Since Aug. 23, administration officials have had discussions about Syria with more than 370 House members and nearly all senators, according to the White House count. The pace picked up on the weekend and into Monday, as members of Congress returned from a summer break that had kept many of them engaged on Syria only from afar. They’d already, though, gotten an earful from constituents against military action.
Back in Washington lawmakers were shown a collection of videos, also released publicly, showing victims of the Aug. 21 chemical attacks that the U.S. blames on Assad’s forces. There were repeated presentations of those videos, to bring home the brutality of gassing, although they did not prove who was responsible.
“I cannot look at those pictures — those little children laying on the ground, their eyes glassy, their bodies twitching — and not think of my own two kids,” said Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, as part of the lobbying offensive.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden pressed members of Congress at a dinner Sunday night as well as in a battery of phone calls over days. Lawmakers walked swiftly from one briefing to the next Monday and gathered en masse in the large Capitol Visitors Center auditorium for a session with top national security officials.
Nothing seemed to be working. More and more lawmakers stepped forward to declare their opposition to military strikes. The dynamics — for and against military action — were strikingly bipartisan.
But those seeds from the palace were taking root.
DIPLOMACY BREAKS OUT
On Monday morning, Kerry, in London, held a news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, greeted outside by 50 protesters chanting, “Keep your hands off Syria.”