this be to get a little bit of time to get the international community more on board if, in fact, they see that syria presumably would not sign on to this, it might help him get international support which he's looking for which you heard the president say he's happy to find if he can get it. so far it hasn't been successful. >> and, of course, dana bash, chief congressional correspondent on capitol hill, one lesson we in the public and the media have learned over the last decade how much at face value we should take it when members of congress say they've seen intelligence and the intelligence is irrefutable and convincing because we've gone through that and the intelligence has been wrong. president obama still making the case about chemical weapons and what happened in syria at the end of august. he was doing so earlier today. let's play some of that sound -- >> i understand the skepticism. i think it is very important, therefore, for us to work through systematically making the case to every senator and every member of congress. and that's what we're doing.
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i dispute a little bit, brianna, the notion that people come out of classified briefings and they're less in favor of it. i think that when they go through the classified briefings, they feel pretty confident that, in fact, chemical weapons were used and that the assad regime used them. where you will see resistance is people being worried about a slippery slope and how effective a limited action might be. and our response based on my discussions with our military is that we can have a response that is limited, that is proportio l proportional, that -- when i say limited, it's both in time and in scope, but that is meaningful and that degrades assad's capacity to deliver chemical weapons. >> former undersecretary of state nicholas burns joins us now. mr. burns, thanks for being with us. can you explain why it seems as
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though so many u.s. leaders have been just convinced that 1,400 or more syrians were killed in this chemical weapon attack, even though some of our allies question those numbers, that assad is the one, his regime is responsible, even though other countries question that, and why the administration would not necessarily think that we need -- we in the public need more information than just assertions about this horrific incident? >> well, jake, i think it was the most effective statement the president's made, certainly to me in ways the most passionate statement he's made, focusing on the deaths of those 400 children. to get to your question, the united states has put a lot of time and attention to figuring out what happened. and i think there is widespread agreement in europe and in the arab world that assad has used chemical weapons. very little doubt about it. the outliers here are russia and
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china. and frankly the russians are just playing politics with this in the most cynical way. they're protecting assad. they're looking the other way as he clearly has used chemical weapons. i don't think in the international debate that i follow that the question is did he use chemical weapons. the question for most countries is what should be done about that and i think the president interestingly focused like a laser on that point, the only justification i'm going to put forward, he said, is we need to enforce international law, the prohibiti prohibition on chemical weapons use, and if the international community can't do it, the gives the united states the responsibility to do that. that's an effective argument i think in europe. it will be effective in the arab world. it's not going to affect putin because they have a very different view of this and they don't want us to act. >> okay. so, i understand that people buy the argument about the intelligence and let's put that aside for one second. the coalition that president obama has put together, not of people who support action but
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people, countries, who are willing to put skin in the game, seems fairly flimsy right now. we have france talking about it. we have turkey talking about it. there are discussions of saudi arabia and the uae. i'm talking about actually contributing, not just saying -- signing off on it. why is there such a difficult -- why is the president having such a tough time putting together an international coalition if he is standing up for this international norm? >> he's actually not surprising. in fact, i think the president spoke today about a possible widening of that coalition. . the it could be that one or two arab countries take part in military action. but look at it this way, jake, after 9/11, when it was clear what osama bin laden has done, we went into afghanistan on october 7th, 2001, four weeks after the attacks, 3 1/2 weeks after the attacks, with one country beside us at that point, the united kingdom. we had the support of the entire, that's one thing. getting countries to commit
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military force is quite another. it's not unusual that president obama would have this problem. president bush had this problem and president clinton had this problem as well in bosnia and to an extent on kosovo before they later decided to go in. i do think as he said, the weight of the room at the g-20 summit was with the united states, not everybody, but the weight of the room. i do think we have a lot of international support in governments. where we tend not to have it is in public opinion not just the united states but public opinion elsewhere in the world in europe and in the arab world. >> all right, former undersecretary of state nicholas burns, thank you very much for your views. >> thank you. the crisis in syria is pilling over into neighboring countries, that's one of the biggest problems going on right now, more than 2 million refugees are flee'ing the violence in their homeland, not to mention the millions of syrians displaced in their own countries. one of the places they are going is to lebanon and that's where we find cnn medical correspondent dr. sanjay gupta.
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lebanon has the largest number of refugees, more than 700,000. give us an idea what you are seeing. >> reporter: i've heard that same number as well, jake, and i think the numbers are just going up. we're in bekka valley, within walking distance of the border between lebanon and syria and we've been to some of the refugee camps trying to figure out how people are being cared for and what they are seeing here specifically. we're in sort of this secretive clinic, this makeshift clinic, it was actually a mosque. i want to show you something here, jake, this mosque was actually converted now into sort of this hospital where several of the patients who are sitting here all run this clinic by the free syria army are victims of gunshot wounds and explosions primarily. people shot by snipers, people involved with explosions, and they get their care here. so, some of the worst injuries being cared for here. it is not easy. and now, jake, i'll tell you what we're hearing and seeing is a concern that the numbers are just going