WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama gave a prime-time address on Tuesday night, in a direct appeal to the American public for support to use military force in Syria if necessary. Facing skepticism both from conservatives -- who generally oppose his policies and are weary after backing the war in Iraq -- and progressives -- who largely put him in office due to his opposition to the invasion of Iraq -- Obama at one point made separate appeals to both groups.
"[T]o my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America's military might with a failure to act when a cause is so plainly just," said Obama in his Tuesday speech. "To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain and going still on a cold hospital floor. Sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough."
Obama repeatedly evoked the tragic images of the Syrians, many of whom were children, who died in the chemical weapons attack in Damascus on Aug. 21. Secretary of State John Kerry has accused the Syrian government of carrying out the attack and killing more than 1,400 individuals.
"Indeed, I would ask every member of Congress and those of you watching at home tonight," Obama added, "to view those videos of the attack and then ask, 'What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way?"
Obama's speech comes just one day after Russia and Syria said they would be willing to look at a diplomatic solution that would hand over Syria's chemical weapons to the international community. Obama went to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet with senators and ask them to delay a vote on authorizing force in order to let this diplomatic solution play out.
Still, his plea on Tuesday didn't seem to immediately change any minds.
"I remain concerned about the resolution now before the Senate authorizing the use of military force," said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) immediately after the speech. "It is too broadly written, lacks international support, and risks entangling us in Syria’s protracted civil war."
Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), who also opposes uses military force, said, "I do not believe the president and his administration have made a convincing case to the American people that striking Syria with military force is in the best interest of our nation. I welcome constructive diplomatic efforts and will look seriously at any proposal that takes chemical weapons out of the hands of Assad -- or rebel factions -- and places them under secure international monitoring and control."