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TODAY   |  August 29, 2013

Axelrod: Obama not facing same skepticism as Bush 43

Former senior White House advisor David Axelrod says that President Obama will not face the same problems with military intervention in Syria as President George W. Bush did with the Iraq invasion of 2003.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> let's turn to nbc news senior political analyst david axelrod . former white house senior adviser. good morning to you.

>> good morning, savannah.

>> we know congress will be briefed this morning on how the president justifies this action. the intelligence case for it. do you think he needs to make that case in some public form to explain to the american people why these actions are justified? especially in light of the faulty intelligence that led this country into iraq ?

>> well, without a doubt. if he makes a decision to go, and i don't think they'd be having high level meetings with congress today if some decision hasn't been reached, he'll have to speak to the american people . and i'm sure that he will speak to the american people . this is, though, different than iraq because there's visual evidence that everyone has seen. there's a broad consensus here. i don't think you're facing the same kind of skepticism that there was for iraq where the weapons of mass destruction were used as a justification for an attack. clearly something happened here. something dramatic. and the president feels he has to act.

>> david, you know this president extremely well. you know him to be a man of caution. particularly when it comes to intervening in conflicts in other countries. i have to ask you, though, is this a case where his caution has backfired? a year ago, every expert said it might have tipped the balance if the u.s. had taken action. even hillary clinton and david petraeus urged him to take action in syria, and he rejected that. did he miss the moment to really make a difference here?

>> what he would say is he believes now as he did then that military intervention toward regime change by the united states would not have been the right thing to do. here he's reacting to a specific act, the use of chemical weapons , and presumably what they do will be to try not to have the capacity to use them and send a strong message to assad that he can't use these weapons. he feels that there's a national interest here, national security interest because of the relationship between syria and hezbollah and because of the violation of international norms.

>> you mentioned sending a message. that does seem to be the objective, to deter, but also to send a message. some have said shouldn't there be a larger strategic goal? is it a mistake to dip your toe into the conflict without having a larger objective? one expert was saying that's more like winning a schoolyard fight than accomplishing anything of strategic meaning.

>> as the president said yesterday, his view is that sending a strong deterrent message about the use of these weapons is the discreet mission. as you point out, he's very leery about interventions. he ran for president in part on his view that iraq had been a mistake. that we had to be much more prudent about how we injected american military force. so he has a discreet mission here. and he wants to pursue it in that way and not a broader military attack.

>> david axelrod , former white house adviser, always good to get your perspective. thank you.