Wednesday's CBS Evening News twice underlined President Obama's
2012 "red line" remark before playing a soundbite of the Democrat's "I
didn't set a red line" reversal earlier in the day. Scott Pelley noted
that "a year ago, he [Obama] warned the Syrian dictator that a red line would be crossed if the dictator used chemical weapons against his rebellious citizens." Major Garrett soon added that Obama "set a red line on the use of chemical weapons 13 months ago." [MP3 audio available here; video below]
None of the Big Three evening newscasts played the actual clip of the President's 2012 warning. On NBC Nightly News, Chuck Todd did his best to explain away the President's denial: "The President redefined what he meant by his red line". Jonathan Karl didn't even mention the original "red line" comment during his report on ABC's World News.
During his report, Todd spotlighted the "pressure" on President Obama to make his case to the American people in favor of military strikes in Syria. He continued with his "redefined" spin about the change in the chief executive's "red line":
TODD: Good evening, Brian. Well, the pressure on the President to speak
publicly in some sort of official form, prime-time address, Oval
Office-style address to the nation, the pressure's coming from
Democrats, from Republicans, from leadership on the Hill, from outside
supporters of the President, all of them saying, "If you want Congress
to do this, you've seen the polls, Mr. President, you're gonna have to
make this case yourself."
If anything, if simply to give political cover to a bunch of House Democrats. A lot of them got elected on being anti-war, anti-Iraq, and if they're going to do this for the President, they want the cover from him explaining it to the American people. And one of those explanations has to do, of course, with this red line, and today here in Sweden, the President redefined what he meant by his red line. Take a listen.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (from press conference): I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world's population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent, and passed a treaty forbidding their use, even when countries are engaged in war. Congress set a red line when it ratified that treaty.
TODD: The President is making the case that this is everybody's problem on Capitol Hill – everybody's problem in the world community.
The following morning, on Thursday's Today, Todd did point out that "after
saying in 2012 Syria's use of chemical weapons would cross a – quote,
'red line', and change his calculus, the President now says the
international community's credibility is at stake."
On World News, Karl featured two clips from the Obama's press conference in Sweden, but didn't make any reference to the original "red line" remark:
JON KARL: Shortly after landing in Sweden today, President Obama said responding to Syria's chemical weapons attack is now more than just his leadership.
OBAMA: My credibility is not on the line. The international community's credibility is on the line, and America and Congress's credibility is on the line.
KARL: He pointed out that chemical weapons like those used in Syria have been banned by international law for a century.
OBAMA: I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line.
Karl played the newer "red line" soundbite during his report on Good Morning America the next day, but continued glossing over the 2012 warning from the President.
Unlike ABC and NBC, CBS didn't air any report on the Democrat's denial on Thursday's CBS This Morning. However, Garrett spotlighted how the Defense Department had to "clarify a statement given in open testimony to Congress by...Chuck Hagel, who accused the Russian government of providing chemical weapons to the Syrian regime, led by Basar al-Assad. The Pentagon later, in a statement, said what the defense secretary meant to say, was that Russia has a longstanding relationship with Syria providing conventional weapons, not chemical weapons. No official reaction here in Russia to that gaffe yet."
The full transcript of Major Garrett's report from Wednesday's CBS Evening News:
SCOTT PELLEY: You may have just noticed Secretary [of State John] Kerry mentioning 1925. Well, he was referring to the Geneva Protocol banning chemical weapons in war, signed after the horrific gas warfare of World War I. One hundred and thirty-eight countries have signed the ban, including the United States and Syria. President Obama has made a point of staying out of the two-year-old Syrian civil war, but a year ago, he warned the Syrian dictator that a red line would be crossed if the dictator used chemical weapons against his rebellious citizens.
The President is in Stockholm tonight, meeting with the Swedish prime minister. Our chief White House correspondent Major Garrett is there.
MAJOR GARRETT (voice-over): President Obama was asked if he needed to strike to preserve his credibility, because he set a red line on the use of chemical weapons 13 months ago.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (from press conference): First of all, I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world's population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent, and passed a treaty forbidding their use, even when countries are engaged in war. Point number two: my credibility is not on the line. The international community's credibility is on the line.
GARRETT: The President said Syria will not be shamed or talked out of future use of chemical weapons.
OBAMA: And so, the question is, after we've gone through all this, are we going to try to find a reason not to act? And if that's the case, then I think the world community should admit it, because you can always find a reason not to act.
GARRETT: Mr. Obama asserted that he has the authority to attack Syria alone, but predicted Congress will back him up.
OBAMA: As commander-in-chief, I always preserve the right and the responsibility to act on behalf of America's national security. I do not believe that I was required to take this to congress. But I do not take this to Congress just because it's an empty exercise. I think it's important to have Congress's support on it.
GARRETT (on-camera): President Obama soon leaves for a global economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who backs the Syrian regime, called Secretary of State John Kerry a liar today, for appearing to minimize the role of al Qaeda-backed fighters in the Syrian opposition.
PELLEY: And the President's due to return late Friday night. Major, thanks very much.