Thank you to the Washington Press Corps and the TV networks for their cooperation in setting up this press conference on short notice.
. .sometime in the next um, thirty six hours. Secretary Clinton and the Joint Chiefs have advised me on the ramifications of this, and are fully on board with our decision. I will only take a few questions and reserve the right to not answer any that involve national security, terrorism or such sensitive aspects of this obviously volatile situation.
Bill Plante, CBS: Mr President, the timing of this already looks like a "wag the dog" scenario if you will forgive the reference to the hollywood movie where a president on the ropes started a war to deflect attention from his own domestic problems during a brutal election cycle. What would you say to those raising that specter?
POTUS: Bill I can't believe I am hearing you bring this up in this context. I wonder if you have been watching the coverage on your own network of the horrific violence against innocent civilians by agents of the corrupt regime. Sometimes the only way to counter violence is with arms and force. Diplomacy has failed. This is not Disneyland we live in.
Chuck Todd, NBC: Mr. President, following up on Bill's question and your answer, I am just wondering what you mean by "diplomacy has failed?" What diplomatic efforts have taken place? None of our bureaus or correspondents are aware of any work beyond the failed U.N. missions that have shut down and gone home.
POTUS: Chuck, the use of sanctions and bully pulpit browbeating only goes so far. The risk of escalation. . .or I should say intervention by Israel or Iran or Russia is great. It could come with no warning. If you want to
call this a pre-emptive strike, I would resist that characterization, and point out that waiting too long is the worst option of all.
Chris Wallace, FOX: Mr President, did you consult with Congress on this? In the Constitution, it does call for a declaration of war to come from that body.
POTUS: Chris, I should not have to remind you or your devoted viewers that Congress is a dysfunctional organization and has been for almost two years now. Their inability to deal with the serious problems of our
economy, and our health care system, and our campaign finance laws, and the abuses of the financial system are legion. There is no way they could handle an issue like this when they are so focused so single mindedly on undermining me and my administration at every turn. This is not a declaration of war, it is a police action I take as Commander in Chief to
safeguard our interests in the region and beyond.
Jake Tapper, ABC: Mr President, the mass shooting in Colorado has once again brought forth questions about gun control. (groans and boos and exclamations from the press corps are now heard). Excuse me, this is a press conference is it not? (addressed to the assemblage, not the podium)
Nothing was heard after the Giffords shooting either that I can recall, and the recent spike in shootings in your own home town of Chicago produced no calls for tougher legislation against guns falling into the hands of people who do not hesitate to use them at the slightest provocation. Why are you not speaking out on this issue at this critical time when people look for leadership and guidance?
POTUS: Jake, I must concur with the mob mentality for once. . .(some nervous laughter from the room) I wonder why of all times you choose to bring this up now. But I will speak to your point. . .(gathering his thoughts) As I said at the beginning, this is a violent world. We wish it were not, but it is. Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense and that has been proven time and again in the course of civilization. If Syria had tough gun laws, and the good people of that country who have done nothing wrong were one day sitting in their homes and offices leading normal lives. . .in other words, peaceably unarmed. . .and suddenly a brutal attack is mounted on one of their neighbors by a rogue corrupt thug employed by Al Assad, . . .if that neighbor has no weapons at his disposal, then he is next on the hit list. There are times that weapons are all we have to protect ourselves. Many have said that the widespread presence of guns among our population is a deterrent to even worse gun violence. I don't know about the scientific basis for that research, but it should give us pause. The idea of forcing everyone in the USA to disarm and surrender their personal firearms is just not realistic to begin with. And I guess what I am saying is or asking is: would it even be desirable should the worst happen; namely that some evil force would emerge and attack our citizens mano a mano as it were, that our citizens had no guns anymore thanks to a knee jerk anti-gun law?
POTUS: NO follow ups today under the circumstances, you understand.
POTUS: Amy, you are missing the point. I am not going to go there with you in any case. How did we even get onto this? Oh yes, Jake, thanks a lot. (some nervous laughter) Uh, as I was saying, this is a brutal dangerous world filled with scary people who have no scruples or hesitation on shooting or blowing up their fellow man. What would you have me do? Sit in the ivory tower and study the statistics and listen to the psychoanalysts until my eyes glaze over? I don't have the answer to your question about how to re-define American values on violence and self-defense. That is way above even my pay grade. It is what is and we are what we are. And today, we are going into Syria to stop a civil war.
Thank you and good day.