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Menendez: Obama must sell Syrian plan in Oval Office address

The Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Wednesday that it was imperative for President Obama to address the American people from the Oval Office to explain why a U.S. military strike in Syria is in the best interests of the nation.

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“I think the president needs to sit in the Oval Office, look at every American in the eye and explain the reason why this is important,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe." “I think he’ll do that.”

Menendez said it was a necessary step before U.S. involvement in a foreign civil war, and predicted Obama would make the address “later this week.”

Even if a resolution for U.S. military intervention in Syria passes Congress, Obama would still face a tough sell to the American public.

According to an ABC News-Washington Post poll released on Tuesday, a strong majority of citizens say they oppose any kind of U.S. intervention in Syria. The survey found that 59 percent are against a missile strike, and 70 percent say they oppose arming the rebels.

Opposition to U.S. intervention in Syria crosses party lines, with 54 percent of Democrats opposing air strikes and 55 percent of Republicans saying the same.

Support for an air strike would improve dramatically if the U.S. could get some allies on board. According to the poll, 46 percent would support a missile strike if Great Britain, France or other U.S. allies participated in the bombing.

“That’s desirable, but I never believe in parceling out our foreign policy or national security interests to the whims or desires of other countries as to their support or not support,” Menendez said.

He added that some partners would be “engaged” with the U.S. throughout the process, and said there would be a “coalition here … significant enough that will make the underpinnings of the action supported globally or throughout the region.”

Last week, the British Parliament voted down a measure to intervene in Syria. French President François Hollande has been a vocal critic of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime but will likely seek the blessing of lawmakers in his country before pledging French support.

Menendez said the Obama administration’s push for action in Syria appeared close to passing one hurdle — the chairman said he was optimistic that an agreement his committee reached late Tuesday would pass the Senate.

The resolution authorizes the use of force for 60 days and allows the president to extend it for another 30 days.

“It was drafted in a bipartisan effort with Sen. [Bob] Corker [R-Tenn.],” Menendez said. 

“It has the input of the other members from both sides of the aisle. It tries to capture the balance of the views that were expressed yesterday by members of the committee that I think are reflective of members of the Senate. It is tailored, narrow in both scope and breadth to ensure that there are no American troops on the ground, and it has a time limitation. … I think it hits the sweet spot.”