Flashback: What's different about Obama's September 10 speech this year?

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Story highlights

  • President Barack Obama's made a speech on Syria exactly a year ago
  • Both speeches involved the topic of military action in Syria
  • There were differences and similarities between the two speeches
Same time, same date, same length. No, you haven't stepped into a time machine -- President Barack Obama's address to the nation on his strategy for dealing with the threat posed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, delivered on September 10, 2014, had some striking similarities to his address on airstrikes against Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria delivered exactly a year earlier.
The bottom line was different. On September 10, 2013, Obama announced the United States would not be launching airstrikes in Syria; on Wednesday, he announced the U.S. military would.
Here's what changed and what didn't over the past year:
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WHAT'S CHANGED?
No set timeline
In his 2013 address, Obama was very clear that any military action in Syria would have been limited in its scope. "This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: deterring the use of chemical weapons and degrading Assad's capabilities," he said.
In his speech on Wednesday, the President told Americans that this campaign to take out ISIS would take time and left unanswered the question of how long the fight against the terrorist group might last. "Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL," he said.
"This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years."
9/11
Although it took place on the eve of the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Obama's speech last year didn't include any mention of 9/11.
His speech on Wednesday did, though it was just one line: "Tomorrow marks 13 years since our country was attacked."
A recent CNN poll showed that 53% of Americans are concerned with acts of terrorism in the United States around the 9/11 anniversary, an increase from 39% in 2011.
The popularity factor
Obama acknowledged in 2013 that military intervention in Syria was not going to be embraced by the American public.
"Now, I know that after the terrible toll of Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea of any military action, no matter how limited, is not going to be popular."
CNN polling taken in September 2013 showed that was true: Only 29% of Americans thought it was in the national interest of the United States to get involved in Syria.
This time, the politics are a bit easier. Americans overwhelming support additional airstrikes against ISIS -- 76% according to CNN polls.
WHAT HASN'T CHANGED?
This is not going to be a repeat of the Iraq war and there won't be "boots on the ground."
This continues to be a key point for the President, who never supported the war in Iraq. He stressed it in 2013, saying: "I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan."
He stressed it again on Wednesday. "As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission -- we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq."
Obama doesn't need the approval of Congress, but he'd like it.
For a president that frequently blames Congress for not getting things done, Obama has demonstrated an enthusiasm for including them when it comes to the question of military action in Syria.
"Even though I possess the authority to order military strikes, I believed it was right, in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security, to take this debate to Congress," Obama said in 2013. "I believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress. And I believe that America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together."
He made a strikingly similar remark on Wednesday.
"I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL. But I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger."
One key difference though between then and now is the actual likelihood of congressional approval for military action. In 2013, it was clear by the time Obama gave his East Room address that an authorization vote was going to fail in Congress. On the fight against ISIS, it appears likely that the President will get support from Congress on at least some elements.
America can't fight every evil
Early in his remarks on Wednesday, Obama noted "we cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm." It was something he pointed out last year.
"America is not the world's policemen," he said at the end of his 2013 remarks. "Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong."