• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

President Obama Addresses Nation About Syria: What the Pundits Are Saying

President Obama Syria Speech - P 2013
Getty Images
President Obama

CNN's Newt Gingrich calls the speech a "mistake," while Obama's former deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter says the president made a "persuasive" case.

President Obama cut into live TV on Tuesday night to address the nation about the crisis in Syria.

In remarks made Saturday, Obama called on Congress to approve a military strike against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime. But on Tuesday night, he said he's delaying that vote amid diplomatic negotiations.

PHOTOS: The Top Celebrity Political Twitter Commentators

Of course, the cable network pundits immediately began offering their takes on his remarks as soon as the 15-minute speech ended (he started speaking at 9 p.m. ET).

On CNN, Republican Newt Gingrich declared: "This speech was a mistake. If you are going to ask Congress to wait, you don't burn up an evening speech. You have a press conference in the afternoon. … It's very hard to do two speeches in two weeks."

But Stephanie Cutter, Obama's former deputy campaign manager, disagreed.

"This was not a mistake, and there is no reason he can't give two speeches," she said in reply to Gingrich. "The country was calling for a speech like that. He made a persuasive case, the clearest case on why we should act."

CNN's John King, however, sided with Gingrich.

"For a president to give a speech … about a potential military conflict, that military action is Plan A. The president [talked about] Plan B. That's rare for a president to say, 'I'm trying to prepare you for Plan B.'"

STORY: Ed Asner Explains Hollywood Silence on Obama, Syria: They 'Don't Want to Feel Anti-Black'

Fox News' Brit Hume said he thought the speech was "in search of a purpose."

"What did the president ask for tonight?" he said. "He came in support of a resolution that he has asked congress to postpone. He is asking for support of the authorization of force, but he doesn't want to do that. He doesn't even want them to vote on it."

Earlier in the day, Secretary of State John Kerry had said a proposal by Russia to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control would be the "ideal way" to deal with the crisis. Many media reported that Kerry's comment seemed to be an "accidental" solution to the crisis that he didn't really intend to raise.

With the idea gaining steam and the Obama administration reportedly considering it, Hume said he believed that the president felt pressure to go through with the speech since he had already announced it and asked for airtime.

"He did the best he could with it," Hume added.

Over on MSNBC, U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), said he is "encouraged" by Obama's speech.

"With full recognition of the track record of the Syrians and the Russians, I am still encouraged by this recent development," he said, adding: "It seemed like somewhat of a flippant moment in the press conference with Kerry. … I would like to think there was a range of options … and I'm glad this [option] has come up."

STORY: Hollywood Won't Touch Syria Crisis

NBC News political director Chuck Todd said he felt like the speech was actually two different speeches put together -- one making the case for military action and the other taking the direction of outlining a possible diplomatic resolution to the crisis.

"The part that was being rewritten and worked on over the last few hours of the day was the last third of the speech, and frankly that was where you could tell if felt like two speeches put together," he said. "One was the clearest and most concise explanation of his policy on Syria, why he believes it's America's duty to act, what it would and wouldn't be. … Then he got to the point where now the pause button is pushed [and talked about using diplomacy]. That part got confusing."

Like Hume, Todd pointed out the president's use of primetime to essentially make no announcement.

"We don’t see this often -- a president asks for the time in primetime to essentially talk about foreign policy," he said. "It was not to tell of us an action that happened or is about to happen. It felt like two different speeches he tried to glue together."