Roger Simon: Maybe we should save our own children first
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA spent much of his address to the nation Tuesday night talking about Syrian children who were cut down in the midst of life by the cold hand of death.
"This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe," Obama said. "This is how we will be judged."
Wait. That's not correct. Obama didn't say that Tuesday night. He said it Jan. 16, 2013. And he said it about the slaughtered children of not Syria but Newtown, Conn.
He said it about the 20 American children who went to school at Sandy Hook School on Dec. 14, 2012, and never came home. They were all 6 or 7 years old.
They were all shot multiple times - one child was riddled by 11 rounds - by a man with a military-style assault rifle. In total, the gunman fired 154 bullets into the small bodies.
We were appalled. Disgusted. Angry. And change was going to happen. As a nation, we were sure of it.
But change has not happened. Nobody even talks about it today.
This time, however, in Syria, because the weaponry was gas instead of bullets, we are supposed to be ultra-shocked.
Obama's 15-minute speech from the East Room on Tuesday night was unusually cinematic.
"The images from this massacre are sickening," Obama said. "Men, women, children lying in rows, killed by poison gas; others foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath; a father clutching his dead children, imploring them to get up and walk."
We learned, the President said, "in gruesome detail the terrible nature of chemical weapons."
The terrible nature of conventional weapons - say, a semi-automatic assault rifle with a large-capacity magazine, the possession of which is absolutely legal in most of America - pales in comparison, I guess.
Tuesday night, Obama urged his "friends on the left" who did not want to bomb Syria to reconcile their "belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain and going still on a cold hospital floor."
Let's go to the videotape!
"Indeed, I'd ask every member of Congress and those of you watching at home tonight to view those videos of the attack and then ask: What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way?" Obama said.
So we must not look the other way.
Two days after the Sandy Hook massacre, Obama went to Newtown and, in his speech, repeated the first name of every slain child.
"God has called them all home," he said. "For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory."
I will leave to each and every one of you to decide whether America has been made worthy of their memory.
Congress, our least functional branch of government, has done nothing worthy of the victims of Sandy Hook and nothing to prevent more Sandy Hooks.
At first, Obama thought it would be a good idea to seek the approval of Congress before bombing Syria. But having learned that Congress is as disinclined to act as the United Nations, NATO, the Arab League and all of our allies except France, he has decided to give a Russian peace effort a chance.
"America is not the world's policeman," Obama said. "Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong."
But, he said, "when with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death . I believe we should act."
OK by me. And while we are saving the children of the world, maybe we also can begin saving our children at home.
Roger Simon is Politico's chief political columnist.