You can’t have it both ways. The president called for military action in Syria and also made his case for why we shouldn’t get involved. David Frum breaks down Obama’s speech. Plus, Michael Tomasky on the president’s long odds.
"Good evening. The topic for tonight's debate is Syria: to intervene or not to intervene? Speaking for the intervention is President Barack Obama, live from the White House. Speaking against—also President Obama, also from the White House. Mr. President, the first question is for you. Is Syria vital to our national security?"
President Obama 1: "What happened to those people, to those children, is not only a violation of international law, it's also a danger to our security."
President Obama 2: "We don't dismiss any threats, but the Assad regime does not have the ability to seriously threaten our military."
"Well, Mr. Presidents, we have a stark difference here. Let's go into greater detail. Please be specific: what's the nature of the security threat from Syria?"
President Obama 1: "If fighting spills beyond Syria's borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan, and Israel."
"President Obama 1 presents a very disturbing scenario for the region. President Obama 2, what do you say?"
President Obama 2: "Our ally Israel can defend itself with overwhelming force, as well as the unshakable support of the United States of America."
"Good to know. President Obama 1, what should we do to meet the threat you perceive?"
President Obama 1: "A targeted strike can make Assad or any other dictator think twice before using chemical weapons."
"President Obama 2, you warn that it's difficult to wage only a limited war."
President Obama 2: "The United States military doesn't do pinpricks."
"So President Obama 2, if you reject limited strikes, what would you do instead?"
President Obama 2: "The Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons. This initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force."
"That does sound promising. Yet President Obama 1, you are skeptical of diplomatic solutions?"
President Obama 1: "Over the last two years my administration has tried diplomacy and sanctions, warnings and negotiations. But chemical weapons were still used by the Assad regime."
"How worried should we be, Mr. Presidents, that an airstrike against the Syrian regime would escalate into a broader regional war?"
President Obama 1: "I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo. "
"President Obama 2, you have expressed concern that once we start using force, we will inevitably be drawn into deeper involvement inside Syria."
President Obama 2: "The day after any military action, we would redouble our efforts to achieve a political solution that strengthens those who reject the forces of tyranny and extremism."
"Presidents Obama, who is most likely to emerge stronger in a post-Assad Syria? President Obama 2, I'll start with you."
President Obama 2: "Al-Qaida will only draw strength in a more chaotic Syria."
President Obama 1: "The majority of the Syrian people and the Syrian opposition we work with just want to live in peace, with dignity and freedom. "
"Presidents Obama, you also have expressed some stark disagreements about the role of Congress. President Obama 2, please state your position."
President Obama 2: "I believed it was right, in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security, to take this debate to Congress."
"President Obama 1, you assert a more vigorous use of presidential power.
President Obama 1: "I've ordered our military to keep the pressure on Assad."
"A final question for both leaders. You both see Syria as a test for your vision of America's global role. Please describe in just a few words what that vision is."
President Obama 1: "For nearly seven decades the United States has been the anchor of global security. This has meant doing more than forging international agreements. It has meant enforcing them. The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world's a better place because we have borne them."
"President Obama 2, you take a more limited view of America's global responsibilities."
President Obama 2: "Americans want all of us in Washington, especially me, to concentrate on the task of building our nation here at home, putting people back to work, educating our kids, growing our middle class. America is not the world's policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong."
"Gentlemen, thank you. And now the decision goes to the American people. Do you support President Obama 1's plan to strike Syria? Or do you agree with the cautions and reservations expressed by President Obama 2? Both men have made their best case tonight. Thanks for watching."