The eyes of the entire world were on Assad to see him learn from the teachable mistakes of those who fell before him and wisely opt to safeguard his power - not by defiance and brutality - but by putting his nation on the track of freedom and modernity while preserving its principled stances on foreign policy in the region.
He did the opposite.
Bashar's much anticipated speech followed two simple themes: First, any dissent is a criminal form of conspiring against his person, Syria and the "resistance." Consequently, anyone who expresses any disagreement is an agent of the West and the American-Israeli imperialist project in the Middle East.
In Syria, the pervasive culture of resistance has coopeted any discourse on the revolution. It has made simple, non-ideological demands for the rights of the Syrian people to be free mutually exclusive with taking a stand against imperialism.
Bashar's second theme was stoking the fear of sectarianism, effectively saying that if I'm not in brutal control civil war will ensue.
Much like the neo-conservative agenda of rallying Americans to justify the Iraq war, Bashar appealed to the fear of instability and the threat of conspiracy against Syria.
The reaction by his pseudo-parliament reinforced his very delusion, or perhaps cynicism. After all, he himself has revealed repeatedly to western media how little faith he has in his own people and their ability and "readiness" for democracy. How can they when he has made sure to reinforce a culture of fear and gullibility in his people? Fear of the unknown, of state security, of potential sectarianism, of instability, of fear itself. Or embarrassing gullibility that has constructed a personality-cult country that worships the oppressor.
Instead, Bashar should have appealed to the sense of hope and unity of Syria. The hope in a generation that can make out of Syria a power to be reckoned with, through political reforms that enforce civil society and true development. To end a personality cult and start reforming the culture in the direction of institutions and civil society. He should have appealed to the sense of unity in Syrians which predated him and his father and was the reason for a successful revolution against the French in the forties when all Syrian factions fought shoulder to shoulder to liberate Syria. He should have affirmed that principled resistance and freedom for Syrians can and should co-exist simultaneously.
Assad missed a golden opportunity to save what's left of his credibility with free thinking Syrians. He in effect expanded the opposition populist base and made it more mainstream by alienating those without an agenda. He polarized and divided Syrians more than ever before.
What started on March 15th had lit a spark of a revolution in Syria that is much bigger than what took place since. It's a revolution of the oppressed against fear and gullibility. It's a revolution of the state of mind of many Syrians.