The fallout from America’s absence from France’s unity rally in Paris after the awful Charlie Hebdo shooting has been well documented–and it’s embarrassing. For heaven’s sake, nations with awful records in journalistic freedom, like Egypt, Russia, Turkey, Algeria, and the United Arab Emirates, were there.
Allahpundit noted how the NFL playoffs might have contributed to our “semi-retired president” staying home. He also mentioned Breibart’s Joel Pollak and his theory about our conspicuous absence in Paris; Obama sat out during the Hands Up, Don’t Shoot rallies, so he couldn’t possibly attend a civil rights rally in Paris. His base would’ve said, “for distant strangers, but not for us?”
At any rate, there’s also the Obama White House staff that didn’t think the rally would be the largest in French history, and never bothered to ask if the president wanted to attend (via Politico):
Wait, White House aides said Sunday, as they saw coverage come in of the anti-terrorism march in Paris — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is there? Jordan’s King Abdullah? The presidents of Gabon, Benin, Niger? Not to mention the leaders of the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy and other major allies — and even Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov?
Somehow an event that the French didn’t even announce until Friday had quickly gathered momentum, drawing about three dozen foreign leaders to Paris to express their outrage at the killings of French citizens at a satire magazine and a Jewish supermarket last week. America’s representative, Ambassador Jane Hartley, looked a little out of place.
White House aides were so caught off guard by the march’s massive size and attention that they hadn’t even asked President Barack Obama if he wanted to go.
So by Monday morning, the intensity of criticism was so fierce that the aides knew they had to apologize. The media, they felt, had constructed a problem. This time, though, they thought the media might have a point. But they were also counting on the low-attention-span White House press corps to move on as soon as they gave in.
It was so obvious, they didn’t even go to Obama for sign-off.
Then again, Allah had two exit questions:
Exit question one: Do we really care that Obama didn’t show up for what was, after all, a well-meaning but toothless gesture? Exit question two: Is the real reason Obama stayed home perhaps because the White House has criticized Charlie Hebdo for its provocations in the past and saw no reason not to boycott until they got pounded yesterday from the right and left alike?
I would say that largely ceremonial gatherings like this is part of the job description as President of the United States, or pretty much for any officeholder at an executive level. Right now, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is having trouble on that front by arriving egregiously late to events, which in turn have some saying that it’s indicative of the mayor’s governing style.
As for the previous White House statements about Charlie Hebdo, that’s just another example of this White House being feckless when it comes to defending the values our society is based upon. Satire and free speech (even awful speech) must be allowed to flow; that’s how debates get started. For example, are we dealing with rational people who think it’s fine to fire bomb a publication because of a cartoon?
Regardless, what is true is that the optics of this whole thing is abysmal. When the White House admits to fumbling the ball, you know they’ve figured out that they’ve stepped in it in a big way. Staffers not thinking this would be a big deal have shed a new light on this whole fiasco.
As Politico mentioned, such admissions are rare; just minutes before the presser former White House press secretary Jay Carney said on CNN, “I don’t think you’ll hear that from my successor, Josh Earnest, today.”
What isn’t true is that this is somehow an Obama criticism thrown into a right wing blender. Heck, the Daily Show mocked our absence at this rally. CNN’s Jake Tapper said he was “ashamed” that we flaked out.