WASHINGTON – Battling stiff resistance in Congress, President Barack Obama conceded Monday night he might lose his fight for congressional support of a military strike against Syria, and declined to say what he would do if lawmakers reject his call to back retaliation for a chemical weapons attack last month.
The president made his comments as a glimmer of a possible diplomatic solution appeared after months of defiance from the Russian-backed government of President Bashar Assad in Syria. In a rapid response, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid cited international discussions in unexpectedly postponing a test vote originally set for Wednesday on Obama’s call for legislation backing a military strike.
In a series of six network interviews planned as part of a furious lobbying campaign in Congress, Obama said statements suggesting that Syria might agree to surrender control of its chemical weapons stockpile were a potentially positive development.
At the same time, he said they were yet another reason for lawmakers to give him the backing he is seeking.
If we don’t maintain and move forward with a credible threat of military pressure, I do not think we will actually get the kind of agreement I would like to see, he said on CNN.
In a separate interview with NBC, the president took the step – unusual for any politician – of conceding he may lose his campaign in Congress for legislation authorizing a military strike. I wouldn’t say I’m confident of the outcome, he said.
I think it’s fair to say that I haven’t decided on a next step if Congress turns its back, the president told NBC, part of a furious lobbying campaign aimed at winning support from dubious lawmakers as well as a war-weary public.
The president picked up a smattering of support.