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Back home, Obama tries to sell Syria to skeptical House

Failing to get wide-ranging international support for Syria strikes at the G-20 summit, president Barack Obama returned Friday night to resume the hard sell at home.

world Updated: Sep 08, 2013 00:20 IST
Yashwant Raj

Failing to get wide-ranging international support for Syria strikes at the G-20 summit, president Barack Obama returned Friday night to resume the hard sell at home.

He made phone calls to lawmakers from the flight, in fact.

And resumed the pitch to his country with his weekly Saturday address: “We are the United States of America. We cannot turn a blind eye to images like the ones we’ve seen out of Syria.”

Obama is scheduled to make a larger pitch in a speech on Tuesday. His aides, continued to work the Capitol Hill, briefing lawmakers and their staff.

Latest poll show 50% Americans are opposed to intervening in Syria. But support grows to 50% for strikes involving Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from faraway ships.

In town hall meetings across the country lawmakers are hearing similar doubts from their constituents. “It’s not just No,” said Republican congressman Ted Yoho, “but Hell No.”

President Obama has sought congressional approval for limited, no-boots-on-the-ground strikes against Syria for using chemical weapons, killing over 1,400 people on August 21.

The senate’s foreign relations committee approved it earlier in the week after hearing secretaries John Kerry and Chuck Hagel and chairman of joint chiefs of staff Martin Dempsey.

The larger senate will now debate and vote on it. The same process is underway in the House of Representative.

It could actually lose if the votes were taken on Saturday, according to projections by several media organisations.

Opposition to Obama’s proposal is coming from both elements in both parties -- liberal Democrats, for instance, are as staunchly against it as are libertarian Republicans.

“We don’t want to make the same mistake we made before,” Democrat Gregory W. Meeks, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, told reporters after Syria briefing.

The mistake he was referring to was the Iraq invasion launched by the Bush administration in 2003 to search and destroy Saddam Hussein’s non-existent arsenal of WMDs.