On Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama will address the nation as he makes a last-ditch effort to rally support for his proposed punitive strike on Bashar Assad's regime in Damascus.
Ten days ago he made a speech that should have set the attack in motion, but instead he tied his own hands unnecessarily. Now he will try to get himself out of the corner into which he has backed himself.
Obama would have to put on display virtuoso rhetorical capabilities to undo the prevailing sentiment in Congress, particularly in the House of Representatives.
The public has been largely against military action in Syria, and this sentiment is shared by the House, whose members relish any opportunity to make Obama bleed.
The White House is up against a wide coalition that includes some strange bedfellows: staunch isolationists from the conservative side of the spectrum alongside liberal Democrats who are fed up with the U.S.'s involvement in war zones.
These two political persuasions are willing to defy their own party leaders, who have already said they would support the 44th president as he seeks an authorization for the use of military force.
With the debt-ceiling debate fast approaching, the president's adversaries on Capitol Hill have turned his policy on Syria into an hors d'oeuvre in their effort to devour the White House.
By the time the main course (the looming fiscal cliff) is served, they hope Obama will have already become a lame duck and a political punching bag. As House members deliberate their stance, they will be attuned to the voices coming out of their home districts. What voters think back home is very much on the minds of lawmakers and should not be discounted, although this is only one of many considerations. Judging from what constituents are telling them, a significant proportion of the public is very much opposed to the idea of a military intervention in Syria.
Obama's detractors are now even more motivated to see him humiliated. Meanwhile, his supporters, who are all too cognizant of their perilous situation in their home district, are having a hard time falling in line with the administration.
Barring some upset, the American superpower will be dealt a humiliating foreign policy blow on its home turf, rendering Secretary of State John Kerry's warning of another "Munich moment" moot.
Whichever way the Syria vote goes, Obama's decision to grant the legislative branch veto power over what should have been an exclusive White House prerogative could turn into a dangerous precedent -- a precedent because, when the moment of truth arrives over Iran, a congressional question mark will hover over any military action as lawmakers create a thick fog of uncertainty.