** Always wanted Fox’s political must-reads? Now you can have them. Each weekday morning, our DC team, led by Chris Stirewalt, delivers the FOX NEWS FIRST political newsletter. Sign up here **
• Selling Syria to Congress
• Obama plays on GOP divisions
• John Kerry’s War
• Worldwide war drums
• Hillary heard from
OBAMA STEPS UP SYRIA SALES JOB - President Obama today will enlist Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in his effort to convince skeptical members of Congress to back the president’s call for attacking Syrian government forces. Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry says McCain’s visit to the Oval Office is part of an effort to “flood the zone” in a bid to win congressional support, with Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and others banging the phones to convince lawmakers to back the plan.
[Ed Henry wants to know: Tuesday night, President Obama heads to Sweden and Russia until late Friday. How many minds can he change in the next 36 hours?]
Obama targets GOP in political push - Lawmakers of both parties are leery of Obama’s plan to punish Syrian strongman Bashar Assad for the use of chemical weapons two weeks ago in that country’s civil war. But with Republicans forming the backbone of opposition to Obama’s planned strike, McCain’s highly publicized huddle is a clear effort to ratchet up pressure on Republicans to get behind the war plan.
[From @repjustinamash: Obama admn insists this won't be Libya, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Next time, admn will insist this won't be #Syria, Libya, Iraq, or Afghanistan.]
Cornered into congressional pitch - The WSJ reports that the all-out push for congressional approval came “abruptly” on Friday night and “confounded” White House insiders. But what’s so confounding? After the president failed to win support for air strikes on Syrian government forces from the UN or with key NATO allies Britain and Germany, there was no chance for international authorization like that touted ahead of the bombing campaign that toppled Libya’s dictator in 2011. With lopsided public opposition to a Syria strike, Obama was forced to approach Congress as a last resort.
Dems fall in line - After a Sunday conference call, more Democrats are lining up behind the White House war plan, touting the superiority of Obama’s strategy to the war planning from President George W. Bush ahead of the invasion that took down Assad’s former Ba’athist ally in Iraq, Saddam Hussein. But as the Washington Examiner reports, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled public hearings this week and a vote no later than next week. While there will be many defections, as was the case in the post-facto vote on Obama’s Libya air campaign, Democrats seem to be falling in line, especially given the promise of a narrower, time-limited authorization of force.
[Hillary Clinton’s former top Syria hand rips Obama’s Syria stutter-step in a think-tank think piece.]
GOP needs convincing - With the backing of hawks like McCain and an endorsement from Bill Kristol in an NBC appearance on Sunday, the interventionist wing of the GOP seems to be getting behind Obama’s strike, albeit begrudgingly. But not so for the new-look, libertarian-leaning Republican Party. Sen. Rand Paul and other conservatives are calling the punitive strikes potentially dangerous to U.S. interests and express deep skepticism about the Islamist rebels Obama aims to aid with the bombings. The “better than Bush” pitch from the White House is unlikely to convince these holdouts to back the war.
The takeaway - Obama will hope to exploit the existing feud in the GOP between the old guard and the newcomers over foreign policy and other issues in a bid to shove undecided conservatives away from Paul et. al., and toward the more hawkish establishment.
KERRY'S SYRIA SHOW CAVALCADE - Fox News: Despite apparent disagreement with President Obama, whochose to seek congressional authorization for military strikes against Syria rather than take an immediate action, Secretary of State John Kerry dutifully took to the airwaves on all five talk shows Sunday. A sampling of Kerry’s comments…
On evidence of chemical attacks - “The fact is that, yesterday, we have now learned that hair and blood samples that have come to us from east Damascus, from individuals who were engaged as first responders in east Damascus, I can report to you today they have tested positive for signatures of sarin.” - from“Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”
On Assad - “Assad has said a lot of things in the course of this [conflict]… I think the more he stands up and crows, the more he will help this decision to be made correctly.”- from ABC’s “This Week.”
