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September 9th, 2013
07:01 PM ET

Former Clinton press secretary: Obama has to lead on Syria

As a "private citizen" former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not have to weigh in publicly on the Syria conflict. But she did, two weeks after the U.S. first learned of the alleged chemical weapon attack.

Clinton made the comments Monday because she was at a previously scheduled public event at the White House, and she had to say something, said political analyst and former press secretary to the Clinton administration Dee Dee Myers.

"She can't walk into the White House in the middle of this conversation as former Secretary of State and not say anything. It would have been odd," said Myers.

Clinton's comments gave credibility to two things, said Meyers.

"She said that, you know, if you can get the Syrians to give up their chemical weapons, right, that's a good option. That's the objective of all this anyway. The second thing she said was this wouldn't have happened without a credible threat of a strike," said Myers.

Some members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, want to support President Barack Obama on Syria, but aren't there yet because of the public messaging, and are wary about how Obama has handled the situation. First, there was the red line, whether it was an accidental statement or not a year ago. Then it looked like the U.S. was about to attack Syria, but Obama suddenly decided he wanted Congress involved.

Since Obama brought his case to Congress, the administration has become increasingly focused, and built a campaign, said Myers. Indeed, the administration has been all over Capitol Hill, in private meetings with lawmakers, disclosing more detailed intelligence, and outlining objectives.

The public messaging is starting to catch up, said Myers. "But it's a tough case to make. The American people believe that Assad was responsible and still don't want the U.S. to get involved."

Obama spoke with six network news anchors Monday, and plans to address the nation Tuesday.

"He just has to keep making the case," said Myers. "The public may not be 100% behind this if the president decides to do it. That's what leadership takes. Sometimes you have to take the action, and bring the public along, and convince them in the process that it was worth doing."

There were a number of military interventions during former President Bill Clinton's time in office.

Clinton learned over time that "America's force and America's voice could be used together to great effect. And that when we didn't use it, that sometimes was when he had regret. He has said repeatedly that not intervening in the genocide is perhaps his greatest regret," said Myers.

Clinton went on to intervene in Kosovo, to very good effect, said Myers.

"That wasn't something that was going to be hugely popular with the American public, either. But as we look back at that, it was not only the right thing to do politically, it was the right thing to do morally," said Myers.

The House of Representatives, Republican at the time, voted against continuing the U.S. mission in Kosovo, and the NATO mission.

"Sometimes presidents have to lead. They have to bring the country along. For President Obama, this is one such case," said Myers.

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