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Inside the Beltway: Will Obama go Oval on Syria?

The enormous lead up to President Obama's prime-time speech to the nation Tuesday night has reached a crescendo, leaving the historically minded to wonder whether Mr. Obama will use the ultimate White House backdrop to make his case for a military strike against Syria. That would be the Oval Office, of course, the bulliest of the bully pulpits and a place of much gravitas. Mr. Obama could use a little of that right now, rather than the melodramatic din of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Hillary Rodham Clinton and other officials chiming in. It's time for clarity, and the real business at hand.

"This debate lacks a concise, compelling argument from the president of the United States. Absent that, there's a possibility a bipartisan majority rejects granting the administration the authority it says it already has. Beyond the domestic politics and international consequences, failure to encourage a quick congressional resolution on Syria further delays the next round of budget negotiations," Fox Business Network's Washington correspondent Rich Edson tells Inside the Beltway.

He predicts that a long debate over Syria could ultimately complicate vital fiscal discussions between Republicans and Democrats.

"If the president can provide the clarity skeptics say they need for their support, it may bring the Syria debate to an earlier conclusion and provide Congress more time to revisit yet another round of budget fighting. Failure to do so compresses the negotiating window Congress has to resolve issues where there is little indication of compromise," Mr. Edson concludes.

He will join Fox Business Network anchor Neil Cavuto for a special report surrounding the president's address on Tuesday evening.

OBAMA'S PERFECT STORM

White House intent to showcase President Obama as a moral-minded global strongman has been undermined by mixed messages, no discernable exit strategy, deft maneuvering by Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Bashar Assad of Syria, and way too much repetitive media saturation. The one thing Mr. Obama has going for him is the short shelf life of even the most major events. Intensity of interest wanes, scandals are obfuscated, the next big thing takes over.

One phenomenon has emerged, however: the sensibility of the American people. White House advisers may have backed the president into a corner with careless talk of red lines and mixed messages. The citizenry, however has passed judgment. They get it. Overall, Americans say Congress should have the final authority on the Syria decision.

Three-fourths say U.S. airstrikes in Syria are likely to make things worse in the Middle East, while 61 percent say there are "no good options for the U.S." in Syria — this according to a Pew Research Poll released Monday. Another 6 of 10 say the U.S. must act "to show that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable," while 54 percent says the U.S. has a moral obligation to stop violence against Syrian civilians.

But is the Syria matter a threat to U.S. security? That's the $1 billion question. The poll found that 45 percent felt that it is not a threat. And only 39 percent say the U.S. would lose credibility around the world if it does nothing.

READY to STRIKE OBAMACARE

The buses are arriving from North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio and Virginia. The 25 speakers include Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky. The time is high noon Tuesday, the place is the U.S. Capitol. Welcome to the "Exempt America" rally, which caps off a resolute tour through 11 states that began Aug. 27. Tea partyers and conservatives from a dozen major interest groups have not abandoned their quest to bring down the Affordable Care Act.

"This is the last chance to stop Obamacare before its massive subsidies and regulations go into effect Jan. 1. Democrats have brought about this disastrous law, but it is Republicans who must unite to stop it," says Brent Bozell, chairman of ForAmerica, an organizing group.

Though the mainstream media has ignored this event, the coalition has the support of talk radio hosts Mark Levin and Sean Hannity; they are relying on Breitbart News to stream the event live online. Incidentally, broadcasters gave more coverage to the arrival of the new White House dog than they did to the health care law opponents.

"In just a 24-hour period, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening and morning shows devoted six minutes and 23 seconds to the debut of the puppy 'Sunny.' In contrast, those same shows have granted a scant two minutes and 26 seconds over a two-month period (July 9 through Sept. 8) to the move by conservative senators such as Mike Lee and Ted Cruz to strip funding from the increasingly unpopular Obamacare," says Scott Whitlock, an analyst for NewsBusters.com.

THE SHADOW OF COMMUNISM

An uncommon and disquieting reminder from the Alexandria Tea Party, headquartered just outside the nation's capital in Virginia: "100 million corpses in 100 years. We must never forget," the group says.

They are talking about life under Communism. The group has gathered first-hand witnesses who experienced that life in China, Romania, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia and Vietnam, each offering details at a Tuesday evening event.

Also on the podium: Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, a veteran Navy combat pilot; Heritage Foundation scholar Lee Edwards, who is also chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation; and Hungarian Ambassador to the U.S. H.E. Gyorgy Szapary.

"We are at the doorstep of a new era, as ever fewer eyewitnesses remain among us to tell the tale of the terrible crimes committed in the name of the Communist regime's evil ideology," Mr. Szapary says. "Now, more than ever, it is important to make conscious efforts both individually and collectively to remember the lessons we have learned from history. Unless nations remember their past, they cannot successfully shape their future."

RUSHING FOR THE RUSH BOOK

Well, here's a cultural moment for you. Rush Limbaugh announces he has written "Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims," an American history book for children which will be published Oct. 29. Three days later, the book — described as "time travel adventure with exceptional Americans" — tops the list for all book genres at Amazon.com.

"Nationally syndicated radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has long wanted to make American history come to life for the children of his listeners, so he created the character of a fearless middle school history teacher named Rush Revere, who travels back in time and experiences American history as it happens, in adventures with exceptional Americans," says publisher Simon & Schuster.

There must be a hankering for such simple, authentic fare. The book, which won't be available for seven weeks, is also ranked No. 5 at Barnes and Noble.

POLL DU JOUR

85 percent of Americans say the U.S. should not take the side of either the Syrian government or the Syrian rebels; 82 percent of Republicans, 87 percent of conservatives, 81 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of liberals agree.

63 percent of Americans disapprove of the way President Obama is handling the situation in Syria; 86 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of conservatives, 40 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of liberals agree.

57 percent of Americans overall disapprove of the way Mr. Obama is handling foreign affairs; 85 percent of Republicans, 77 percent of conservatives, 24 percent of Democrats and 38 percent of liberals agree.

Source: A CNN/ORC poll of 1,022 U.S. adults conducted Sept. 6-8.

Cat calls, caterwaul, doggerel to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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