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Obama Reportedly Held Off-the-Record Meeting With NY Times Editors, Columnists During Push for Syria Intervention


During the White House's all-out push for war with Syria, President Barack Obama held an off-the-record meeting with a coterie of New York Times editorial board members, according to the Huffington Post.

“The Times editorial board hadn't explicitly come out for or against a strike on Syrian President Bashar Assad before the meeting,” the HuffPo report notes, “and soon after the paper still expressed concerns about the administration taking action without congressional approval and broad international support.”

In this image from video pretaped at the White House in Washington Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, for Sunday morning's ABC's "This Week" President Barack Obama answers questions about Syria, the economy and other pressing national and international issues during an interview with George Stephanopoulos (Credit: AP)

The August 29 meeting reportedly included columnists David Brooks, Gail Collins, and Ross Douthat, the report adds, citing sources familiar with the situation.

Editors for the Times’ news pages did not attend meeting.

Three days prior to the off-the-record meeting, the Times editorial board encouraged the White House to avoid military conflict and to instead fall back on diplomacy.

The Times claimed that while “Assad’s use of chemical weapons surely requires a response of some kind, the arguments against deep American involvement remain as compelling as ever.”

The editorial board later said that the White House needed to provide the nation with more information on Syria before committing U.S. military resources to the area.

"Obama has yet to spell out how that response would effectively deter further use of chemical weapons," the paper said.

Secretary of State John Kerry on August 30 argued in favor of military intervention in Syria, claiming that failure to respond to Syria crossing President Obama’s so-called "red line" would make the U.S. look weak.

The Times was still not on board with the White House’s proposal, posting later on August 30 that “even in the best of circumstances, military action could go wrong in so many ways; the lack of strong domestic and international support will make it even more difficult.”

The Times said the president’s “approach on Syria now seems wholly at odds with the strong position” he took when he ran for president in 2007.

Not long after the paper made these criticisms, the president reportedly decided (on August 30) to toss the Syria decision to Congress

A Times spokeswoman declined to discuss off-the-record meeting with the Huffington Post.

“We did meet with the Obama White House about two years ago and that meeting was off the record,” a Times spokeswoman said. “We met with them again recently under the same restriction, which we intend to honor.”

Now keep in mind: meeting behind closed doors with media figures is hardly a first for President Obama.

Indeed, the president has met privately with several left-leaning personalities including Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein and MSNBC host Ed Schultz.

Still, as the HuffPo notes, the Obama administration has “long seemed particularly interested in getting its point of view across in the Times.”

In fact, a former adviser once said the Times is the only paper the president reads. If that's the case, it appears he took the paper's Syria suggestions to heart.

Click here to read the full report.

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

Featured image Getty Images.


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