Slatest PM: John Kerry Stumbles Over "Boots On the Ground"

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 3 2013 4:26 PM

Slatest PM: John Kerry Stumbles Over "Boots On the Ground"

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 3, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Whose Red Line Is It? Associated Press: "Secretary of State John Kerry says the debate about military strikes against Syria is not about President Barack Obama's 'red line' that weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated. Instead, Kerry told Congress Tuesday that 'this debate is about the world's red line.' He says it is 'a red line that anyone with a conscience ought to draw.' Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey were dispatched to the Senate to help persuade lawmakers to support a resolution authorizing limited military strikes against Syria .... Kerry said 'This is not the time for arm-chair isolationism. This is not the time to be spectators to slaughter.'"

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Tripping Over Boots on the Ground: Politico: "Still, Kerry raised some questions on the potential use of U.S. ground troops in Syria. When asked whether the Obama administration would accept a ban on U.S. boots on the ground in a revised authorization resolution, Kerry replied that it would be 'preferable not to.' He raised hypothetical situations such as if Syria 'imploded' or if chemical weapons were transferred into the hands of al-Nusra—an al Qaeda operation in Syria—where options needed to be on the table for Obama. 'I don’t want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to a president of the United States to secure our country,' Kerry testified. But a few minutes later, after Sen. Bob Corker called Kerry’s comments 'not very appropriate,' the secretary of state quickly walked it back. 'Let’s shut that door now,' Kerry said, clarifying that he was 'thinking out loud.' Kerry added: 'There will not be American boots on the ground with respect' to the civil war in Syria."

Winning Over the House: New York Times: "Speaker John A. Boehner said on Tuesday that he would 'support the president’s call to action' in Syria ... giving the president a crucial ally in the quest for votes in the House. ... Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. summoned Mr. Boehner and other Republican and Democratic leaders to the White House as they intensified their push for Congressional approval of an attack on Syria. Conservative House Republicans have expressed deep reluctance about the president’s strategy, and winning Mr. Boehner’s approval could help the president make inroads with a group that has not supported him on most issues in the past."

And the Senate: Politico: "Action by the Senate may not be too far behind. The committee is making steady bipartisan progress toward drafting a resolution on Syria, which could be completed Tuesday night or early Wednesday, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said .... Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who attended the meeting with Obama, left his options open. ... And Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the third-ranking House Republican, is 'weighing the information and intelligence presented to him,' a spokesman said."

Public Support, or Lack Thereof: Washington Post: "Americans widely oppose launching missile strikes against the Syrian government for its alleged use of chemical weapons, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll that finds little appetite for military action across the country despite a growing drumbeat in Washington. Nearly six in 10 oppose missile strikes in light of the U.S. government’s determination that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people. Democrats and Republicans alike oppose strikes by double digit margins, and there is deep opposition among every political and demographic group in the survey. Political independents are among the most clearly opposed, with 66 percent saying they are against military action."

It's Tuesday, September 3rd, welcome to the Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at@JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @Slatest.

Let's Not Forget About Egypt: Reuters: "Thousands of supporters of overthrown Islamist president Mohamed Mursi took to the streets in towns and cities across Egypt on Tuesday evening to denounce Egypt's new military-backed rulers—their second show of mass support in four days. Marking exactly two months since Egypt's first democratically elected leader was ousted by the army after big protests, marchers turned out in cities in the Nile Delta, in Upper Egypt and on the Suez Canal, as well as the capital, Cairo. The army-led government has launched a furious crackdown on Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood since toppling him on July 3, arresting its top leaders and killing hundreds of his supporters. But after a brief lull, and despite a heavy security presence, Islamist groups brought thousands onto the streets again after last Friday's prayers. There were sporadic clashes with security forces, notably in Cairo, and at least seven people died."

Pulling Away in NYC: Bloomberg: "New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio has support from 43 percent of likely Democratic voters, which would be enough to avoid a runoff in a seven-candidate Sept. 10 primary, a Quinnipiac University poll reported. De Blasio, 52, elected four years ago to the citywide watchdog office of public advocate, led former city Comptroller William Thompson at 20 percent and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn with 18 percent. An Aug. 28 poll showed de Blasio with 36 percent. A candidate needs more than 40 percent in the primary to avoid an Oct. 1 runoff with the runner-up. De Blasio’s 3 percent cushion is within the survey’s 3.6 percentage-point margin of error."

Microsoft Goes Shopping: Wall Street Journal: "Microsoft Corp. made a case Tuesday for its $7 billion deal to acquire Nokia Corp.'s struggling cellphone unit, a blockbuster transaction that solidifies the software giant's position as a distant No. 3 in the smartphone market. But the initial reaction was mixed at best, given the long odds both companies face in catching to market leaders like Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. ... The deal comes on the heels of Microsoft's announcement that Chief Executive Steve Ballmer will retire as soon as a successor is found. The company's lagging position in mobile is one of the most serious threats Mr. Ballmer's successor will need to tackle."

Preventing Heart Disease Deaths: CBS News: "Americans hear frequently that a healthy lifestyle could stave off some of the most deadly diseases facing adults, particularly heart disease and strokes. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention backs up that advice with a number: At least 200,000 deaths each year from cardiovascular disease could be prevented. More than half of those deaths involve people under the age of 65. ... The CDC's report found that about 80 percent of deaths from coronary artery disease -- a name for heart disease caused by narrowing of the arteries which leads to reduced blood flow to the heart -- can be attributed to preventable factors like obesity, poor physical activity, heavy drinking, eating unhealthy foods and not keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol under control."

That's all for today. See you back here tomorrow. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds

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