Taking the White House campaign for a military strike on Syria to the Sunday morning shows, chief of staff Denis McDonough admitted that the administration lacks “irrefutable, beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidence” connecting Syrian President Bashar Assad to the use of chemical weapons.

The Associated Press via Time:

“This is not a court of law. And intelligence does not work that way,” White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said during his five-network public relations blitz Sunday to build support for limited strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“The common-sense test says he is responsible for this. He should be held to account,” McDonough said of the Syrian leader who for two years has resisted calls from inside and outside his country to step down.

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Speaking on “Meet the Press” one week prior, Secretary of State John Kerry was asked if the administration had a slam dunk case, and he said the following:

The word “slam-dunk” should be retired from the American national security issues. We are saying that the high confidence that the intelligence community has expressed and the case that I laid out the other day is growing stronger by the day. We know where this attack came from. We know exactly where it went. We know what happened exactly afterwards.

We know the preparations were being taken before for this attack, we know people were told to use their gas mask to prepare for the use of the chemical barrage. We also know that after it took place, they acknowledged that they had done it and were worried about the consequences and whether the U.N. inspectors were going to find out.

I think this is a very powerful case and the president is confident that as that case is presented to the United States Congress and the American people, people will recognize that the world cannot stand aside and allow an Assad or anybody else to break a almost 100-year-old acceptance. These weapons are not to be used.

President Obama faces strong opposition to his attack plan in polls of both the public and members of Congress, and while his administration continues to lobby for war, the message seems to be “take our word for it.”

On “Meet the Press” this Sunday, McDonough said there was “no question” in his mind that Assad personally ordered a chemical weapons attack. Later, he said about speaking to members of Congress, “Nobody is rebutting the intelligence. Nobody doubts the intelligence.”

That assertion is reflected somewhat in polling. A Pew survey conducted a week ago found that 53 percent of adult Americans agreed that there was clear evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians, but according to the same poll, only 32 percent believe Obama has explained clearly why the U.S. should launch airstrikes.

McDonough said on “Meet the Press” that “the question for Congress this week is what are the consequences for [Assad] having [used chemical weapons]. How Congress chooses to answer that question will be listened to very clearly in Damascus, but not just in Damascus. Also in Tehran.” Ah. It’s those Iranian bogeymen again.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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