Meet the Press   |  September 08, 2013

Chuck Todd: President made 'patriotic pitch'

NBC's Chuck Todd analyzes the Obama administration's public campaign to rally support for its proposal for intervention in Syria.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> you. the question for all of you, the president's got it all cut out for him now, tuesday night. he's got to try to change the trajectory of this, chuck todd , and convince the public and congress to act. how does he do it?

>> it was amazing that you have a northeastern moderate republican , peter king , a southern conservative republican just now in mccaul, a liberal to moderate centrist democrat from orange county , california, and all in some ways beating up the president, even the yes vote for him wasn't exactly a show of confidence on that. it looks -- what's interesting here is the white house is doing this full-court press even as they realize the house might be close to a lost cause. they're going to try this pr effort. you see the videos are coming out. then we have what denis is doing today, what the president's doing tomorrow with a bunch of interviews. then the nation -- i thought the most effective thing he did on friday at the press conference that i was at in russia is when he made it about -- he made an interesting, i thought, patriotic pitch which is, you know what? we're america . we're stuck. i'm sorry we have to be the world's policemen. i don't like it. it was sort of this reluctant like we have no other choice. no one else will act. no one else is going to punish him. and it's terrible that we're in this position, but we're -- that's -- you know, we're stuck doing it. i actually thought it was effective. the first message i heard out of the administration that was potentially effective.

>> but newt, he's saying, denis mcdonough is saying, it's going to be limited. don't worry. very, very limited. very targeted. and by the way, if we don't act, iran, the real enemy, is watching. that's what mcdonough said this morning.

>> i thought denis was very effective making a bad case. i think that's their problem. if the strategy is inexplicable to a normal american, we're going to sort of punch you, but we're not going to punch you too hard. and we really would like you to leave, but we don't want you to leave enough to get rid of you. and we hope there's a political solution although we haven't got a clue what it is. i mean, that's very hard to build momentum for. and you have to be communicator in chief before you're commander in chief. and tuesday night's speech, i think, really matters because he has to show a coherence and a discipline and a directness that average americans can identify with.

>> i mean, the issue here -- i'm sorry, jane, go ahead.

>> well, i get it. i served in the house for nine terms. i won 17 elections including primaries. i was primaried, as they say. it's a new word in our lexicon, three times after my vote for the iraq intervention where i said i believed the intelligence, and the intelligence turned out to be wrong and i was wrong, but the notion of going to war or launching a limited strike at least to me to protect our values and to project american power in a way that deters really bad consequences in iran and north korea and so forth is, by my light, the right thing to do. and i think what's going on here, my view, is all these folks in both parties, especially in the house, are worried about being primaried. the base in each party is against this. i'm sympathetic to that. the economy hasn't rebounded in most parts of the country. they're against it. so these folks think that their re-election, my view, matters more than perhaps taking a principled stance.

>> i think that's too hard. it's perfectly rational.

>> they don't want to vote for it. and that's why, again, the president's pitch matters so much.

>> america , david axelrod , doesn't want to go to war. and i don't think america necessarily believed that denis mcdonough says we're not going to war, that they can take that to the bank.

>> well, of course, the president here is kind of whipsawed between those who want more aggressive action and those who are afraid this will lead to war. and the irony is he was the president who got elected because he recognized early that the case on iraq was faulty, that it was a bad thing for us to do. but on this, i think that it's very, very clear. chemical weapons are in a different category. you know, we have 400 kids basically gassed as they slept, tortured, and then killed, their ability to breathe taken from them. and this is what these weapons do. this is why we proscribed them for 100 years. and the notion that we're going to let that go without an answer is an open invitation to use them again not just by assad but other players in that region and around the world. it would be disastrous.

>> but i remember how democrats