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CNN host Fareed Zakaria said Donald Trump "became president" Thursday night when he announced to the American people that he ordered an airstrike against Syrian President Bashar-al Assad's military.

"I think Donald Trump became president of the United States," Mr. Zakaria said Friday. "I think this was actually a big moment."

"President Trump recognized that the president of the United States does have to act to enforce international norms," he said. "For the first time really as president, he talked about international norms, international rules, about America's role in enforcing justice in the world.

"It was the kind of rhetoric that we have come to expect from American presidents since Harry Truman, but it was the kind of rhetoric that President Trump had pointedly never used, either on the campaign trail nor in his inaugural," Mr. Zakaria said. "So i think there has been an interesting morphing and a kind of education of Donald Trump."

The president announced Thursday that he had ordered a missile strike against a Syrian airbase in retaliation to Assad's apparent chemical weapons attack against rivals Tuesday that left nearly 100 civilians wounded or dead.

"Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women, and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many," Mr. Trump said in a briefing at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. "Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons."

59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired early Friday at the al Shayrat airfield near the western Syrian city of Homs.

"As always, the U.S. took extraordinary measures to avoid civilian casualties," Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement. "Every precaution was taken to execute this strike with minimal risk to personnel at the airfield."