Obama agenda: Escaping imminent defeat?

The New York Times on last night’s speech: “President Obama, facing implacable opposition to a strike against Syria in Congress and throughout the country, said Tuesday that he would hold off on military action for now and pursue a Russian proposal for international monitors to take over and destroy Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons.”

AP: “President Barack Obama looked like a man who had escaped imminent defeat.”

Andrew Sullivan defends Obama: “I’m tired of the eye-rolling and the easy nit-picking of the president’s leadership on this over the last few weeks. The truth is: his threat of war galvanized the world and America, raised the profile of the issue of chemical weapons more powerfully than ever before, ensured that this atrocity would not be easily ignored and fostered a diplomatic initiative to resolve the issue without use of arms. All the objectives he has said he wanted from the get-go are now within reach, and the threat of military force – even if implicit – remains. Yes, it’s been messy. A more cautious president would have ducked it. Knowing full well it could scramble his presidency, Obama nonetheless believed that stopping chemical weapons use is worth it – for the long run, and for Americans as well as Syrians.”

CNN: “A majority of Americans who watched President Barack Obama’s prime time address to the nation on Tuesday said they favor the approach to Syria that the president spelled out in his speech, according to an instant poll. But the CNN/ORC International survey of speech-watchers conducted immediately after the conclusion of Obama’s address also indicates that those who tuned into the address were split on whether the president made the case for military action against Syria.”

AP’s Julie Pace: “No matter the outcome of the Syria standoff, keeping the public’s faith is a daunting task for Obama at a time when he’s already fending off lame-duck status. With trust intact, Obama has space to maneuver on Syria and other issues. But should he lose the public’s confidence, Obama would find it more difficult to wield influence on the world stage, much less persuade Congress to pass immigration overhaul, rally support for budget issues or build backing for critical elements of his signature health care law.”

Is the diplomatic breakthrough with Syria and Russia feasible? The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent: “Gary Samore, Obama’s former White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, tells me he’s skeptical both of the possibility of a deal being reached — and of it being successfully implemented. Samore — who was Obama’s WMD coordinator from 2009 until earlier this year — says he thinks Obama is doing the right thing in trying for such a deal, but that the differences between the U.S. and Russia may be unbridgeable.”

“‘There are some very fundamental differences between a deal we could accept as the basis for disarming Syria, and a deal Russians are prepared to agree to,’ Samore says. ‘If we want to execute this idea in a meaningful way, you need a binding UN Security Resolution under Chapter 7 authority — you want the threat of force as a requirement, not optional. The fact that the Russians are not willing to support that is a pretty bad indication that they will not go along with a deal that we would require to be confident we can achieve the objective of disarming Syria.’”