President Obama will emerge for a rare nationally televised speech during prime time at 9pm Tuesday night. During this speech, the President will need to signal to Syria and Russia that there is a credible threat of U.S. force upon the Assad regime (by pushing for expedient U.S. Congressional authorization of military action), while simultaneously signaling that he is committed to a non-military option.
This will be quite a feat, and is why the Washington Post, for example, calls tonight a near-impossible "dual challenge" for the President's leadership in the Syria crisis.
On Monday, perhaps the result of an offhand comment from Secretary of State John Kerry in London, Russia put forward its public request for Syria to give over its chemical weapons arsenal to international control, to be ultimately destroyed. A State Department official quickly swatted this proposal as a Russian "stalling tactic," but shortly thereafter the President indicated during TV interviews that he may, in fact, be willing to take the proposal seriously as an alternative to the use of force.
It set forward a delicate dance around the issues contained in conflicting statements made Monday night by the President (who made several TV appearances) and other administration officials. Simultaneously the administration began pushing for expedient authorization of force while indicating that they are willing to Russia's diplomatic proposal seriously.
So, what can you expect from Obama's speech tonight? Likely this very dance in all its paradoxical glory. The President will likely update Americans on the greusome details of the lives of innoccent Syrians being lost every day in the face of international inaction. (The death toll has, of course, climbed to a tragic high well-above 100,000). Obama will then need to skirt around the details of his intentions in response, simultaneously attempting to send hawkish signals about U.S. "credibility" as a threat to pressure the Assad regime to back down, while, at the same time, indicating a strong commitment to diplomatic action which appears, for all intents and purposes, to be in the best interest of the President facing the possibility of an unpopular war ahead.
Here are some clips from President Obama's brief television interviews from Monday night, made in advance of a public address scheduled for Tuesday.
Stay tuned here for updates on Tuesday night's upcoming speech.