How horrendous was the poisonous gas attack carried out by the loathsome government of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad that killed scores of people, including young children, in the opposition-held city of Idlib? So horrendous that it drew what amounted to an expression of empathy from President Trump, which for the first 10 weeks of his presidency had been like drawing blood from a turnip.
"Yesterday's chemical attack, a chemical attack so horrific in Syria against innocent people including women, small children, and even beautiful little babies, their deaths was an affront to humanity. These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated," Trump said today from the White House. "My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much."
That's what it took? Really? Because Assad's government has been really, really terrible for a long time -- including past attacks using chemical weapons. What's more, it was just last week that the Trump administration signalled it saw no purpose in trying to remove Assad from power -- which arguably emboldened the Middle Eastern tyrant.
Trump also managed to lash out at his predecessor Barack Obama for being weak on Syria -- even though pre-candidate Trump had taken the exact same don't-attack viewpoint in 2013. And there's this whole thing you may have heard about Trump's relationship with Assad's main international sponsor, a fellow by the name of Vladimir Putin.
Surely tonight there are some around Trump encouraging a military response -- but that would seem no better idea now than it was in 2013. There's not really a moderate, freedom loving militia out there in position to replace the execrable Assad; instead, weakening him seems only to strengthen ISIS or other jihadis. But there are things Trump could do that would help -- and would go beyond just talk. All he'd have to do is renounce the one position he's been most vocal about since his White House quest began in 2015.
The United States' record on allowing those "beautiful little babies" of Syria -- and their battle-scarred parents -- to come here as refugees from the war zone has been abysmal. Over one roughly equivalent stretch of time last year, our next-door neighbors in Canada took in 25,000 Syrian refugees while America took a paltry 841. Hillary Clinton pledged to increase that number -- not dramatically -- and she was savaged on the campaign trail by Trump and his supporters. Trump, of course, announced a ban on accepting refugees as part of his sweeping -- and struck down -- travel ban.
It's true that -- half a world a way -- the U.S. may not be the best option for most Syrians seeking safety, but that's not the point. America has also long been a beacon for accepting the world's refugees, and trashing that image sends a terrible message. Nearby nations like Lebanon -- looking for excuses to keep Syrian refugees out -- are emboldened by Trump's stance
Now, today, our president says he's changing his mindset on Syria. OK, but real empathy is more than just words. You want to show the beautiful babies of Syria that you meant what said, Mr. President? Let them come to America.