On Congressional authorization - “I can't contemplate that Congress would turn its back on all of that responsibility. … I don’t believe Congress will do that.” from“Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace.”
No pressure, Mr. Secretary…WSJ: Takes a deep dive into how Secretary of State John Kerry’s “…campaign against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad likely will define his diplomatic legacy…[Kerry’s] aggressive stance has placed [him] at the center of Syria policy in successive U.S. administrations, despite President Barack Obama's tendency to dominate the development and execution of American foreign policy, say current and former U.S. officials. Many Middle East analysts say they believe a division between the two men emerged after Mr. Obama announced on Saturday his decision to seek congressional approval before launching strikes on Syria… Mr. Kerry, in appearances on all five television interview shows on Sunday, said he believed a congressional debate on military action in Syria would only strengthen U.S. policy and build greater international support for a military strikes aimed at degrading Syria's chemical weapons capabilities… [Kerry’s] predecessor, Hillary Clinton, also advised Mr. Obama to intervene militarily, according to current and former U.S. officials. But Mr. Kerry seems to have more leeway to pursue foreign-policy initiatives than Mrs. Clinton, possibly because the White House doesn't view him as a political rival.”
SYRIA: INTERNATIONAL DRUMBEAT - Syria asks the United Nations to stop U.S. strike - Reuters: “In a letter to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon…Syrian U.N. envoy Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari called on ‘the U.N. Secretary General to shoulder his responsibilities for preventing any aggression on Syria and pushing forward reaching a political solution to the crisis in Syria’, state news agency SANA said on Monday.”
US and Russian Ships on the move - Reuters reported, “…the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and other ships in its strike group are heading west toward the Red Sea to help support a limited U.S. strike on Syria, if needed”…and in a separate report, “Russia is sending a reconnaissance ship to the eastern Mediterranean, Interfax news agency reported on Monday.”
China: don’t attack - AP: “China on Monday urged the U.S. not to take unilateral action against Syria in response to last month's chemical weapons attack against civilians. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Washington had briefed Beijing over the matter and China was highly concerned about any use of chemical weapons.”
UK report: Government let British company export nerve gas chemicals to Syria - The Independent: “The [British] Government was accused of ‘breathtaking laxity’ in its arms controls last night after it emerged that officials authorized the export to Syria of two chemicals capable of being used to make a nerve agent such as sarin a year ago…The disclosure of the licenses for potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride, which can both be used as precursor chemicals in the manufacture of nerve gas, came as the US Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States had evidence that sarin gas was used in last month’s atrocity in Damascus.
Seven million Syrians displaced in conflict - AP: “Seven million Syrians, or nearly one-third of the population, have been displaced by the country's civil war, but international aid to them has been a ‘drop in the sea’ of humanitarian need, a top UN official said Monday.”
Got a TIP from the RIGHT or LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 44.4 percent//Disapprove – 50.2 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.2 percent//Wrong Track – 62.6 percent
2016 CANDIDATES ON SYRIA - WaPo reports on how “…[t]he forthcoming congressional debate over whether the United States should respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria with military force will serve as a critical test for several lawmakers who are mulling presidential campaigns in 2016. There is agreement among the top GOP contenders — Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — that Congress should debate whether to authorize U.S. military action in Syria. But none of them have said how they would vote. Ditto for potential Democratic candidates, with the exception of Vice President Biden, who was with President Obama in the Rose Garden when the president made his surprise announcement Saturday.”
AND FROM A FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE’S SUPPORTERS - The Hill: “Ready for Hillary, the group focused on helping Hillary Clinton win the White House in 2016, is gearing up to aid her down-ballot allies in races leading into the midterm elections. The super-PAC is planning to mobilize supporters to help Democrats in Senate, gubernatorial and House races, with a focus on 2014. But the first push will be for Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton family ally running for governor in Virginia this year.”
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace." He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.